Dr. Roger Louis Martínez-Dávila
Fundamentally, Dr. Martinez is concerned about and fixated on human interrelations — especially during the Spanish Middle Ages. From the 8th through 15th centuries, Jews, Christians, and Muslims co-existed on the Iberian Peninsula and formed one of the most dynamic civilizations in world history. Their coexistence was tenuous, challenging, and intimate. Blood and family relations were both commingled and jealously kept apart. Conflict, collaboration, and accommodation created new and unexpected political and economic alliances. Shared life on the peninsula generated the conditions for new forms of identity to come to life — in essence — hybridized, fractured identities that often borrowed and blended aspects of multiple faiths, values, and families.
Dr. Martinez’ own extensive research in cathedral, municipal, and national archives has led him to conclude that Jewish, Christian, and Muslim relationships were far more integrated—both positively and negatively—than contemporary scholars and the public realize. To investigate these issues, he blends the traditional approach of the historian (painstaking research and interpretation of medieval manuscripts) with new digital technologies (crowd-sourced analysis by citizen scholars and applied geovisualization). Thus, as a digital humanist his purpose is to share this inter-cultural history with others, via traditional and novel mediums, so that we might learn and appreciate how 21st century human interrelations have been molded by the past.
Presently, Dr. Martínez holds academic positions at the Universidad de Carlos III de Madrid (Spain) and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (USA). From Fall 2015 through Summer 2018, Dr. Martínez serves as a UC3M CONEX-Marie Curie Fellow and is advancing his MOOC efforts to reach as many as 100,000 students. Since fall 2010, Dr. Martínez has served as an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, however, he is currently on research leave. From fall 2008 to spring 2010, he served as the Burton Postdoctoral Fellow at St. Joseph’s University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and earned his Ph.D. in May 2008 from the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Martinez specializes in the study of intercultural relations and how group and individual identities hybridize. He is a scholar of medieval and early modern Spain, religious minorities and religious converts in Spain (in particular, Sephardic Jews and conversos), and their Spanish trans-Atlantic migration to Mexico and Bolivia.
Relying on his specialized training in Spanish paleography and Spanish and Portuguese language expertise, Dr. Martinez has conducted research in approximately 50 local, ecclesiastical, provincial, and national archives in Spain, Italy, Mexico, Bolivia, and the United States. His forthcoming text, Reconciling Blood and Faith: Creating the Carvajal-Santa Maria Family in Early Modern Spain, will be published by the University of Notre Dame Press. Roger served as Guest Curator for the Fractured Faiths: Spanish Judaism, the Inquisition, and New World Identities exhibition at the New Mexico History Museum (Santa Fe, NM). He has published in the peer-reviewed Bulletin of the Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies and Journal of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian Crypto-Jews, and reviewed books for The Sixteenth Century Journal and The Americas. Dr. Martínez is the fortunate recipient of several research fellowships and awards, including ones provided by the Mellon Foundation, the Council for European Studies, Spanish Ministry of Culture’s Program for Cultural Cooperation, the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy (IIJG) and Paul Jacobi Center at the National Library of Israel, and UCLA’s Maurice Amado Program in Sephardic Studies and Center for Jewish Studies.
Museum Exhibition: Fractured Faiths: Spanish Judaism, The Inquisition, and New World Identities
Dr. Martínez served as a guest curator at the New Mexico History Museum (Santa Fe, USA) and is the co-curator of the Fractured Faiths: Spanish Judaism, The Inquisition, and New World Identities exhibition. In the 10th through 13th centuries, Spain flowered into waves of golden ages, as Muslim, Jewish and Catholic peoples achieved new heights in science, philosophy and the arts. That triculturalism, though, endured repeated challenges, first by fundamentalist Islamic Almohads in the 12th century, then by Christian kingdoms in the late-14th century, when it finally deteriorated into dissent, segregation and riots. By 1492, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella unified the nation under the Catholic crown, cultural chaos roared forth. A royal edict ordered all Jews to either leave the country or convert to Catholicism within four months—or else. (A similar edict befell Muslims in 1502.) For those who converted, the Spanish Inquisition (and later, the Portuguese and Mexican Inquisitions) stood ready to prosecute any Christian who failed to abide. Violators would endure prisons, torture and death. What would you do? Repudiate the language, religion and customs of your people in order to stay in your home and with your family? Or walk away from all you owned, all you knew, and embark upon treacherous journeys across land and sea toward a life you could barely imagine?
Fractured Faiths: Spanish Judaism, The Inquisition, and New World Identities, which opened May 22, 2016 (through Dec. 31, 2017), stands on the brink of that chasm and leaps into a diaspora that dates to biblical times. For the first time, a major institution tells the comprehensive story of how Spain’s Jewry found a tenuous foothold in North America. Despite continued persecution, its people persisted—sometimes as upright Catholic conversos, sometimes as self-identifying “crypto-Jews.” Emblems of that struggle for cultural identity appear even today: A menorah carved into a tombstone in a Catholic cemetery; oral histories of tangled roots; Hispanic villages where genetic clusters speak to Jewish lineage. Working with institutions in Spain, Mexico City and New York, curators Josef Díaz and Roger Martínez-Dávila have gathered physical evidence that includes:
- The 1492 Decree of Expulsion
- The 1507 Libro Verde de Aragon that lists all the people killed by the Inquisition
- 15th-century tiles from El Transito Synagogue in Toledo
- An 18th-century painting of a Mexico City auto-da-fé
- Family trees that appear to scrub out evidence of Jewish heritage
- Shackles, a locket with the Inquisition emblem, and more
They bring to life people like Don Bernardo López de Mendizábal, a 17th-century governor of New Mexico, and his wife, Doña Teresa Aguilera y Roche. Hauled before the Inquisition in Mexico City, they were charged with—though never convicted of—being secret Jews. Fractured Faiths reunites Spanish artifacts with their New World counterparts for the first time to reveal the history of the Spanish Sephardim—the stalwarts, the converts and the hidden Jews—and their long heritage within the Americas. A global story that played out on New Mexico soil, this monumental exhibit details one of history’s most compelling chronicles of human tenacity and the power of cultural identity.
In concert with the exhibit, Fresco Fine Art Publications produced a bilingual catalog of the exhibition’s most important artifacts and documents. A programming series will deepen visitors’ understanding of Jewish life in the Americas and the struggle to preserve identity against often tragic odds. Lending institutions to Fractured Faiths include Spain’s Museo de Teruel, Biblioteca Nacional de España, and Museo Sefardí; Mexico City’s Museo Franz Mayer and the Museo Nacional de Arte; and the Hispanic Society of America in New York City.
Exploring the Digital Humanities
Dr. Martinez continues an active research agenda, especially in the area of applying digital tools to the study of medieval and early modern inter-religious Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim coexistence. Currently, Dr. Martinez is the project director for an emerging digital humanities project titled, Revealing Cooperation and Conflict: An Integrated Geovisual and Transcription Project for Plasencia, Spain (circa 1390-1450). The Revealing Cooperation and Conflict project will invigorate the humanities and public’s imagination by creating a visually-compelling, data-robust, and historically-lush digital world known as Virtual Plasencia. Our endeavor will generate a 3D walk-through model of part of the city of Plasencia that reveals Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim interrelations. We aim to recreate the cooperative and challenging processes that emerged during this era of intercultural realization and violence in Spain and Europe. Our team will populate a 3D model by transcribing and indexing census-like events from Book One (1399-1453) of the Capitulary Acts of the Cathedral of Plasencia. The project assembles geovisualization experts, historians, geographers, linguists, and computer scientists in the U.S.A., Switzerland, and Spain as well as citizen scholars from around the world. Our digital world will deliver a portal for the public to immerse themselves in Virtual Plasencia and an open-access data repository for scholars. This start-up project will launch our broader team effort to model issues of identity and social disruption from the 14th-17th centuries. This international collaborative project involves Dr. Victor R. Schinazi of Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH-Zurich), as well as scholars from Idaho State University, University of Zurich, St. Anselm College, St. Louis University (Madrid Campus), University of Wyoming at Laramie, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs.
Organizational Service and Teaching
Previously, Dr. Martinez served as the President of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, a 20+ year old international organization that fosters research on historical and contemporary issues relating to Sephardic Jews and conversos who hid their Jewish identities during an age of persecution. He is an active member of the Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies and Sixteenth Century Society.
Dr. Martinez’s university service contributions include the founding of the UCCS Historical Engineering Society, which built a historically accurate scale model of the trebuchet illustrated in the Cantigas de Santa Maria, and employing Barnard College’s Reacting to the Past pedagogy in the classroom, which places students in the roles of historic actors during critical moments during world history. Utilizing elaborate, multi-period games, his students re-enact, debate, and decide the course of events such as the birth of Athenian democracy.
Life Before Academia
Prior to returning to the University of Texas, Dr. Martínez worked for eight years in the public sector, including research and consulting positions at the Institute for the Future, the Texas Senate, and MGT of America. Lastly, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in the Humanities from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Public Policy from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a native of San Antonio, Texas; he has resided in South America, Spain, and both the west and east coasts of the United States. During his juvenile formative years he lived in Caracas, Venezuela, and La Paz, Bolivia.