Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

New Orleans Community Explores Topics of Migration and Mesoamerican Art with Author Duncan Tonatiuh

October 17th, 2019

Story by Erika Pettersen, Stone Center graduate student and Publicity Assistant

From October 10th to 13th, the Latin American Resource Center hosted a visit from Duncan Tonatiuh, an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books, including The Princess and the Warrior, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote, and Dear Primo. Tonatiuh draws from his Mexican and American roots to create images and stories that honor the past in ways that are relevant to young people today. His illustrations combine his formal training from the Parsons School of Design in New York City and inspiration from Pre-columbian art.

Last month, his most recent publication, Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight, received the 2019 Américas Award. Through narrative and artistic reinterpretation of ancient Mixtec codices, this book brings to life the story of Juan and the many other undocumented workers in America who work hard and make positive contributions to society.

During his time in New Orleans, Tonatiuh used Undocumented as a focal point for engaging with youth and educators. This included workshops at two local schools: Hynes Charter, where he worked with eighth graders, and Isidore Newman, where he connected with fourth graders.

He also facilitated a workshop at Tulane University, entitled “Incorporate Stories of Migration through Children’s Literature with Duncan Tonatiuh: K-16 Workshop.” Tonatiuh introduced seventeen local educators to the tradition of Mesoamerican codices and the manners by which they influence his work, including his stylized rendering of characters and scenes, and the accordion format of Undocumented. Furthermore, he shared strategies for engaging young readers with topics of immigration. The workshop ended with a crafting session where each participant created their own panel for a collaborative codex that brought together personal migration stories. The program was co-sponsored by S.S. NOLA, a project run by professor of practice Brooke Grant with funding provided by a Tulane University, Carol-Lavin Bernick grant.

Additionally, Tonatiuh had the opportunity to meet with Hortensia Calvo and Rachel Stein a the Latin American Library, where they introduced him to some of the Mesoamerican painted manuscripts in their collection. This included an economic census of Tepoztlán, the Testerian manuscript, and the famous Tulane Codex (Codex Huamelulpan).

Last but not least, Tonatiuh participated in the International Literacy Association conference, which empowers educators with the resources they require for making literacy accessible to all. He presented on a panel with Américas Award coordinator and program manager at the Stone Center, Denise Woltering Vargas and Américas Award committee member, Dr. Patricia Austin from the University of New Orleans on the importance of the Américas Award as a tool for teaching about migration.

The Stone Center extends a big “thank you” to Duncan Tonatiuh for sharing his talents and experiences with the New Orleans community.

Mesoamerica + People
Marcello Canuto
Director - Middle American Research Institute, Professor - Anthropology