Silvia Escanilla Huerta is a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She lives in Champaign, Illinois, and has been a member since 2014.
Alma mater/s: BA, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 2008; MA, Universidad de San Andrés, 2015; PhD in progress (ABD), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Fields of interest: colonial Latin America, Caribbean, Atlantic world, Age of Revolutions, wars of independence, indigenous people, political cultures
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? I have walked a long and winding road to get where I am now. I always knew I wanted to become a historian but life got in the way and only a few years ago I began pursuing my passion. After some time of working in the field of Latin America I made the decision to come to the United States to get my PhD, with the hope of becoming the best version of myself I could possibly be. I am happy to report I am on my way there.
What do you like the most about where you live and work? The peace and quiet, the tranquil life that allows me to think and write, but at the same time provides me with a close-knit group of people who know me and care about me. The University of Illinois is an ideal place for maturing ideas because it has a great library and a very stimulating academic community. My friends and professors are wonderful human beings and talented professionals. I am proud of our community.
What projects are you currently working on? I am currently working on my dissertation that proposes a new interpretation of independence in Peru. My dissertation explores the process that led to the war of independence in 1820 and then the war itself until 1828. I argue that indigenous political protagonism did not stop with the suppression of the Tupac Amaru rebellion in 1783. Between the rebellion and the beginning of the war in 1820 a process of indigenous political mobilization took place at the local and regional level due to multiple reasons, both internal and external. At the beginning of 1820, indigenous people perceived the war as a possibility for achieving a new local and regional positionality that they pursued by organizing armed guerrillas. I argue that politics in 19th-century Peru cannot be understood without considering the independence and the role of indigenous people in it because it was during this process that indigenous people forged a new way of making politics that would define the following decades of Republican Peru.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research? Every time I find indigenous people’s handwriting or a signature (or a cross if they were illiterate) I am deeply moved. I am trying to recover their history and since they left very few written documents, each time I find traces of them in manuscripts I feel like I can almost touch them and for a split second we are connected. It is truly magical.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members? I am currently fascinated with the work of the anthropologist Di Hu. I discovered her through this article and I am eager to learn more about her work.
What do you value most about the history discipline? We can change people’s lives. I know this sounds a bit ambitious but I know it to be true. History and historians changed my life and they gave it meaning. I want to do the same by offering a new version of history that is more inclusive and that speaks to the cultural and ethnic diversity of Latin America.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you? The AHA has been incredibly generous with me, not only with grants but also with the welcoming environment it guarantees in every annual meeting. The AHA annual meeting has been my way of introducing myself and my work to the English-speaking academic world and I could not be more grateful for that.
AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.