Jake Frederick receives Harvard research grant

Michael Schreiber

Jake Frederick, assistant professor of history, has received a research grant from the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. The grant entitles Frederick to conduct research using Harvard’s libraries and other resources for two weeks this summer and provides $2,000 for travel and other expenses.
Frederick found out about the grant from Professor of Spanish Gustavo Fares. Fares let him know about the grand in early March, and when Frederick found out about it, he said the grant “struck me as a really terrific opportunity, so I basically wrote up a grant requesting that they let me have access to their [Harvard’s] libraries for a couple of weeks.”
Frederick often travels to Boston in the summer, so the grant “is a very convenient opportunity to expand on the project I am currently working on,” said Frederick.
Frederick, who has been at Lawrence since fall 2006, teaches courses in Latin American history and freshman studies. He enjoys teaching at Lawrence because he “has a lot of autonomy here, which is nice, so I can teach about what I research instead of some set curriculum,” he said.
Frederick’s current project is a study of ethnicity in colonial Latin America. According to Frederick, historians have traditionally oversimplified the social dynamics present in this colonial setting.
“There’s always been an understanding by historians, which may not in fact be accurate, that there was sort of a clear racial hierarchy in colonial Latin America, whereby your ethnicity largely shaped your social status,” he said.
“But if you read the works of historians,” Frederick continued, “they’re always discussing how this system was never wholly accurate, and that actually their [colonial Latin Americans’] social position and the way they dressed and the amount of money they had had more to do with where they stood in society than their race.”
Frederick also noted that race relations in Latin America have never been a “two-tier-type of division where we have essentially African Americans and whites,” but instead, “Latin American Society always recognized mulattos and mestizos and a whole lot of variation in between white Europeans and Indians and Afro-Latinos.”
Frederick said that he is reinterpreting Latin American history not as the Spanish domination of natives but as a much more interactive relationship involving Spaniards, natives and Afro-Latinos.
Frederick plans to do more research in Mexico in the future, but will work with documents already in his possession this summer, in addition to using the resources available at Harvard.
He will conduct his research at Harvard toward the beginning of July. He hopes to use what he learns at Harvard to write a scholarly article and eventually a book.
Frederick’s work contributes to a developing understanding of colonial Latin American society.
Progressing from the work of earlier 20th-century historians who realized the influence of Native Americans on colonial Latin American history, said Frederick, “now [at] the beginning of this century, we are also starting to recognize the position of Afro-Latinos.