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December 16, 2004


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Carrasco, Young
At Boylston Hall, Davíd Carrasco (left), Harvard Divinity School professor, speaks with filmmaker Robert Young, director of 'Alambrista: The Director's Cut.' (Staff photo Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard News Office)

Mexico honors Carrasco as 'a man of our time'

'Order of the Aztec Eagle' awarded to HDS professor

Davíd Carrasco, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor for the Study of Latin America at Harvard Divinity School (HDS) and director of the Moses Mesoamerican Archive and Research Project, has received the highest decoration the Mexican government can bestow on a foreign national, the Orden Mexicana del Aguila Azteca (Order of the Aztec Eagle). Calling Carrasco "a man of our time, a man of enormous vitality and value," Carlos de Icaza, the Ambassador of Mexico, decorated Carrasco at a ceremony held at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C., Thursday (Dec. 9).

"[My] story begins at the end of the 19th century in the Copper Canyon of Chihuahua, Mexico, in the silver mining town of Bato Pilas, with the birth of my grandmother Carlota Carranza and culminates today with a meeting of friends and strangers, diplomats and teachers, musicians and athletes at the beginning of the 21st century here in the capital city of the United States," said Carrasco in his remarks to the assembled group of dignitaries, colleagues, and friends. "Think with me about the courage, struggle, vision, and love it took for just three generations of Mexicans and Mexican Americans to traverse, geographically and culturally, from the deepest part of Mexico's largest canyon ... to this imperial city of stone monuments, racial tension, international domination, and increasing hybridity."

At a panel discussion in Boylston Hall on Friday (Dec. 10), Davíd Carrasco of the Divinity School and filmmaker Robert Young, director of "Alambrista: The Director's Cut," talk about the innovative mutlimedia teaching tool called "Alambrista and the U.S.-Mexico Border: Film, Music, and Stories of Undocumented Immigrants." This teaching tool is at the heart of a first-time collaborative teaching project sponsored by the Latino Studies Consortium titled "A Book and a Film."Six academics representing five universities in the Greater Boston area have come together in this effort. Over the course of the fall 2004 semester, more than 100 students from these institutions will screen "Alambrista: The Director's Cut" and explore issues relating to the immigrant experience. Carrasco is a co-producer of the film.

Carrasco charted the budding pride in his heritage that led to his academic inquiry. On a trip to Mexico as a teenager, "I realized that I had been taught that Mexico was a country valued only for its defeats, jokes, and folklore but not for its civilization," he said. "I saw that there were deep intellectual, artistic, and religious issues and powers to be understood from knowing the Aztecs and their neighbors."

Carrasco, who holds a joint appointment to (HDS) and the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), has engaged in more than 20 years of research in the excavations and archives associated with the sites of Teotihuacan and Mexico-Tenochtitlan. His leadership in the field resulted in his editorship of the award-winning "Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures." Recently, he has been leading a two-year project bringing together scholars from the United States and Mexico to decipher a 16th century codex from the Puebla region of Mexico called the Mapa de Cuauhtinchan.

Carrasco also co-produced the film "Alambrista: The Director's Cut," which aims to put a human face on the life and struggles of undocumented Mexican farm workers in the United States, and co-edited a companion book of essays titled "Alambrista and the U.S.-Mexico Border." The book, which includes a DVD of the film and a CD of the soundtrack, is being used as a teaching tool in universities across the United States.

In addition to de Icaza, Alejandro Negrin, Minister for Cultural Affairs and director of the Mexican Cultural Institute, and William Fash, Howells Director of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard, also spoke.

Instituted in 1933, the Order of the Aztec Eagle is awarded to foreign heads of state, foreign diplomats, and foreign persons rendering distinguished service to Mexico or mankind. Past winners include César Chávez, migrant workers' defender; former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros; Senator Lloyd Bensten (D-Texas); former Texas Governor Ann Richards; Bill Richardson, promoter of the North American Free Trade Agreement; Jeffrey Davidow, Ambassador to Mexico; and Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.).

- Wendy McDowell, Beth Potier

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