Historian probes native perceptions of foreign diseases

Historians in the News

An expert in colonial Latin-American history presented a lecture May 12, exploring how the indigenous cultures of Mexico reacted negatively to the major onslaught of disease during the Spanish conquest.

Dr. Kevin Terraciano, professor of history and chair of the Latin American Studies Program at University of California, Los Angeles, gave the 2010 Jonas A. “Steine” Jonasson Endowed Lecture to a crowd of more than 60 people.

“Most studies on the spread of disease beginning in 1520 are focused on the types of disease and how they were spread,” Terraciano said. “But I want to explore what the indigenous people of the time thought the cause and spread of disease was.”

Terraciano used various historical sources
written by Native Americans to illustrate how the people felt about disease and what they thought caused it.

“I’m trying to uncover and showcase indigenous voices from the past,” he said. “It is heavy history, but to understand the magnitude of events, we need to try to weigh into it and try to understand how these people felt and what they thought."...
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