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David Tavárez Professor of Anthropology and Director of Latin American & Latino/a Studies

Born and raised in Ciudad Juárez, David is a first-generation college graduate whose work addresses Mesoamerican history and religion, with a focus on colonial sources in Nahuatl and Zapotec, Indigenous intellectuals, calendars and ritual protocols, and evangelization. Besides over 40 peer-reviewed articles and chapters, he is the author of The Invisible War (Stanford, 2011), editor of Words and Worlds Turned Around (Colorado, 2017), and co-author of Painted Words (Dumbarton Oaks, 2017) and Chimalpahin's Conquest (Stanford, 2010). His research has been supported by the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation, and he serves as reviewer for science and humanities councils in the US, Mexico, Chile, and Poland. However, his daughter knows far more than him about dinosaurs.

  • BA, Harvard College; MA, PhD, University of Chicago
  • At Vassar since 2003



  • Spring 2019: ANTH/LALS 243 Mesoamerican Worlds
  • Spring 2019: ANTH 150 Linguistics and Anthropology

Selected Publications




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Photo: Karl Rabe / Vassar College

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. David served as Anthropology department chair, and has also 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 40 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 31 scholarly journals, 14 university presses, and science 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 dinosaurs.