This semester the Georgian Court University History Club and chapter of Phi Alpha Theta have organized a community event to talk about the legacies of the Spanish arrival in, and subsequent attack upon, Tenochtitlan in the early sixteenth century. Five hundred years ago this month, the Cortés expedition left Cuba without official permission in search of new conquests. Eventually, this leader and thousands of Indigenous fighters brought about the collapse of the Aztec Empire. We will focus on 1519 and its consequences for people of Indigenous, African, and European ancestry in North America.
Our panel represents a collaboration across disciplines and groups within the university. Two officers from the History Club, William Donahue and Kiyomi Locker, will facilitate and pose questions. Kiyomi Locker, a History major interested in Mesoamerican art, will give a long-term view of the conquest focusing on what it meant for the Nahuas and other Indigenous peoples, and what it means to Native Americans today. I will ask the audience and panelists to consider the roles Black conquistadors took in the process of early colonization. Professor Jaime Rivera (World Languages and Literature) will discuss the symbolism of conquest in Mexican literature, attitudes, and popular culture. A nursing major and representative from Student Government and Latin American Students Organization, Cristian Mendoza, will share some experiences and thoughts about mestizo identity and what it means in Mexico and the U.S. Finally, we will leave plenty of time for open discussion and reflection upon this process and how we remember it today.
Students in my capstone course on “Religion in Iberian Empires” used assigned monographs and published primary sources in translation to create an individual digital project or write a final essay. I offered the digital option specifically for students interested in public history, digital humanities, and secondary education. History Education students expressed an interest in building electronic portfolios with lesson plans and public web sites. These projects would then be useful to them in student teaching and as examples for potential employers. While I did not evaluate the lesson plans for middle and high school students, I graded the websites themselves for content, writing, citations, and design using a rubric. Most students built their projects in Wix, Weebly, or Google Sites. Many of these projects worked well as teaching tools when the students later formally presented them to the rest of the class. I recommend an assignment like this for undergraduates pursuing a career in teaching.
Students covered a range of topics using digital projects intended for their teaching portfolios, but one of the best focused on theater in colonial Mexico. This particular student project (referenced here with permission) draws heavily on Aztecs on Stage: Religious Theater in Colonial Mexico, the recent work of Louise M. Burkhart, Barry D. Sell, and Stafford Poole. In addition to being seamlessly translated and edited, these plays are great entertainment. They work well in an undergraduate course as a primary source to be read and discussed in class. (My students really enjoyed reading aloud the advice of a doctor who instructs others to “take [a sick man] up to the top of the bell tower” and have him “spurt his diarrhea.” This intriguing episode can be found on page 174 of the text.) Other aspects of the plays and editorial guidance from Burkhart, Sell, and Poole allowed students to examine gendered concepts and identities among spectators, writers, and performers (below).
This example of a student site provides broad cultural and historical contexts for the plays using primary and secondary sources. Connecting the past and the present, the student addresses processes of colonial transculturation and some of its legacies using different media.
The site also includes some good examples of the student’s teaching toolkit. A scavenger hunt provided helps teachers evaluate student comprehension and interpretation of the basic concepts in the site. The student also offers links to other teaching tools online and in print.