As an archaeologist studying the cultural developments of the pre-Columbian Andes, I have always been fascinated about the dynamics of ancient imperial frontiers. These contested spaces were not only places of cultural encounter and accommodation, but also places where such differences were negotiated and where the balance of power was always in flux. As much as empires sought to incorporate transborder populations, their representatives and the state institutions and associated cultural practices, became transformed in the process.
This interest in imperialism and the materiality of colonial encounters stems from my own cultural experiences. My childhood was influenced by my maternal grandmother, an Aymara that migrated to La Paz city from the Titicaca basin in Bolivia to provide us with better educational and life opportunities. Later, I migrated to the United States with the same goals, thanks to a generous fellowship provided by the University of Pittsburgh.
With those ideas, in my early research on the Inkas I explored the Southeastern frontiers, where this pre-Columbian empire confronted the belligerent Guaranies from the eastern Bolivian Chaco. In the following years, I studied another segment of the eastern frontier facing Amazonia. There, the Kallawayas became trusted allies of the Inkas, valued for their knowledge of traditional medicine, and their role as travelling shamans and traders. Now I am initiating a new project in the region of Samaipata, an Inka frontier outpost adjacent to the National Park of Amboró (Bolivia).
At UVA, I am an archaeologist in the Department of Anthropology. I also participate in the Interdisciplinary Archaeology Program coordinated by the departments of Anthropology and Art History. I also lead the Spatial Visualizations Lab currently at Brooks Hall (B010). Recently, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences launched the Indigenous Studies Interdisciplinary Cluster, and I am one of the faculty mentors. As part of a grant from Mapping Indigenous Worlds, I am proud to let you know that Diana Tinta a recent Anthropology graduate of UVA prepared Pre-Columbian Ecuador, an online exhibit based on the Toala pre-Columbian collection. As a Latinex in the US, this was for her an important experience.
Ongoing collaborations with colleagues from Latin America over the past years continue to generate new research projects. This includes research with colleagues from the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA, La Paz-Bolivia), and Universidad Mayor de San Francisco Xavier (Chuquisaca-Bolivia). As a result of these efforts, my collaborator and long-time friend Claudia Rivera (Professor, UMSA) and I, organized the publication of the Serie de Investigaciones Arqueológicas en Bolivia through Editorial Plural. We envision this series will contribute to the wider dissemination of critical research by our colleagues in Bolivia.
Some of the investigations that my team and I have conducted are now available in a more popular format. We recently produced a small book with colorful illustrations for the local Quechua communities of Oroncota and Yoroma (Chuquisaca and Potosi, Bolivia). It is entitled Oroncota: La Gran Fortaleza Inka en territorio Yampara. We also translated it in the indigenous Quechua language in an audiovisual format (2021). Considering the importance of similar undertakings, another booklet is available that focuses on our investigations on the Guaraní site of Incahuasi (Incahuasi. Un Hallazgo para la Historia, 2020).
My research in the news