The ‘Doe Shaman’ of Pre-Columbian Costa Rica and Nicaragua

This would have been placed in a grave to embody the shaman’s power that would help the deceased make their safe passage from life to death. From the Physical to Spiritual World (the Shaman) An important visual theme in many ancient American art styles is that of transformation: one thing changing into another. Often the[…]

El Libertador: Simón Bolívar, First President of Colombia

Bolivar has become known as the chief architect of Latin America’s independence. Introduction Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Ponte Palacios y Blanco (July 24, 1783 – December 17, 1830) was a South American independence leader. Credited with leading the fight for independence in what are now the countries of Venezuela, Colombia,[…]

A Brief Overview of the History of Colombia

The Muisca people are considered to have had one of the most developed political systems in South America, after the Incas. Pre-Columbian Era The first humans are believed to have arrived in the area from Central America about 20,000 B.C.E. Circa 10,000 B.C.E., hunter-gatherer societies existed near present-day Bogotá that traded with one another and[…]

The Codices: Insight into Aztec Culture

The tlacuilo (codex painter) tradition endured the transition to colonial culture. Introduction Aztec codices (singular codex) are books written by pre-Columbian and colonial-era Aztecs. These codices provide some of the best primary sources for Aztec culture. The pre-Columbian codices differ from European codices in that they are largely pictorial; they were not meant to symbolize[…]

Thriving in the Valley: A History of Aztec Civilization

Aztec culture had complex mythological and religious traditions. Introduction The Aztecs were a Mesoamerican people of central Mexico in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. They were a civilization with a rich cultural heritage whose capital, Tenochtitlan, rivaled the greatest cities of Europe in size and grandeur. The nucleus of the Aztec Empire was the[…]

Exploring Ten Facts about the Inca

They are remembered for their contributions to religion, architecture, and their famous network of roads through the region. Introduction The Inca civilization (c. 1400-1533 CE) is among the most vital of South America in terms of its cultural influence and legacy. The Inca began as a small tribe who steadily grew in power to conquer[…]

Cozumel and Tulum: The Red Handprints of the Maya

Red handprints can be found on the walls of a number of Maya sites and are associated with the creator god Itzamna. Introduction The Maya sites of San Gervasio (on the island of Cozumel) and Tulum (on the mainland of Mexico in Quintana Roo) are often overlooked for the better-known Chichen Itza or other spectacular[…]

Tahuantinsuyu: The Rise and Fall of the Inca Empire, 1438-1533

The main legacy of the civilization was its power to inspire, including that of later resistance groups in the area against Spanish rule. Introduction The Inca Empire (called Tawantinsuyu in modern spelling, Aymara and Quechua, or Tahuantinsuyu in old spelling Quechua), was an empire located in South America from 1438 C.E. to 1533 C.E. Over[…]

Mayan Mesoamerican Culture and Civilization

Introduction The Maya civilization is a Mesoamerican culture, noted for having the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its spectacular art, monumental architecture, and sophisticated mathematical and astronomical systems. Unfortunately, a public fascination with the morbid has meant that for many people in Europe and the Americas[…]

A History of Civilization and Culture in Central America

In pre-Columbian times, most of modern Central America was part of the Mesoamerican civilization. Introduction Central America is the region of North America located between the southern border of Mexico and the northwest border of Colombia, in South America. Some geographers classify Central America as a large isthmus, and in this geographic sense it sometimes[…]

A History of Civilization and Culture in South America

By 2000 BCE, many agrarian village communities had been settled throughout the Andes and the surrounding regions. Introduction South America is a continent of the Americas, situated entirely in the western hemisphere and mostly in the southern hemisphere. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east by[…]

Adapting to the New World: Mexico at the Outset of the Cold War, 1946-1952

Examining Mexico’s international strategy of economic development in these turbulent years. Introduction: Latin America’s Development Strategies versus Washington’s Cold War Policies This article is aimed at analyzing Mexico’s attempts to overcome the obstacles that the new international context, shaped by the end of World War II (WWII) and the beginning of the Cold War, posed[…]

Illustrators of the New World: The Image in the Spanish Scientific Expeditions of the Enlightenment

In the 18th Century, most travelers and explorers had painters and illustrators at their sides who recorded their adventures. Abstract In the Eighteenth Century, with the boom in the exploration of the Earth, most travellers and explorers had painters and illustrators at their sides who recorded their adventures, even their deaths, the exotic locations they[…]

Macchu Picchu, Ancient Peruvian Royal Estate of the Inka

The site features architecture, from houses to terraces, built by carefully fitting individual stones against each other. A Royal Estate Machu Picchu is often described as “mysterious,” but in fact a great deal is known about its construction and purpose. It was built as a royal estate for the first Inka emperor, Pachacuti Inka Yupanqui,[…]

Chavín de Huántar, Temple of Ancient Peru

Over the course of 700 years, the site drew many worshipers to its temple. Chavín de Huántar is an archaeological and cultural site in the Andean highlands of Peru. Once thought to be the birthplace of an ancient “mother culture,” the modern understanding is more nuanced. The cultural expressions found at Chavín most likely did[…]

The Late Mayan Classical Center of Yaxchilan

By Mark CartwrightHistorian Yaxchilan, located on the banks of the Usumacinta River in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico, was an important Late Classic Maya centre. The Maya dated the founding of their city to 320 CE, but Yaxchilan flourished between c. 580 and c. 800 CE, benefitting from commerce via the Usumacinta River and trading[…]

The ‘Eagle Warrior’ from the Mexica (Aztec) Templo Mayor

The sculpture was recovered at the House of the Eagles, the meeting place of eagle and jaguar warriors. Introduction Eagle Warrior is a life-sized ceramic sculpture made by Mexica (sometimes called Aztec) artists that shows a warrior dressed in an eagle costume. Made of terracotta, a type of earthenware known for its reddish color, the[…]

An Brief Overview of Mexica (Aztec) History

The Mexica were a migrant people from the desert north who arrived in Mesoamerica in the 1300s. By the British Museum Introduction During the twelfth century C.E. the Aztec (or Mexica*) were a small and obscure tribe searching for a new homeland. Eventually they settled in the Valley of Mexico and founded their capital, Tenochtitlan, in 1345.[…]

An Introduction to Colonial Brazil

The Portuguese colonization of Brazil was like that of Spanish Latin America. The Portuguese Colonization of Brazil Now the largest country in South America and the fifth largest in the world, Brazil is not only impressive in size, but it is also geographically diverse with the Amazonian jungle at its center and the Atlantic Ocean[…]

The Spanish Conquistadores and Colonial Empire

The Spanish gained an early foothold in the colonies, quickly becoming the most powerful European power in the New World. Treaty of Tordesillas Columbus’s colonization of the Atlantic islands inaugurated an era of aggressive Spanish expansion across the Atlantic. Spanish colonization after Columbus accelerated the rivalry between Spain and Portugal to an unprecedented level. The[…]

Lake Titicaca: Settlement and Growth in Ancient Bolivia and Peru

Lake Titicaca was long considered the origin and centre of the cosmos by the local populace and then also the later Incas. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Lake Titicaca is located between Bolivia and Peru and, at an altitude of 3,800 metres (12,500 feet), it is the world’s highest navigable lake. The tundra plain known as[…]

Landscape Painting in Nineteenth-Century Latin America

Works by artists like Velasco, Troya, Chartrand, and Oller offer an alternative to depictions by foreign artists. Painting Local Landscapes in Mexico Renowned Mexican landscapist, José María Velasco painted views of the Valley of Mexico more than seven times. In one of his famous versions, called the Valley of Mexico (1877), Velasco painted the valley[…]

Introduction to Religious Art and Architecture in Early Colonial Peru

We see an interplay of Inka and Peruvian works. Signaling Spanish Dominance in Cuzco, Peru The transmission of Christianity to the Andes [the longest continental mountain range in the world and form a continuous highland along the western edge of South America] was both an ideological and artistic endeavor. Early missionaries needed to construct new[…]

Museo del Jade y de la Cultura Precolombina: Costa Rica’s Jade Museum

An interview with Curator Virginia Novoa Espinoza about the museum’s magnificent collection and the artistry of Costa Rica’s pre-Columbian peoples. The Jade Museum (Spanish: Museo del Jade y de la Cultura Precolombina) in San José, Costa Rica houses the world’s largest collection of ancient jade from the Americas. With nearly 7,000 pieces in its collection, the[…]

Early Scientific Exploration in Latin America

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw a growth in the inland exploration of Latin America. Introduction The desire of travelers, mainly European scientists, artists, and writers, was not to settle new frontiers. Many of these regions were colonized, or, in some cases, had even become independent from European imperial powers. Rather, the goal of these[…]

An Introduction to Latin American Art History

From as early as the pre-Columbian era, there existed networks of exchange among the early civilizations of Latin America. Why Is It Important to Study Latin American Art Today? The study of Latin America and Latin American art is more relevant today than ever. In the United States, the burgeoning population of Latinos—people of Latin[…]

An Introduction to the Spanish Viceroyalties in the Americas

The Spanish Crown sent forces to colonize the land, convert the indigenous populations, and extract resources from their newly claimed territory. Introduction “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” These opening lines to a poem are frequently sung by schoolchildren across the United States to celebrate Columbus’s accidental landing on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola[…]

Caste and Politics in the Struggle for Mexican Independence

To understand the struggle for Mexican independence, it’s necessary to explore both the wider, international context and the internal, social conditions of New Spain. Introduction Scholars writing the history of Mexican independence might begin with two straightforward dates: On September 16, 1810, peasants across the countryside responded to Father Miguel Hidalgo’s call to rebellion and[…]

Moldy Church Records in Latin America Document the Lives of Millions of Slaves

Now, intrepid scholars are saving those parish baptismal records from war, neglect, and rot. By Paula Wasley On Sunday, March 2, 1721, in the San Carlos Cathedral of the Cuban city of Matanzas, Father Francisco Gonsales del Alamo laid hands on a black slave named Francisco, to mark his entry into the Catholic Church. Though[…]