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

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 suppresion of Indigenous religions. He is the author of The Invisible War and more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and chapters, editor of Words and Worlds Turned Around, and co-author of the books Painted Words, and Chimalpahin's Conquest. He has received awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation. He also serves as reviewer for research councils in the US, Mexico, Chile, and Poland. However, his daughter knows far more than him about dragons.

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



  • Spring 21: ANTH 150: Linguistics and Anthropology
  • Spring 21: ANTH/LALS 250: Language, Empire, and Nation

Selected Publications



In the Media


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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 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.