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“The City that Perfumed the World” - Initial Insights Towards a Global History of Vanilla in Twentieth-Century Papantla, Mexico - Lecture of Francisco Lopez Vallejo (University of Bayreuth)

24 May 2023, 5.p.m., Iwalewahaus 

First Colloquium Latin America

Until the first half of the nineteenth century, the small town of Papantla - situated at the north of the coastal state of Veracruz, Mexico - was considered the global center for vanilla production as virtually all vanilla came from the indigenous region of the Totonacapan. While this productive preponderance moved to former colonies in Africa and Southeast Asia during the next century, Papantla remained one of the most important centers of production an fostered a wide range of historic processes that varied from ecological, agrarian, social, political changes at the dawn of the nineteenth century. With less attention has been twentieth-century histories related to vanilla, most notably, on how this region lost its productive role
and how the local level responded to it.

Based on initial archival work in Mexico and historiographical literature review, this presentation will try to share and put on the table of discussion a set of strains for a global history of vanilla in Papantla in the twentieth century. Although previous and important work has been developed on important aspects of the globality of vanilla, few studies have dived in how
the global dimension operated on the regional level and how the locals (European immigrants’ descendants, indigenous peoples, Mexicans, etc.) understood, shaped and were impacted by this global commodity. Furthermore, Papantla could not only represent a central case for the history of this product, but also a compelling example for the understanding and theoretical reflection on how disintegration processes work and how locals.

Link to the PDF-file

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