MHC’s Gudmundson Edits New Book

Professor of Latin American Studies and History Lowell Gudmundson is already off to a busy start this fall semester: His latest book is being published by Duke University Press, and he is giving the keynote address at a historiography symposium in Costa Rica this month.

Gudmundson coedited Blacks and Blackness in Central America: Between Race and Place with Justin Wolfe, associate professor at Tulane University. Along with editing and writing the introductory chapter, each also contributed a chapter to the book, which explores the history of the African diaspora in Central America. 

The dozen chapters of the book, he said, showcase the work of “younger historians and social scientists on Afro-Central American populations.” 

The contributions of African-heritage populations in Central America are often unrecognized, said Gudmundson, but “our research shows that much of what is taken to be Spanish or Hispanic or Mestizo (mixed) culture of the Pacific side of the isthmus was actually highly identified with and ‘performed’ by people of African descent.”  

“We used as a cover image a photo of a black man getting ready for his work as a ‘picador’ for the bullfights,” he said. “Nothing more ‘Spanish’ than that, right? Well, from Mexico through northern South America, cowboy cultures and bullfighters were highly identified with African-descent populations, not with indigenous or Mestizo ones.” 

Blacks and Blackness in Central America will be published in Spanish by the State Open University Press in Costa Rica (Editorial Universidad Estatal a Distancia, or EUNED) as a coedition with the Center for Research on Mexico and Central America (based in Mexico and Guatemala). EUNED is also publishing a 25th-anniversary edition of Gudmundson’s earlier book, Costa Rica before Coffee (Costa Rica antes del cafe in Spanish), with a new preface. 

On September 22, Gudmundson is giving the keynote address at a symposium on Costa Rican historiography at the Universidad de Costa Rica. Proceedings from the event will be published by Revista de Historia. The three-day-long symposium will cover many topics in the subfields of history, including gender, environmentalism, economics, and politics. 

“The idea is to assess what has and has not been done over the past 40 years and to respond to a renewed interest in, and controversies over, historical interpretation amid recent political polarization,” said Gudmundson. Several of the leading historians at this symposium are former undergraduate and graduate students of his from the 1970s and 1980s.

Here at Mount Holyoke, Gudmundson is educating the next generation of Central American scholars—this fall he is teaching Introduction to Latin American Cultures and Central America: Reform, Reaction, Revolution.