Jaime Leaños: The Erasure of Blackness

Title

The Erasure of Blackness in Northern Mexico

Mentor

Jaime Leaños

Department

World Languages and Literatures

Biosketch

I was born in a pueblito by the name of Villanueva in the central state of Zacatecas, México. I did all my primary and secondary education there and came to the United States at the age of 16. All of my family migrated to Santa Ana, California where I did three years of High School before moving on to Central Arizona Community College and then to the University of Arizona in Tucson with an athletic scholarship in Cross Country and Track and Field. I have been here at the University of Nevada, Reno since 2002 and I love it here. As a first generation student, I love working with underrepresented minorities. I got my baccalaureate degree in Political Science and Spanish, my Masters in Spanish Literature, and my Ph.D. in Medieval Spanish Literature, all at the University of Arizona. I have published articles in different academic journals and I am happy to announce the publication of my second book titled, East Meets West: Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II) Epistle to Mehmet II. I am also an associate editor for the oldest journal in the United States for Spanish and Portuguese languages, AATSP Hispania (1917) (The American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese).

Project Overview

The scope of this project is to advance the research for a book-length scholarly manuscript on an obscure one-act play currently found at the convent of Guadalupe’s library Biblioteca Actual in the city of Zacatecas, Mexico. The work known as “Entremés de los tres negros” [Interlude of Three Blacks] (ca. 1730) examines the ways in which slaves adapted into a culture of state and religious absolutism where it was believed, by the first monastic leaders, that blacks were inferior to the natives, and therefore, at the bottom of the spectrum of social classes in the New World. In its 630 verses written in a paleographic Spanish of the time, the Interlude portrays the slaved life and conversion to Catholicism of a father, wife, and son named Catulfo, Bunga, and Cofir. This colonial era manuscript is extremely interesting because of where it was found. The northern state of Zacatecas was one of the leading producers of silver during the Spanish kingship of Philip II (1556–1598); nevertheless, there has not been any indication by present African scholars that black slaves made their way so far north from the costal state of Veracruz, the point of entrance of slaves to the New World in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the scholarship indicates that the slave trade moved from Veracruz to Southern Mexico and Central America but not to the North.

The originality of this research project is that it will cover a forgotten lacuna of black history in the northern part of Mexico. As a Transatlantic scholar some of my research concentrates in Monastic studies and social conventions. My academic background on minorities living in Spain and in the New World is valuable in helping me analyze black culture as a microcosm within the larger dominant European culture. Also, my research on theology and literature is beneficial since one of the major elements about the Interlude deals with the conversion of slaves from their native African beliefs to Catholicism.

The student will be helping me finding academic sources related to this project and perhaps doing some archival work. Being bilingual in English and Spanish is a must.