Estévan Rael-Galvéz

Katrin H. Lamon Resident Scholar


Identifying Captivities and Capturing Identities: The Contest of Stories and Memories in the American Indian Captivity and Servitude of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado

Resident Scholar Estévan Rael-GalvézResident Scholar Estévan Rael-GalvézResident Scholar Estévan Rael-Galvéz

In the tradition of the storyteller, resident scholar Estévan Rael-Galvéz follows the life of one man, Luis, to reveal the intricate complexities of evolving identity and community in the region of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. During the Spanish, Mexican, and American occupations of this area, Luis represents one of thousands of American Indians taken into Spanish/Mexican households and communities as captives and slaves. Rael-Galvéz’s dissertation, The Culture of Memory within an Imagined Community: The History and Discourse of Indian Captivity and Slavery, examines how captivity wove diverse communities and histories together in a multi-layered reality obscured even now by denial, memory, and silence.

Rael-Galvéz was able to trace Luis and his descendants from an Indian Agent’s 1865 inventory of Indian captives, to a 1934 encounter with a U.S. Civil Works Administration agent, to a recent interview in Denver, Colorado. Having lived within the Valdez family all of his life, Luis embodies the plight of the “criado” or “servant” held captive yet treated “like family” over generations: while “Indian slavery” was officially illegal throughout all three periods of occupation in this region, the lived experience of servitude calls this “age-old custom” into question.”

“My goal is to examine indigenous captivity and servitude as experience, as a contest of stories, and as memory,” explains Rael-Galvéz. “Tracing the experience and story of even a few of those thousands of captured indios means attempting to account for the particular ways in which multiple subjectivities race, caste, gender, nation, and even between the centrally imagined dichotomy of ‘savaged’ and ‘saved’ mark one’s relation toward this reality.”

His investigation will include an analysis of the concept of slavery, as well as the impact of Indian captivity on the collective cultures of the Hispanic communities of the interconnected valleys of Española, Taos, and San Luis, where the largest number of captivities occurred.

Affiliation at time of award:
Ph.D. Candidate, Program in American Cultures, University of Michigan

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