My research centers on the ways that food can be used to strengthen community. By analyzing diets at the ancient Mexican site of Tepeticpac, Tlaxcala (AD 1325-1519), I learned that community foodways and deep knowledge of regional resources helped this city resist the expanding Aztec Empire. Oral history interviews with contemporary residents of Tlaxcala showed how this knowledge survived colonization to continue strengthening communities of today. In Nashville, I further watch how food traditions are brought with Latinx immigrants, to ensure the health, wellbeing and social memory of new generations living in new lands.
In the News
Ingredients for Resistance: Foodways in Prehispanic and Colonial Tlaxcallan
Session: Approaches to Cultural and Biological Complexity in Mexico at the Time of Spanish Conquest. SAA 2019, Albuquerque, NM
Known as the “traitors to Mexico” for their fateful alliance with the Spanish, the Tlaxcalteca are often denigrated in Aztec-influenced versions of Mexican history. In these accounts, Tlaxcallan’s alliance with the Spanish was assumed to be a sign of the population’s political and economic weakness; an escape plan from impending Aztec conquest. An examination of the state’s chronology points to a far more intentional resistance: settled in AD 1380, in less than 200 years, the Tlaxcalteca faced both Aztec (AD 1460-1519) and Spanish (AD 1519) colonial pressures, maintaining a measure of sovereignty not seen in other populations faced with the same fate. I argue that when confronted by Aztec and Spanish colonialism, the Tlaxcalteca maintained a sense of autonomy through political, economic and social structures that interacted to create a fiercely patriotic state, strengthened by internal cohesion. In this presentation, I support this hypothesis through the bioarchaeological analysis of food practices (dietary isotopes and phytoliths) from human burials at Tepeticpac, the urban core of Tlaxcala. The comparison between these bioarchaeological results and modern local food practices will demonstrate that food continues to play a central role in maintaining a sense of local cohesion and unique cultural identity in Tlaxcala
Forum: Building Foundations for Sustained Community Archaeology . SAA 2019, Albuquerque, NM. Keitlyn Alcantara and Lacey Carpenter
The relationship between fieldwork and community immersion varies widely by site, individual, and the nature of the project, but too often “community archaeology” becomes a box to check rather than an integral part of research design. In search of a true postcolonial archaeology, we must recognize how our actions as academically and financially privileged researchers in often unequally privileged communities can reinforce uneven structures of power. The goal of this forum is to start a conversation among archaeologists and graduate students at various points in their careers, to think through concrete actions that we can take to build long-term, sustainable and deeply impactful peer relationships with the communities we enter. The process of obtaining a PhD implies multi-year contact with research communities, making it a crucial starting point for discussing ways to intentionally build community collaboration and research transparency into each step of the journey. Ideally this forum will bring together a network of like-minded researchers with diverse experiences and research models, sparking dialogues about how to balance the demands of graduate programs and employment with archaeological work that genuinely engages communities.