Verónica Gutiérrez, MFA, PhD

Director of Undergraduate Research
Director of the Bridge Program
Associate Professor of Latin American History, Department of History and Political Science

Phone: (626) 815-6000, Ext. 3134
Office Location: Ronald Building, Room 120
Photo of Verónica Gutiérrez, MFA, PhD

Biography

Growing up in a bilingual household unable to speak Spanish – common for Mexican-Americans of her generation – Verónica Gutiérrez never imagined she would, in 2012, join the Department of History and Political Science as APU’s first Latin American specialist. Her scholarly focus on Mexico was not a natural progression emerging from a life of cultural immersion. Rather, her vocation as a colonial Mexican historian serves as an example of how guided research during one’s college years can initiate a lifelong passion and produce a fulfilling professional career.

While researching family history as a creative writing major in college, Gutiérrez discovered that her mother’s teenage father fled Guanajuato on foot during the Mexican Revolution (1910-c. 1920), walking 1,300 miles to Texas; in contrast, her father’s family received a land grant from the Spanish king to colonize northern New Spain (present-day Texas). Interest in family history led her to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction; to contextualize a memoir about her Mexican Catholic family, she enrolled in Latin American history courses. Drawn to the discipline of history, she earned a PhD in Colonial Mexican History from UCLA.

Director of Undergraduate Research since 2016, Gutiérrez is privy to the impressive breadth of undergraduate scholarship at APU, awarding competitive research grants and travel funds for students to present at academic conferences across the globe. She also directs the Bridge Program, serving as Project Director for APU’s NEH-HSI grant. In that capacity she oversees a team providing a residential Summer Bridge program for incoming Gen1 students built around a 3-unit Humanities course exploring the U.S. Declaration for Independence.

An active scholar, Gutiérrez retains close ties to Cholula, a city in the modern-day Mexican state of Puebla that has been her research site since 2005. Drawn to the area to examine Franciscan-indigenous partnership in the development of local Christianity, she has lectured widely on the topic in the U.S. and Mexico as well as published along this theme in English and Spanish. To commemorate the quincentennial of European arrival to the Americas, she co-led a faculty development tour through central Mexico, “From 1519 to 2019: Indigenous Christianity in Mexico 500 Years after Cortés” (#CFHMexico2019), and was an invited speaker at a symposium in Cholula memorializing the massacre of its people by Hernando Cortés and his indigenous allies in October 1519. Currently, Gutiérrez is engaged in reconstructing the life of María de la Paz, a wealthy Castilian immigrant to colonial-era Cholula known as “la viuda obrajera” (widowed female owner of a textile factory). As part of that project, she is collaborating with the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at UT-Austin to “train” a software tool to automate transcriptions of colonial Mexican script.

As a trained creative writer and historian, Gutiérrez retains sensitivity to story, narrative arc, and unheard voices in her Latin American history courses, and remains committed to challenging the myths pervading native peoples of the Americas. Her dual training landed her a contract with Ignatius Press to write a children’s chapter book for their popular Vision Books series. Juan Diego and the Lady on the Hill (forthcoming) provides Gutiérrez the unique opportunity to relate this well-known story from an indigenous perspective, introducing readers to the beauties of Nahua culture and the Nahuatl (Aztec) language.

In addition to her degrees in history from UCLA, Gutiérrez holds an MFA in creative non-fiction from the Pennsylvania State University and a BA in creative writing from the University of San Francisco, where she attended the St. Ignatius Institute. She and her husband enjoy an active life near the beach with their children, ages eight, six, and four.

Education

  • PhD, Colonial Mexican History, UCLA
  • CPhil, Colonial Latin American History, UCLA
  • MA, Latin American History, UCLA
  • MFA, Creative Nonfiction, Pennsylvania State University
  • BA, Creative Writing, University of San Francisco

Academic Area

  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
    • Department of History and Political Science

Expertise

  • Early Modern Catholicism
  • Latin American History
  • Mesoamerican Cultures

Courses Taught

  • HIST 120 – World Civilizations to 1648
  • HIST 201 – World Civilizations and Geography
  • POLI 300 – Research and Writing
  • HIST 300 – Introduction to Historical Studies
  • HIST 392 – Colonial Latin America
  • HIST 393 – Modern Latin America
  • HIST 393 – Ritual and Re-enactment in Modern Latin America
  • HIST 484 – Historical Themes: Native Peoples Before and After the Spanish Conquest
  • HIST 484 – Historical Themes: Gods and Demons in Sixteenth-Century Mexico: Franciscan Evangelization of Native Peoples in New Spain
  • POLI 496 – Senior Seminar in Politics and Religion: Encounters with Christ
  • POLI 496 - Senior Seminar in Politics and Religion: Christian Responses to Epidemic Disease