I am a doctoral candidate in the Deparment of History at UC Santa Barbara. I specialize in the history of Latin America and African diaspora studies. I have researched and taught political rituals, material culture, and race and ethnicity topics.

My dissertation, titled A Place of Paradoxes: Black People’s Legal Strategies in Early Modern Venezuela examines the ways men of African descent contested and reshaped institutions, norms, and imperial geographies in the Province of Venezuela by the late seventeenth century.

During this period, several petitions, claims, and communications reached the highest levels of the imperial administration —the Council of the Indies in Spain— that evidenced slaves, maroon, and free Black people’s engagement with institutions and concepts from canon and civil law to pursue collective and individual benefits. The overlap of these cases and the changing reactions they produced in various echelons of colonial administration show how multiple normative orders interacted, overlapped, and competed with each other within imperial and colonial frameworks. These interactions provide valuable insights into the paradoxes of the Spanish empire’s treatment of Africans. On the one hand, these men were, on paper, denied mechanisms for social mobility and, on the other, managed to contest policies on the ground by employing their vernacular knowledge of norms and institutions.

For my research, I apply methods and concepts from the African diaspora studies, history of law, and cultural geography to understand how free and enslaved people used different legal mechanisms (e.g. confraternities, militias and reducciones) to negotiate with local authorities. I also experiment with digital humanities tools to reconstruct Venezuela’s space from the perspective of Black individuals and groups, the places they inhabited, their social networks, and their interactions with civic and religious authorities.

My research seeks to reconstruct and examine the experiences of people of African descent whose histories have often been silenced in our understanding of the law and normative knowledge. I also want to highlight that the histories of Latin America and the Caribbean are not monolithic and that places like Venezuela, often deemed peripheral in the historical scholarship, can help us understand the people that took part in the transformation of local norms and imperial policies.