Chicana-Chicano Studies

Chicana/o Studies 495HM: History of Mesoamerican Literate Societies

In this upper division course we will studythe 2500 year history of Literate Mesoamerican Societies. We will explore the interconnected material and historical remains of several Mesoamerican groups and the intricate ways these corroborate, complement, and contrast with each other. We will also engage the interdisciplinary principles and challenges of integrating different types of evidence about the past; the relationship between different fields of study; diverse ways of reading and the role of literacy and the power of writing in complex societies; and the relevance of the material and written past to Mesoamerica’s contemporary descendants who live on both sides of the Mexico-US border.

The "Visualizing Language" exhibit to take place at the Central Library of Los Angeles in the Fall of 2017 is the Library Foundation of Los Angeles’ contribution to the Getty Foundation’s Initiative called PST II: LA/LA and will highlight the contributions of indigenous language speakers to the city of Los Angeles where a large Oaxacan demographic has lived since the Bracero Program of 1942 when many men were contracted legally from Oaxaca to work in the agricultural fields throughout the United States. As such this public history exhibit will empower a marginalized demographic and promote a better understanding of the people and the languages they speak despite geo-political borders.

Zapotec is an endangered language of the Otomanguean family. The “Visualizing Language” project will highlight several Zapotec variants still spoken in the state of Oaxaca and beyond. This is a unique opportunity for ANY indigenous language of the Americas, and positively complicates a true understanding of indigenous contributions to society. The content of this course and the connections with the exhibit will encourage a dialogue with the intellectual, artistic, social and cultural exchanges between Mesoamerica to other regions of the Americas. The language portion of this exhibit is intensely positive as it defends the fact that hundreds of native languages continue to exist in various forms, spoken, signed, written and illustrated.

Service Learning Opportunities:

Students will have the opportunity to interact with librarians, curators, artists, poets and other intellectuals through public programs at Los Angeles’ Central Library. Students will also have the opportunity to serve as docents in a historical exhibit part of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time II: LA/LA. Student docents will help educate and enlighten the general public who visit the exhibit in person and to connect to it through digital forms.

For this segment of the course, students should be able to attend regularly scheduled meetings on Saturday mornings for training and associated lectures. These meetings will take place at the Central Library from 11am-1pm.  After the successful completion of the service learning component, student docents will receive letters of recommendation from the Library Foundation of Los Angeles and Professor Flores-Marcial. The service learning component of this course will introduce talented CSUN students to the citizens of the city of Los Angeles through the impressive community partner: The Public Library of Los Angeles!

For more information contact Professor Flores-Marcial at

Press on the exhibit:


In Spanish: