2016 IMS Scholarships Awardees


Christopher De Cormier Memorial Scholarship in Mesoamerican Studies

Juan Argueta

Juan Argueta, “Intensive Nahuatl Language Study at Yale University 2016

My research centers on issues that arise when rural indigenous/descendant communities commodify intangible cultural heritage as an economic development strategy in the global economy. My research site—Xaltocan, Mexico—is historically rich with some pre-Hispanic continuity (e.g., Otomi and Aztec). Though no one is currently fluent in Nahuatl in Xaltocan, there has been an increase in the use of phrases and words since its sharp decline—largely due to discrimination—in the first half of the 20th century. Thanks to the Christopher DeCormier scholarship, I will be able to attend the Intensive Nahuatl Language course at Yale this summer. After completing this course, I will be able to demonstrate Nahuatl proficiency, thus indicating to locals that I have invested time and effort to learn an aspect of their pre-Hispanic culture. Furthermore, this ability will strengthen and broaden engagements with locals, especially elders who are more familiar with Nahuatl idioms, phrases, and words. Lastly, gaining competence in this language will enhance my comprehension of pre-Columbian cosmology, world views, beliefs, concepts, and customs that survive today.


Yahaira Nunez-Cortes

Yahaira Núñez-Cortés "Lomas Entierros Archaeological Project: Documenting the Households"

My research seeks to evaluate the role of interregional exchange in the development of complex societies and the creation of social and political inequality. The study takes place at Lomas Entierros archaeological site, one of the largest centers located in the Central Pacific region of Costa Rica. Lomas Entierros was occupied during the centuries before the Spanish arrival (AD 800-1500). It is known for its monumental construction in cobblestone and large quantities of polychrome ceramics coming from the Greater Nicoya region. However, it is unclear if imported artifacts were used as elite prestige items, or if they were circulating widely through horizontal modes of exchange. The Christopher DeCormier Scholarship will fund the pilot study that will be the basis of my dissertation research. With these funds I will map the site’s architecture and locate the best domestic structures for future excavation.


First Encounter Scholarship for Mesoamerican Fieldwork

Alyse Strohmeyer

Alyse Strohmeyer, “Effigy Use at Mayapan Commoner Households”

My research will focus on the context of effigy censers at commoner dwellings of Postclassic Mayapan. This trip I will be focusing on the types of effigy censer fragments recovered from 2002-2009 excavations at eight house lots. These fragments usually form less than one percent of household pottery, but little is known about how they arrived at residential contexts and whether they were used in a meaningful way. There are two conflicting views on effigy use, that they were decentralized, and widely distributed and that effigy censer use was restricted to the elites and public buildings. If the latter is true, I hope to account for their appearance in commoner dwellings despite their elite control.


David Scotchmer Essay Award

Mounia El Kotni

Mounia El Kotni, “The Hospital is Where Women Die” Indigenous Midwives Denounce Obstetric Violence in Mexico "

In my article, “The Hospital is Where Women Die” Indigenous Midwives Denounce Obstetric Violence in Mexico, I examine the perception of public hospitals by indigenous midwives and women in Chiapas, Mexico. In this State, indigenous women represent one third of the female population, but half of the maternal deaths. Such statistics, added to recent cases of obstetric violence, have led to an increased defiance towards the hospital and medical personnel. I argue that the violence women face in maternity wards needs to be understood in relation to the historical marginalization of indigenous peoples in Mexico. Government campaigns portray hospitals as the safest place for poor indigenous women to give birth, and trainings for midwives insist they transfer their patients to higher levels of care. On their end, women and midwives resist these policies by arguing that the hospital is a place "where women die", and that birthing at home is their cultural right. 


Undergraduate Essay Award in Mesoamerican Studies

Katarina Spero

Katarina Spero, “A Zooarchaeological Study of Differential Household Economies at the Postclassic Maya Site of Mayapan”

This comparative archaeological study on animal bones at Mayapán was
completed as part of the Economic Foundations of Mayapán Project,
building upon previous research and incorporating new data that I
helped to collect during the 2015 field season. In this paper I look
at Jabah, a small temple-cenote group outside Mayapán’s city wall, and
establish a broad but preliminary relationship between households
located in the site’s center and outskirts. I found that the densities
and types of animal bones in the rural residential zone were lower and
fewer than those from houses inside the city. I conclude that Jabah’s
residents were more inclined to practice subsistence, husbandry, and
reliance on local sources of protein than their urban counterparts,
but further research is needed to create a more representative
relationship between Mayapán’s periphery and core and a more complete
picture of the site as a whole.

Click here to learn about the 2015 award winners.