Julia Sarreal, Helen Watson Buckner Memorial Fellow

photograph of Julia sarreal, associate professor of Latin American history at Arizona state university, at the JCB

Julia Sarreal, an Associate Professor of Latin American History at Arizona State University, spent two summer months in 2017 at the Library as a Helen Watson Buckner Memorial Fellow. Her current project, “Yerba Mate, Guaraní Consumable, Tool of Empire, and Gaucho Lifeblood” provides a refreshing take on the indigenous Argentinian beverage, which has been described as coffee, tea, and chocolate combined. “The drink initially repelled Europeans, but then it became a daily ritual for people of both genders and all social and economic classes and all racial identities throughout southern South America, and it served as an informal tool of empire,” explains Sarreal. 

The project, which evolved from Sarreal's first book,  The Guarani and Their Missions: A Socioeconomic History (Stanford University Press, 2014), shows how commodities shape perceptions and legacies of empire. “In the nineteenth century, yerba mate was redefined and sidelined as part of Argentina’s struggle with its identity, but yerba mate continued to be produced and widely consumed,” she explains. “It is a vestige of Argentina’s Indian and rural past that evolved and took new meanings while tenaciously maintaining distinctive cultural and communal characteristics.”