Dear RMCLASistas,

In order to rescue a little bit of the flavor of the conference that would have been taking place these last days in Las Cruces, had it not been for Covid19, I am pleased to announce the RMCLAS prize winners for 2020 (please note that we are not awarding the Adrian Bantjes Prize for the best graduate papers presented at the conference, for obvious reasons; however, the committee has reached out to those who submitted papers to encourage them to participate in next-year’s conference).

I extend congratulations on behalf of the entire Executive Committee, to the winners and to those who received honorable mentions this year.

I also want to thank every member of the prize committees for pressing on with their task during these unusually complicated times: Robert Ferry, Amanda Lopez, Kris Lane (Adrian Bantjes Prize for Best Graduate Student Paper), Mark Lentz, John F Chuchiak, Carrie Larson (Bandelier-Lavrin Book Prize in Colonial Latin American History), Linda Curcio-Nagy, Jonathan Truitt, Jay Harrison (Crevenna/Sadler Prize for Outstanding Service); Christina Bueno, Patricia Harms, Cristophe Rosenmüller (Bandelier-Lavrin Book Prize in Colonial Latin American History); María L. Olin Muñoz, Jeffrey Pilcher, Ramos, Frances ‎(Edwin Lieuwen Award for the Promotion of Excellence in the Teaching of Latin American Studies); Michele Stevens, Friedrich E. Schuler, Neufeld, Stephen (Thomas McGann Book Prize in Modern Latin American History); Chad McCutchen, William E. French, Elena Albarán (RMCLAS Article Award)
I hope we will be able to meet in person next year! Stay safe!


And here……drum roll…. are the prize winners:


Bandelier-Lavrin Book Prize in Colonial Latin American History

Named to honor two pioneers in the history of the Spanish American empire, the first working in the early days of the field, the second who forged a path in colonial history and served as a model for female historians in the profession, this prize is awarded to the outstanding book published by a member of the association in the previous calendar year (2019) on the subject of colonial Latin American history.

Kris Lane’s Potosí: The Silver City that Changed the World (University of California Press, 2019) provides a human side to a story known to historians but often only in its rough contours. While the importance of Bolivia’s silver mountain to Spain’s prosperity is well known, Lane brings fresh attention to the people who walked the streets of Potosí, mining and minting its silver, overseeing its government, and keeping its thriving marketplace busy. Potosí, a tour de force of research, unearths the incredibly diversity of the city’s inhabitants, taking care to highlight the indigenous and African contributions to its history as well as the regional rivalries between Spaniards that broke out into low-grade civil war. How this diverse city’s inhabitants fared in the natural disasters and long-term decline that plagued the Potosí is another highlight of this book. Lane’s riveting monograph demonstrates the potential for local histories to add a depth to our knowledge of cities whose importance to the empire is known. Finally, Potosí is a page-turner, a welcome, narrative-driven addition to a syllabus for students at any level. It is a worthy recipient of the Bandelier/Lavrin Book Prize.

Honorable Mention:

Christoph Rosenmüller’s exhaustively researched Corruption and Justice in Colonial Mexico, 1650-1755 (Cambridge University Press, 2019) aims to take on a task described as futile by previous historians: Define corruption for the colonial period in Mexico. Rosenmüller’s timely work arrives in an era in which Latin American nations are grappling with corruption in government at high levels. Corruption and Justice serves as a highly informative source for contextualizing current controversies over bribery and governmental malfeasance. It dispels many of the facile explanations for the origins of modern-day corruption by delving into case studies of visitas and other investigations into allegations of bribery and abuses of justice. The author mined sources in German, Latin, French, Nahuatl, and Spanish to provide scholars of Latin American legal history one of the most nuanced discussions of New Spain’s comprehensive legal framework in which perceptions of corruption evolved. Bridging the divide between institutional histories and social histories of the law in Latin America, Rosenmüller describes and defines the personnel and their duties and authority, the courts’ functions and procedures, and the criminal charges and punishments with precision. All the while, he never loses sight of the people who committed excesses and faced (or escaped) the consequences of their actions. Ambitious in scope and revisionist in its interpretations, Corruption and Justice sets the terms of the debate for many issues in legal history for future works.

Crevenna/Sadler Prize for Outstanding Service

For outstanding service to the Latin American Studies profession in general and RMCLAS in particular.

This year’s winner of the Crevenna-Sadler prize for service to RMCLAS has exhibited the best attributes of a RMCLASista. She has been a constant and active member of RMCLAS organizing multiple panels for each conference. She is a tireless advocate for junior colleagues and graduate students in terms of research, career advice, and teaching support. She has been an active presence on the executive committee and embodies the best of RMCLAS: dedication to service, innovative scholarship, super amable, and supportive of others. By no means least on the list, she is also selfless and willing to take on the hard work of making the conference run. You all know of her, as she is our treasurer. Please join the committee as we thank Kathy Sloan for her dedication and service to RMCLAS. We raise a glass to you (Kathy) from our homes and look forward to raising one with you when next we are able!

Judy Ewell Award for Best Publication on Women’s History

The Judy Ewell Award for the best publication (book or article) on women’s history or written by a woman, and published in 2019, that began as a RMCLAS presentation.

Natalia Milanesio’s ¡Destape! Sex, Democracy, and Freedom in Postdictatorial Argentina is an innovative and insightful analysis of the destape, the sexual openness that accompanied Argentina’s return to democracy in 1983. Milanesio demonstrates how the destape marked a profound change from the repressive sexual culture of the military dictatorship. She draws on a wealth of sources to focus on sexuality as a barometer for social restoration during Argentina’s democratic transition. Her work contributes to several fields of scholarship. Lucidly written, it also offers insights into current debates about gender violence, abortion, family planning, and sex education in Argentina and Latin America as a whole.

Honorable mention:

Sonia Lipsett-Rivera. The Origins of Macho: Men and Masculinity in Colonial Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, 2019.

Sonya Lipsett Rivera has written a brilliant book on a novel topic: The Origins of Becoming Macho or how did novohispanos become and live as men. Dr. Lipsett Rivera has charted unexplored terrain. She analyzed over five hundred legal cases to approach this elusive and ambiguous subject and concludes that explosive violence was not typical for colonial men. The defense of male honor mattered, while attitudes also depended on social station. Lipsett Rivera convincingly demonstrates that machismo is a cultural construct that emerged in the post-colonial era. The committee found her command of primary sources masterful and her writing beautiful and accessible.

Edwin Lieuwen Award for the Promotion of Excellence in the Teaching of Latin American Studies

The Edwin Lieuwen Award for outstanding teaching or the promotion of outstanding teaching of Latin American Studies. The prize may go to ether an outstanding teacher or someone who has made excellent teaching possible with an outstanding text or teaching materials or video.

This years’s committee for the Edwin Lieuwen Award is putting forth the recommendation that the 2020 award go to Jonathan Truitt (Central Michigan University) and Stephany Slaughter (Alma College) for Mexico in Revolution, 1912-1920. This book is part of a role-playing pedagogical method that requires students to consider the complexities of events and actions taken by different historical actors.

Students who have experienced this method say that:

“…each situation we were faced with was difficult to negotiate because so many of us had widely varying objectives. This was representative of the factionalism which was pervasive in the actual Revolution…the general experience of living through turbulent times. There were many people who were literally starving to death and in the end, even the wealthy characters were beginning to feel the pinch somewhat”

“… Instead of learning about the Mexican Revolution and Indian Independence through lectures, papers, and exams, we students instead got to take on characters and role play through our own version of each historic event. It motivated us all to learn as much about the history and context of each event as we could, so that we could effectively contribute to the game on behalf of our characters. I learned so much more than I feel I would have if it were a lecture-based class.”

Thomas McGann Book Prize in Modern Latin American History

Originally given to the outstanding presentation at the annual RMCLAS meeting, this prize is awarded to the outstanding book published by a member of the association in the previous calendar year (2019) on the subject of modern Latin American history.

Donald Stevens’ Mexico in the Time of Cholera as the McGann prize winner for 2019-2020.

“Donald Stevens’ Mexico in the Time of Cholera is a beautifully written, carefully analyzed, and deeply sourced examination of culture and society in the midst of epidemic in mid-19th century. Stevens’ tales of love, identity, religion, and society in the face of loss can perhaps be instructive in these challenging times, as we reflect of the lives of ordinary Mexicans who struggled through not only epidemic, but also political turmoil. The committee chose this book as the Thomas McGann Prize Winner for the Best Book in Modern Latin American History just prior to the historic lockdown of US American society. As we read this book, no doubt we had no real idea just how much the COVID-19 epidemic would impact our lives in 2020, and indeed it is a shame that we could not recognize Don and his work in person. But perhaps historians in 200 years will analyze the text messages, social media posts, diaries, movies, and images of the pandemic that has befallen the world in 2020. And if so, then those of us who have read and will read Mexico in the Time of Cholera will have something of foresight: from Stevens’ study, we can learn about the intimate details of everyday life in the midst of disaster. And out of this story comes something deeply timeless, and perhaps comforting for those of us living through this global drama. Mexico in the Time of Cholera is an exemplary work of cultural and social history, accessible to the novice and engrossing to the expert.”

RMCLAS Article Award

The RMCLAS Article Award is for the most outstanding article in a journal or chapter in an edited book published in the preceding year (2019). Nominees must have been members in the preceding two years, except in the case of a graduate student who joined RMCLAS in her/his final year of student and then published the article the following year.

The recipient of this year’s RMCLAS Article Prize is Vanessa Freije, “Speaking of Sterilization: Rumors, the Urban Poor and the Public Sphere in Greater Mexico City,”HAHR 99: 2(2019). Freije makes rumor and hearsay the protagonists of the Echeverría years. Focusing on flyers expressing concern about a vaccine supposedly designed to sterilize poor children, she views such documents as privileged and crucial sources of information and as integral elements of political discourse. Her concern is with debates over what counted as legitimate knowledge production and with the classed and gendered assumptions about who was considered a legitimate producer of knowledge. The article is based partly on research in the Dirección General de Investigaciones Políticas y Sociales (DGIPS) archives and contributes to a broader discussion of “mediated citizenship” and media consumption.

Committee members also awarded “Honorable Mention” to Jian Gao, “Restoring the Chinese Voice during Mexican Sinophobia, 1919-1934,” The Latin Americanist 63: 1(March 2019). Gao’s work is particularly impressive in the use of Chinese-language sources to get at questions of Chinese voices and agency between 1919 and 1934. Gao’s work adds a dimension not often represented in the historiography. The author also places the study of Sinophobia within a broader transpacific context that takes into account global processes of nation building both in China and in Mexico and the relationship between Mexico, China and the United States.

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