New Book Alert: Collective Creativity and Artistic Agency in Colonial Latin America Overcomes Bias

Margarita Vargas-Betancourt

In the new text, Collective Creativity and Artistic Agency in Colonial Latin America, Librarian Margarita Vargas-Betancourt presents her research on an Aztec merchant woman and uses the case to illustrate and overcome the bias that has surrounded the study of Indigenous women. This book brought together art historians and a historian who bring forth new methodologies to study Colonial Latin American Art, focusing on different regions.

From the University Press of Florida:

“This volume addresses and expands the role of the artist in colonial Latin American society, featuring essays by specialists in the field that consider the ways society conceived of artists and the ways artists defined themselves. Broadening the range of ways that creativity can be understood, contributors show that artists functioned as political figures, activists, agents in commerce, definers of a canon, and revolutionaries.
Chapters provide studies of artists in Peru, Mexico, and Cuba between the sixteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Instead of adopting the paradigm of individuals working alone to chart new artistic paths, contributors focus on human relationships, collaborations, and exchanges. The volume offers new perspectives on colonial artworks, some well known and others previously overlooked, including discussions of manuscript painting, featherwork, oil painting, sculpture, and mural painting.
Most notably, the volume examines attitudes and policies related to race and ethnicity, exploring various ethnoracial dynamics of artists within their social contexts. Through a decolonial lens not often used in the art history of the era and region, Collective Creativity and Artistic Agency in Colonial Latin America examines artists’ engagement in society and their impact within it.” 


Margarita Vargas-Betancourt is the Latin American and Caribbean Special Collections Librarian at the University of Florida. She obtained a Ph.D. and an MA in Latin American Studies from Tulane University, and a B.A. in Hispanic Literature and Language from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Margarita uses her background on colonialism to identify and highlight the hidden voices in archives and to serve and empower Latino students at UF. She is member of the first cohort of the Mellon RBS Fellowship for Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Heritage. Her latest co-authored publication “Contesting Colonial Library Practices of Accessibility and Representation” in the book Archives and Special Collections as Sites of Contestation obtained the 2022 LASA Archives Section Award for Best Article.