A first-generation college graduate from Ciudad Juárez, David Tavárez is a historian of Latin America and a linguistic anthropologist. His courses and research focus on language, culture and history; Mesoamerican societies; religion and ritual practice; colonial Nahuatl and Zapotec texts; Indigenous intellectuals; and native Christianities and the suppression of Indigenous religions. He is the author of the books The Invisible War, Rethinking Zapotec Time, and more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and chapters; editor of Words and Worlds Turned Around; and co-author of Painted Words, and Chimalpahin's Conquest. His research has been funded by awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation. However, his daughter knows far more than him about dragons.
Born and raised in Ciudad Juárez, David Tavárez is a first-generation college graduate whose work addresses the religion, language, and history of Indigenous communities in Latin America. He focuses on ritual, colonial Christianities, Nahua and Zapotec societies, campaigns against idolatry, Indigenous intellectuals, and Mesoamerican calendars. He teaches an introduction to linguistics and anthropology and courses on language and culture, Mesoamerica, the Andes, ethnohistory, and Indigenous religions and literatures. Currently Professor of Anthropology and Director of Latin American and Latinx Studies (2018-21), David also served as Anthropology department chair in 2021-15, and has taught courses in the LALS, International Studies, Media Studies, and American Studies programs. He is the author of The Invisible War: Indigenous Devotions, Discipline, and Dissent in Colonial Mexico (Stanford, 2011; Spanish translation 2012), editor of Words and Worlds Turned Around: Indigenous Christianities in Colonial Latin America (Colorado, 2017), and co-author, with Elizabeth Boone and Louise Burkhart, of Painted Words: Nahua Catholicism, Politics, and Memory in the Atzaqualco Pictorial Catechism (Dumbarton Oaks, 2017), and of Chimalpahin’s Conquest: A Nahua Historian’s Rewriting of Francisco López de Gómara’s La conquista de México, with Susan Schroeder, Anne Cruz, and Cristián Roa (Stanford, 2010; Spanish translation 2012). Other publications include more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and chapters and over 30 book reviews.
His work has been supported by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the John Carter Brown Library, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, and the Research Institute for the Advancement of Man. He has taught at UNAM, CIESAS, and Bard College, and served as peer reviewer for 33 scholarly journals, 15 university presses, and science, arts, and humanities councils in the US, Chile and Poland. Other duties include service as Councilor of the American Society for Ethnohistory and as editorial board member at Ethnohistory and Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History. David attended Grinnell College, received a BA from Harvard College (1992), and completed a combined PhD in history and anthropology at the University of Chicago (2000). However, his daughter knows far more than him about dragons.
Research and Academic Interests
Latin American history
Colonial rule and resistance
Cosmology and ritual
- 2022. Rethinking Zapotec Time: Cosmology, Ritual, and Resistance in Colonial Mexico (Austin: University of Texas Press)
- 2017 (editor). Words and Worlds Turned Around: Indigenous Christianities in Colonial Latin America. Boulder: University of Colorado Press.
- 2017. (with E. Boone and L. Burkhart). Painted Words: Nahua Catholicism, Politics, and Memory in the Atzaqualco Pictorial Catechism. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks.
- 2011. The Invisible War: Indigenous Devotions, Discipline, and Dissent in Colonial Mexico. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Paperback edition, 2013. Spanish-language revised edition, 2012: Las guerras invisibles. Oaxaca City: UABJO, COLMICH, CIESAS, UAM.
- 2010. (with S. Schroeder, A. Cruz, and C. Roa). Chimalpahin’s Conquest: A Nahua Historian’s Rewriting of Francisco López de Gómara’s La conquista de México. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Spanish translation, 2012: Chimalpáhin y La Conquista de México. Mexico City: UNAM.
- 2002. Guest editor, Desacatos 7: La etnohistoria en América: Crónica de una disciplina bastarda. Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social.
- 2020. "Cómo olvidar a los dioses zapotecos: Aquino y el origen de la idolatría en la Doctrina Feria-Albuquerque (1567)." Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni 86 (2): 474-492.
- 2020. "Zapotec Travels in Time and Space: The Correlation Between the 260-day Cycle and a Multi-Level Cosmological Model." In Reshaping the World: Debates on Mesoamerican Cosmologies, ed. A. Díaz, 180-208. Louisville: University Press of Colorado.
- 2019. "La refracción de la memoria: Dos narrativas coloniales zapotecas sobre la conquista." Iberoamericana 19 (71): 99-122.
- 2019. Indigenous Intellectuals in Colonial Latin America. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. New York: Oxford University Press.
- 2019. "Aristotelian Politics Among the Aztecs: A Nahuatl Adaptation of a Treatise by Denys the Carthusian." In Transnational Perspectives on the Conquest and Colonization of Latin America, ed. J. Mander, D. Midgley, and C. Beaule, 141-155. New York: Routledge.
- 2019. “The Spiritual Conquest of Latin America." Oxford Bibliographies in Latin American Studies. New York: Oxford University Press.
- 2017. "Performing the Zaachila Word: The Dominican Invention of Zapotec Christianity." In Words and Worlds Turned Around, 29-62; 289-304. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.
- 2014. ”Ritual Language.” In The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Anthropology, ed. N. J. Enfield, P. Kockelman, and J. Sidnell, 496-516. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- 2013. “Nahua Intellectuals, Franciscan Scholars, and the devotio moderna in Colonial Mexico." The Americas 70 (2): 203-235.
- 2008. “Eclipse Records in a Corpus of Colonial Zapotec 260-day Calendars” (with J. Justeson). Ancient Mesoamerica 19(1): 67-81.
In the Media
Download images for non-commercial use, photo credit required.