Erika Pérez

Associate Professor

In 2018, I published my first book on interethnic godparenting, sexuality and marriage in early Southern California. My study shows how people wielded and responded to colonial power in their everyday intimate encounters. My book traverses the Spanish, Mexican and early American periods from 1769 to 1885, emphasizing the role of Spanish-Mexican women as agents of Spanish colonization, and indigenous and Spanish-Mexican women as shapers and sustainers of their cultures and communities through honorific roles, such as godmother and midwife. My research shows how foreign men Mexicanized themselves to acculturate into Spanish-Mexican society, and how the mixed offspring of interethnic couples negotiated their identities in the aftermath of changing racial and political landscapes in nineteenth-century California. I pay particular attention to the gendering of biethnic children's experiences and the unevenness of conquest, even among members of the same family. Lastly, I examine the ongoing struggles and survival of indigenous families, and ongoing waves of violence against indigenous and Spanish-speaking women in the wake of the Gold Rush. Although the regional focus of my book is rooted in southern California, I am interested broadly in the history of the American West and the Spanish Borderlands, particularly in empire-building projects, and identity-formation and negotiations by people of mixed descent. I am also interested in indigenous histories of resistance and cultural survival throughout early North America.

I currently hold the following positions here at the University of Arizona: Associate Professor of History, Affiliated Faculty of Gender and Women's Studies, and Editorial Advisor of the Women in the West Series (University of Oklahoma Press).