Carlos Rivas

PhD Candidate in Art History


Carlos was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the San Gabriel Valley. After graduating from UC Riverside in 2010 with a double major in Art History/Religious Studies and English, he pursued graduate studies to examine the visual and material culture of Latin America’s Spanish colonial period (1492-1820). His research focuses on colonial cartography and his dissertation examines the atlas-census Descripción Geográfico-Moral de la Diócesis de Goathemala, which contains over one hundred highly-detailed aerial views of El Salvador and Guatemala from 1768-1770. He has taught at UCLA and Pitzer College in Claremont, California.

Project Description

For my work on Spanish colonial cartography in Central America, I am conducting an analysis of a sequence of one hundred and twelve bird’s-eye maps (aerial views) that collectively depict much of the land surface of what is today Guatemala and El Salvador. Taken from the atlas-census manuscript Descripción Geográfico-Moral de la Diócesis de Goathemala (1768-1770), the maps each measure 13.4” x 8” and were drawn using watercolor pigments on paper. Although the images function as maps, they can also be thought of as constructed landscapes, as the bird’s-eye perspective was imagined for most images. My examination seeks to understand how scale varies from map to map and to understand population density in the region during this time. Which areas of Central America were more important, and received more attention by the surveyors? How can we use digital tools to better understand colonial Central America?