I’m sitting on the plane in the air travelling from Knoxville to Mexico City via Dallas. I’m very excited about this because, though I’ve been studying, teaching, and writing about Latin America for more than 15 years, I’ve actually never been to Mexico. The occasion for the trip is the annual meeting of the South Eastern Conference on Latin American Studies (SECOLAS). It’s also my first time attending this conference as I usually opt for the historian-dominated RMCLAS instead.
This year, RMCLAS is in Boulder, but it’s also this weekend. When faced with the choice between Boulder and Mexico City, it was easy to choose the latter. Plus, the map at the airport showed snow over Denver and the Rockies this morning. Ha.
SECOLAS holding it’s conference outside of the US is part if a larger trend in US-Latin American Studies, most notably by LASA, who won’t hold it’s conference in the US again until immigration changes enable Latin American academics to participate again. The Bush administration changed the rules, making it very difficult for academics to get short term visas, and particularly academics from Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia. It’s ridiculous, and I totally support the move to take convention dollars out of the US. What is more, the immigration policies have the positive effect of offering more opportunities for Latin American Scholars and US scolars to engage productive exchange. Costs to go to the big conferences have long been preventitive.
But anyway- back to Mexico City. There are so many things I’d live to do and see there. As a colonialist, though, I simply have to see the Zocolo. I’ve been leading a grad seminar on the Conquest of Mexico this semester. We started with reading Cortes and Bernal Diaz, added Nahuatl and Maya accounts (in translation, of course), Prescott, and on up through the Lockhart/UCLA school. It’s been great fun (though my students are tired of the narrative, I reckon).
My own participation at SECOLAS will be a talk that synthesizes the central theme of the last three chapters of my book. It discusses how the really dramatic legal changes of the period 1810-1830, and particularly for women, were obscured by the formal perpetuation of Spanish law codes. More on that later.
I’m not certain what the Internet situation will be at the host institution- the Instituto Mora, but if I have coverage I will tweet the conference. So far I’ve only seen one other person- a member of the local organizers- using the hashtag #SECOLAS.