Roger Louis Martínez-Dávila

Facilitating Experiences with History and Culture

I am a specialist in medieval and Renaissance Spain and Europe who has dedicated his life to better understanding intercultural and interreligious relations. In particular, I track the lives of religious and cultural minorities in Iberia – especially Sephardic Jews and their descendants, the conversos. Having lived in Spain for several years, as well as visited every province of Spain over my twenty-year career, my favorites remain the mountainous Cantabrians and Pyrenees, the crashing waves on the Basque coastline, the hustle-and-bustle of Madrid, and every aspect of Sephardic Jewish culture.

My love of history was sparked as a U.S. teenager living under the auspices of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, in the late 1980s. I was inspired by hiking the Andean Inca Trail, learning to drive in a Toyota Land Cruiser in the altiplano of Bolivia and visiting Tiahuanaco, revering the Incas’ Machu Pichu, and finding great curiosity in Spanish-indigenous fusion of Cuzco. My endearing connection to interrelgious history is driven by my deceased father’s lifelong question — “Who are we?” A question I answered in my first book, Creating Conversos: The Carvajal-Santa María Family in Early Modern Spain, which explores the 14th century creation of my own family — a mixture of Spanish Catholic knightly families and Jewish rabbinic families. Somos católicos, somos judíos. We are the resilient, but fractured conversos.

Presently, I serve as a participant in the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute’s Commission for the Celebration of Spain’s Relationship with the United States 1776-2026: America&Spain250. The Commission aims to increase public awareness of these contributions and celebrate their importance over the course of 250 years of Spain’s shared history with the United States. At the Primeras Jornadas “America&Spain250”: Conmemorando los doscientos cincuenta años de las relaciones entre España y Estados Unidos 1776-2026 on May 23-24, 2024, I am presenting/presented the lecture, “Traigo nuevas de las Américas. Presencia sefardita en el suroeste de los Estados Unidos.”

I was a co-curator for the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and its exhibition, Fractured Faiths: Spanish Judaism, The Inquisition, and New World Identities (2016). The exhibition told the comprehensive story of how Spain’s Jewry found a tenuous foothold in North America. A collection of essays and catalogue of the exhibition is available via the University of New Mexico Press.

My travel and life abroad reflect my global perspective of the Middle Ages — delving into the mixed Mediterranean and Gothic cultures of Spain, Portugal, Italy, and North Africa, as well as the Frankish and Germanic peoples of France and the Low Countries. To this end, along with my colleague, Prof. Dr. Lynn Ramey, we created a community of a dozen scholars investigating the Immersive Global Middle Ages, which was funded by the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities (2021-2023).

In December 2023, I launched Personal Journeys: Identity, Motivation, and Resilience, a three-course specialization. It explores the Renaissance’s cultural and intellectual legacy and modern global perspectives, focusing on self-discovery, motivation, and overcoming societal challenges. The courses offer an intellectual tapestry designed to foster resilience and growth in both personal and professional spheres.

From 2014 to 2023, I created and advanced the Deciphering Secrets: Unlocking the Manuscripts of Medieval Spain project. The collaborative citizen science effort, which engaged approximately 50,000 Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) learners on, focused on revealing the interreligious relations of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and religious converts during the 12th through 16th centuries. Through onsite video lectures in cathedrals and former synagogues, interviews with museum and cultural specialistists, and a two-week paleography program for learners, we collectively studied history and made history by transcribing manuscripts. The highlights of this intellectual, religious, and cultural journey continue as ongoing MOOC on — Coexistence in Medieval Spain: Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Presently, I am professor (catedrático) of History at the University of Colorado (2010-present) and previously a Marie Curie Fellow at the Universidad de Carlos III de Madrid (2015-2018), I am an authority on medieval Spanish and European manuscripts and material culture, particularly their provenance and interpretation. I relishe the opportunity to share stories from researching special Papal collections at the Vatican’s Secret Archive, Inquisition cases in Madrid’s National Historic Archive and Lisbon’s Torre de Tombo Archive, and artifacts and architecture in former palaces, synagogues, and mosques.

I hold a Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas at Austin , as wel as a B.A. in. Humanities, and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California – Berkeley.


Featured Videos, Lectures, and Presentations

Personal Journeys: Identity, Motivation, and Resilience Course Specialization

The Immersive Global Middle Ages
New Directions in the Humanities Conference

Deciphering Secrets, Virtual Reality,
Cathedrals and Museums, and Manuscripts




Immersive Global Middle Ages

Deciphering Secrets

Smithsonian Journeys Expert