2019 IMS Scholarships Awardees


Congratulations to our 2019 awardees!

Christopher De Cormier Memorial Scholarship in Mesoamerican Studies

Jamilläh Rodriguez, “Documentation of Tone Lowering Environments at Copala Triqui

Copala Triqui is a Mixtecan language of the Eastern Otomanguean branch of the large Otomanguean language family. It originated in San Copala, Mexico, but as a result of economic difficulties and political violence, large diaspora communities have formed in Oaxaca City, Baja California and Albany, New York.
Otomanguean languages have possibly the richest and most complex tonal systems in comparison to all tonal languages. Despite this, the literature on these languages remains almost exclusively descriptive in regard to grammatical tone. Copala Triqui has a complex tone system that consists of 5 level tones (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and 3 contour tones (13, 31, 32). Tone lowering processes in Copala Triqui were originally analyzed as a phonological process by Hollenbach (1984). However, I believe that there is much more interface between the phonology and syntax of the language than previously reported. Tone lowering is used in at least 12 environments to signal grammatical information and syntactic relations.
My goal for the summer is to increase my database with more syntactic environments in which tone lowering is utilized as a productive process. Furthermore, this phenomenon requires many data that represent a large community in many regions, and my current data represent only a small fraction of the Copala Triqui population in one diaspora community. I will travel to Oaxaca City to meet with speakers of Copala Triqui there. I hypothesize that syntactic dominance relations correlate to tone lowering, a process that is analogous to tonosyntax in the many languages of Africa. I strongly believe that my research is not only beneficial for the fields of linguistics and Otomanguean language documentation, but also the Copala Triqui community and for indigenous communities more generally.


Abelardo de la Cruz de la Cruz, “Moteochihuanih (Catechists and Prayer Specialists) as Indigenous Leaders on Nahua Indigenous Communities in Chicontepec"

UNESCO declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. My research project sponsored under the DeCormier scholarship contributes to this effort. Since 2014 I have conducted research with Nahua people in Chicontepec, Veracruz, Mexico, specifically in villages where people believe in Catholicism but at the same time believe in the local religion known as el costumbre (from the Spanish for “the custom”). Chicontepec is a Mexican municipality located in northern Veracruz, where Nahuatl is the second most widely spoken language. In 1980, another wave of Catholic evangelization swept through the villages of Chicontepec that caused conflicts within their traditional beliefs.
Through this fieldwork, I will interview motiochihuanih, men and women catechists who now work as instructors of Christian Doctrine, as well as retired catechists who changed their labor and now work as prayer specialists inside of the local religion. The work of these catechists started in 1980, when some younger people agreed to teach the new doctrine to the rest of the villages, under the supervision of the Chicontepec parish. Today, these people are older and remember the history when the Cristian doctrine arrived in their villages. Catechists and prayers specialists are recognized as religious leaders in their own communities. One Nahua catechist told him in 2018: “Here in our communities, we do not believe in either God or the Devil. Because external Catholic people demonized our local religion, and as a response we did not believe faithfully in the Catholic god.” Prayer specialists are motiochihuanih too because they believe in the local religion but also believe in the Catholic doctrine, and they are a good example how to believe in two religions. As part of the same project, I also want to do a survey of people who believe in the local religion called el costumbre in order to understand the attitudes of Nahuas of today and evaluate their current responses to Catholicism and the unshakable continuity of their local beliefs.


First Encounter Scholarship for Mesoamerican Fieldwork

Loretta Tucker, First field experience with Northern Maya archaeology in Yucatan, Mexico”

The First Encounter Scholarship will enable me to travel to Mérida, Mexico.  There, I will assist Carlos Peraza Lope in processing artifacts from recent salvage archaeology projects in the INAH lab.  This will allow me to become familiar with the local artifact typologies.  In addition to lab work, I will assist Peraza’s team in ongoing excavations near Mérida, learning the team’s mapping and photography techniques, and procedures for processing finds. 
As part of my Masters research, I have been using data from a collection of speleothem (cave rock) artifacts found at Mayapán households to understand who had access to these materials and what they were used for.  Speleothems are associated with the ritually significant settings of caves and cenotes, and as portable artifacts may have represented those places and the spirits who dwelled in them.  This trip will allow me to work hands-on with this collection (curated by the INAH lab) and take additional measurements and photographs of these pieces. 
While in Mexico, I will also visit a variety of museums and Maya archaeological sites throughout the Yucatan, including Mayapán, Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, and the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya.  I will also be able to practice my Spanish language skills.  The experience gained on this trip will be key to my upcoming dissertation and ongoing career in Mesoamerican archaeology.


David Scotchmer Essay Award

 Yahaira Nuñez-Cortes, “The walled city and the dogs: Utilization of Canis familiaris at Mayapan, Yucatan”

In this paper I document the role of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) in domestic and ritual contexts of Mayapán. Mayapán was the last capital of the Postclassic Maya located at the Yucatan Peninsula. Dog remains have been recovered from ceremonial, elite, and commoner contexts in the city. I analyze the distribution of skeletal elements and contexts of deposition in temples, halls, and houses. I utilize osteometric data from documented dog breeds and age charts to compare and identify the types and ages of dogs recovered at Mayapán. This study shows that dogs were an important component of ritual life in Mayapán and were offered in ceremonies or feasts at the Templo Redondo group. It also demonstrates that the use of dogs in burials and their consumption in domestic contexts was not restricted to elites.

Click here to learn about the 2018 award winners.