Juan Jose Ponce Vazquez

Juan José Ponce Vázquez

Associate Professor


  • PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 2011

Research Areas

  • Latin American History
  • History of Race


Research Interests

I am a specialist in colonial Latin American history, the Spanish Caribbean, and the Spanish Atlantic. In particular, my research focuses on the Spanish Caribbean world during the seventeenth century. My first book is titled Islanders and Empire: Smuggling and Political Defiance in Hispaniola, 1580-1690 (Cambridge University Press, 2020). In it, I study the role that Spanish societies played in the forging of a Caribbean world in which they were caught in between the competing imperial agendas of Spain and the expanding European powers of the day, namely England, France, and the United Provinces. I analyze how the residents of the Spanish colony of Hispaniola used smuggling to transcend their marginal location and status within the Spanish colonial world and took advantage of the intense imperial competition that engulfed the Caribbean during the seventeenth century. The study of a colonial periphery such as Hispaniola demonstrates how local peoples actively negotiated and transformed the meaning and reach of imperial bureaucracies and institutions for their own benefit. In Santo Domingo, local actors managed to undermine and co-opt the powers of imperial bureaucracies, either by absorbing them into their own patronage networks, or by confronting them with the strength that their colonial isolation granted them. By doing so, they heavily influenced Spanish imperial policy in the Caribbean, and exploiting it for their own socioeconomic advantage.

I have done several conversations about Islanders and Empire online in different places:

  • A conversation between myself and Kris Lane, co-editor of Cambridge Latin American Studies series, hosted by Cambridge University Press is available on Cambridge UP’s YouTube channel.
  • My interview with Grant Kleiser from the New Books Network is available on Apple Podcasts.
  • My conversation with Steven Hyland for the podcast Historias is available on the Historias Soundcloud page.

Islanders and Empire won the 2021 Alfred B. Thomas Award, given by the Southeastern Council of Latin American Studies (SECOLAS) to the best book on a Latin American subject published by a SECOLAS member in the previous year.

Current Projects

  • I recently finished an article titled “Pirates, Smugglers, Diplomacy, and the Spanish Caribbean in the Late 17th Century”, (forthcoming). I am also slowly diving into two new book projects. One of them is an edited edition of the travel narrative of part-time soldier and full-time adventurer Gregorio de Robles, who traveled through the Caribbean, South America, and across the Atlantic world in the late 17th century.
  • My next monograph project is titled “Afrodescendants in the Spanish Caribbean Borderlands, 1580-1680,” and will center the experiences of enslaved and free people of African descent in the Spanish Caribbean during the first half of the 17th century, concretely in eastern Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica.
  • I am currently the President of the Latin American and Caribbean section of the Southern Historical Association (LACS-SHA)

Courses Taught

  • Colonial Latin America (HY 111)
  • Indians, Nuns, and Rogues. Cities in Colonial Latin America (HY 473)
  • Imperial Spain during its ‘Golden Age’ (HY-477)
  • Race and Slavery in Spanish America (HY-665)
  • Latin American Literature (HY-605)
  • Caribbean Pirates in History and Popular Culture (HY-374)
  • US-Latin American Relations (HY-430)
  • Slavery, Blood, and Freedom: the Haitian Revolution (HY-3xx)
  • Law and Slavery in Colonial Latin America (HY-3xx)

Recent Conference Presentations

  • “Counting the Dead: Records of the Deceased in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, 1666-1676. A Preliminary Analysis.” American Historical Association/Conference of Latin American History, New Orleans, LA, 2022.
  • “De Santo Domingo a Madrid: Reflexiones sobre la Monarquía Hispánica vista desde una frontera imperial.” IV Centenario de la muerte de Felipe III. Privanza y cultura política en la monarquía hispánica: ideas, imágenes, escenarios (reflexiones a partir de la obra de Antonio Feros). Madrid, Spain, 2021.
  • Pre-circulated paper “Before the Sack of Veracruz: Dutch Pirates, Santo Domingo Smugglers, Caribbean Diplomacy, and Spanish Peripheries in the Late 17th-Century Caribbean.” Association of Caribbean Historians (online conference), 2021.
  • “Consuming against God: Religiosity and Smuggling in Hispaniola in the late 16th century.” Latin American and Caribbean section of the Southern Historical Association, Louisville, KY, 2019 .
  • “Suppressing Smugglers: The Depopulations and Reshaping of Colonial Hispaniola, 1604-1606,” pre-circulated paper for the Southwest Seminar, Utah Valley University, Heber City, UT, November 2018.
  • ““The Only Remedy Is Doing with These People What It Was Done with the Moriscos”: The Depopulation of Española, 1604-1606” Southeastern Council of Latin American Studies, Nashville, TN, 2018.

Selected Publications