Faculty in Mesoamerican Studies

Faculty in Mesoamerican Studies

Faculty in Mesoamerican Studies come from a variety of departments at California State Unversity, Los Angeles including Archaeology, Art History, Chicano Studies, and English. The following is a list of the primary faculty in Mesoamerican Studies.

Manuel Aguilar (Professor of Art History)

Manuel Aguilar-Moreno was born in Guadalajara, México. He received his B.S in Electronic Engineering and then a certification in Education at the ITESO University.

Following this, Dr. Aguilar-Moreno received an additional degree in Mexican History with special emphasis on the state of Jalisco, from “El Colegio de Jalisco”. In 1997 he completed his studies for a Master’s degree in Latin American Studies at the University of Texas At Austin, and then in 1999, received an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Art History and Anthropology, also from the University of Texas at Austin where he studied with the late Dr. Linda Schele and Dr. Karl Butzer.

Dr. Aguilar-Moreno has made numerous intensive cultural and investigative research trips within his native Mexico as well as to diverse countries of America, Europe, Asia and Africa. He has been a professor of Art History, World History, History of México and Biblical Literature at such institutions as the Jesuit University and the Instituto de Ciencias, in Guadalajara, Mexico; the University of San Diego, California; the University of Texas at Austin; and Saint Peter’s Prep School in New Jersey. Dr. Aguilar-Moreno was also the Principal of Instituto de Ciencias, the Jesuit High School in Guadalajara.

He is author of numerous books, among them: The Belen Cemetery: an architectural and historical study (1992), The Meaning of the Bible (1994), Quest for the Atlquiahuitl: Cajititlan (1995), El Panteón de Belén y El Culto a los Muertos en México: Una búsqueda de lo sobrenatural (1997), The Cult of the Dead in México: Continuity of a Millennial Tradition (1998), The Perfection of Silence: The Cult of Death in Mexico and the Cemetery of Belén (2003), Ulama (2004), Utopia de Piedra: El Arte Tequitqui de Mexico (2005),  and Handbook of Life in the Ancient Aztec World (2006).  He also has written countless articles in edited books, journals, magazines and newspapers.

Dr. Aguilar-Moreno is frequently asked to present slide shows and lectures on the History of Mexican Art as well as World Art in the United States, Mexico and Europe.

Currently, Dr. Aguilar-Moreno is a professor of World and Latin American Art History at California State University Los Angeles. He is also professor of Mexican Art History for summer courses at the University of San Diego. In 2009, Dr. Aguilar was honored at Cal State L.A. with an Outstanding Professor Award for 2008-2009. 

Jim Brady (Professor of Anthropology)

Dr. James Brady is best known for pioneering the archaeological investigation of Maya caves.Between 1981 and 1989 he directed excavations at Naj Tunich (National Geographic, August 1981, Archaeology Nov/Dec 1986) and from 1990 to 1993 he directed the Petexbatun Regional Cave Survey (National Geographic, February 1993).Moving to Honduras, Brady headed a three year archaeological investigation of the Talgua region (Cave of the Glowing Skulls, Archaeology May/June 1995). Since 2001, he has led a Cal State L.A. field schools in Guatemala and Belize.  He was also co-directed a project studying a modern survival of the ancient ballgame (Archaeology Sept/Oct 2003; Smithsonian Magazine, April 2006)

Dr. Brady's research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, two grants from the Explorers Club and three grants from the National Geographic Society. He has also won two Fulbright Fellowships, a Dumbarton Oaks Fellowship and a Samuel H. Kress/Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study of the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art. He was a visiting professor at the University of Copenhagen in the Fall of 1998.

He joined the Department of Anthropology at California State University, Los Angeles in 1998.He was named the Outstanding Professor for 2008-2009.

Dr. Brady's work has received considerable media attention. He has appeared in television programs on National Geographic Explorer, The Discovery Channel, A The Learning Channel, and The History Channel.He has also been featured in Newsweek, National Geographic, Archaeology Magazine, Science News, New Scientist, Américas, The Economist and Smithsonian Magazine as well as a host of newspapers including the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times

Roberto Cantú (Professor of Chicano Studies and English)

Dr. Roberto Cantú received his  B.A. and M.A. degrees from San Diego State University, and  his Ph.D. from UCLA in 1982 in Hispanic Languages and Literatures.  His doctoral dissertation was on Mexican historian Edmundo O’Gorman, written under the direction of Argentine philosopher Aníbal Sánchez-Reulet.  As a graduate student at UCLA, he was the editor of Mester (1972-1975), a literary journal in which he published work by major Mexican and Latin American writers, including authors who would become members of the formative Chicano literary generation, such as Rudolfo Anaya, Tomás Rivera, Alurista, and Juan Felipe Herrera, among others.  In 1975, Dr. Cantú was honored by San Diego State University with the Distinguished Alumni Award.  He  joined the Chicano Studies faculty in 1976, and in 1994 he began his joint appointment in the English department.   

In Chicano Studies, Dr. Cantú teaches courses at all levels on Mexican, Chicano and Mesoamerican literatures.  In 1976, he organized the Chicano Studies Publication Center, and edited the bilingual edition of José Vasconcelos’s La raza cósmica/The Cosmic Race (1979), and founded two journals:  Campo Libre:  Journal of Chicano Studies (1979-1984), and Escolios: Revista de Literatura (1976-1979), where he published the work of Miguel León-Portilla, Edmundo O’Gorman, and José Lezama Lima (Cuba), to name a few.  In the English department, Dr. Cantú teaches graduate seminars and upper-division courses on world literature, including theory and criticism, the European Novel (Cervantes to Balzac), and Latin American literature.  He has taught graduate seminars on Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges, and Caribbean and Avant-Garde literatures.  In 1991, Dr. Cantú was recognized at Cal State L.A. with the Outstanding Professor Award for 1990-1991.  In  2008, he received The Big Read Certificate of Achievement awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts for Outstanding Contribution to Education.    

Dr. Cantú has consistently contributed to cultural programs at Cal State L.A.  He was the Project director and coordinator of Chicano History and Culture Week, held at Cal State L.A. on November 16-20, 1981, commemorating the Bicentennial of the City of Los Angeles.  He was the organizer of the Rockefeller International Conference "Technology and Culture in the Mexico-United States Border," funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and held at La  Jolla, California, on October 9-12, 1983.  A total of  ninety-eight faculty, researchers, and students from major Mexican institutions participated in this conference with all expenses paid by the grant.   Approximately eight hundred faculty, students and the public at large from the U.S. were present at this conference. In 1984, he served as the Project director and organizer of the Junípero  Serra International Conference held at Cal State L.A. on December 12, 1984. Participants included four historians from Spain, four from Mexico, and four from the U.S.  The conference was co-sponsored by the Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana (Madrid, Spain), and was first taken to Tijuana, where the conference took place in Tijuana’s  Cultural Center (CECUT) on December 11.  
Besides many other conferences and workshops on Chicano Studies and Ethnic Studies held at Stanford University and at Cal State L.A., Dr. Cantú also produced a play by Federico García Lorca, Bodas de sangre/Blood Wedding, with five sold-out performances on April 9-11, 1999, at Cal State L.A.’s State Playhouse.  In 2008, he organized and coordinated five stage readings of Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima as part of the Big Read, two at Cal State L.A. (April 10 & 12), two at the Bilingual Foundation for the Arts (June 14-15), and one in Dallas, Texas (June 28), where our University cast (fourteen students and five professional actors) closed the City’s Big Read activities.    

In 2007, Dr. Cantú’s proposal for a Minor in Mesoamerican Studies was approved at Cal State L.A., the only CSU campus to offer such a minor.  In 2009, he organized the 2009 Conference on Mesoamerica with the assistance of faculty and students from Cal State L.A., a conference that brought scholars from Australia, Germany, Mexico, Canada, and the United States.  He is currently organizing the Latino Book and Family Festival with staff from Latino Literacy Now, a national organization that promotes Chicano/Latino education and book festivals in major U.S. cities in association with Chicano actor Edward James Olmos.  The festival will be held at Cal State L.A. on October 10-11, 2009.  Dr. Cantú is also organizing an international conference on Octavio Paz, titled “World Civilizations, Modernity, and Octavio Paz:  A Plurality of Pasts and Futures,” to be held at Cal State L.A. on May 14-15, 2010.    

Dr. Cantú is an established literary critic in Mexican and Chicano literature, with publications in the field ranging from 1972 to the present.  He has taught at UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine on several occasions as a Visiting Professor.  In 2008 he was elected to the Octavio Paz Society. In 2009, Dr. Cantú was recognized by his colleagues with the 2010 President's Distinguished Professor Award. 

He can be reached at rcantu@calstatela.edu  or (323) 343-2195 (campus office with voice-mail).

Aaron Huey Sonnenschein (Assistant Professor of English)

Aaron Huey Sonnenschein completed his dissertation, A Descriptive Grammar of San Bartolomé Zoogocho Zapotec, at the University of Southern California in 2004. This grammar was published in 2005. Brook Danielle Lillehaugen and Dr. Sonnenschein are planning to publish the first edited volume on spatial language in Zapotecan languages, Expressing Location in Zapotec, in the second half of 2009. While dedicated to his primary passion, the documentation and revitalization of endangered languages (especially the languages of Oaxaca), he has also conducted original research on the search for linguistic universals,the underlying reasons for such universals, and comparative Otomanguean and Mesoamerican linguistics.

Dr. Sonnenschein also works with an interdisciplinary research group of historians and linguists at UCLA who translate and analyze Colonial Valley Zapotec texts. This research broadens our knowledge of both the history of colonial Oaxaca and the Zapotec language as it was spoken during this era. Recently he began work on a 17th century Sierra Zapotec phrasebook which has already expanded our knowledge of Zapotec and Mesoamerican number systems.

Along with Danny Zborover, Dr. Sonnenschein is planning work on another highly endangered Mesoamerican language, Highland Chontal. This project will draw on his strength as a descriptive linguist and Danny’s years of experience as an archaeologist in the Highland Chontal region. Beyond linguistic description, this innovative multidisciplinary project will provide ethnographic, historical, and archaeological documentation of rapidly disappearing Highland Chontal traditions.

Dr. Sonnenschein began teaching at California State University, Los Angeles in the summer quarter of 2005 as a part-time faculty member. In the fall of 2008, he became a tenure-track faculty member. Dr. Sonnenschein has had the great pleasure of teaching a variety of linguistics courses in the Department of English, incorporating service learning into two of his courses. Along with Michelle Hawley, he has made a strong partnership with the East Los Angeles Community Youth Center. (See /univ/ppa/spotlight/archive/2009/ELACYC-CSULA.php for more information.) CSULA has also provided an ideal place to continue his work on the indigenous languages of Mesoamerica.

Dr. Sonnenschein can be reached either at asonnen@exchange.calstatela.edu or at (323)343-4161(campus office with voice-mail).