Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Boston College
Website URL
Guatemala, Central America, Spanish empire, colonialism, criminality, gender, race, urban history, cultural history, social history, archive studies
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

I am a historian of colonial Latin America with a focus on what is today Central America. I am currently investigating criminal cases from Guatemala that took place the end of the colonial period, roughly 1780 to 1810. By looking at criminal cases relating to social violence, I’m documenting the emergence of Guatemala’s first police state.

My first monograph considered the relationship between documents and distance in the Spanish Empire (Distance and Documents at the Spanish Empire’s Periphery, Stanford U Press 2013), examining how document genre, transportation, and archival treatment were influenced by distance. My forthcoming book tells the story of a sensational crime that took place in Guatemala City in 1800 (The Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several Parts, Yale U Press, February 2020).

I am also a fiction writer, and I write fiction informed by history, such as When the Ground Turns in Its Sleep (Riverhead, 2007). An enduring interest for me is the meeting point of fiction and history, the related meeting point of academic writing and popular writing, and what we can learn from these points about ways of knowing.

Recent Publications
Melvin, Karen, and Sylvia Sellers-García, eds. Imagining Histories of Colonial Latin America: Synoptic Methods and Practices. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2017.
Media Coverage
Country Focus
Expertise by Geography
Central America, Latin America, Spain
Expertise by Chronology
18th century, 19th century, Early Modern
Expertise by Topic
Colonialism, Gender, Law, Libraries & Archives, Medicine, Race, Religion, Sexuality, Sexual Violence