How does Mexico's rich cultural past shape contemporary Mexico and the US in the face of today's pandemics, protests and other challenges of the borderlands?
This course provides students with the opportunity to explore how the study of pre-Hispanic and Colonial Mexican and Latina/o cultures provide vital context for understanding today's changing world. The emphasis is on the mythical and social origins, glory days and political collapse of the Aztec Empire and Maya civilizations as a pivot to the study of the sexual, religious and racial interactions of the Great Encounter between Mesoamerica, Africa, Europe, and the independent nations of Mexico and the United States. The study of the archaeology, artistic media, cosmovision, capital cities, human sacrifice and the religious devotions of ancient Mesoamerica illuminate the Day of the Dead and Virgin of Guadalupe phenomena today. Hands-on work with objects at the Peabody Museum aids in examining new concepts of race, nation and the persistence of Moctezuma's Mexico in Latino identities in the Mexico-US Borderlands. One of the biggest student/museum events at Harvard is the Day of the Dead celebrations at the Peabody Museum, which provides the opportunity for students to work directly with the materiality of the longue duree of Mexico's storied history and evocative worldview. The museum objects and sections exercises provide the students with ways to integrate their classroom work to the collections and public program of the museum, plus experience community both locally and across cultural boundaries and physical borders. This course empowers our students to evaluate the ways the U.S. is changing and struggling to define itself in relation to Latin America and especially the migration of peoples, ideas, arts, music, food from and through Mexico.