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Edward Anthony Polanco

Edward Polanco, Assistant Professor

Edward Polanco, Assistant Professor
Edward Polanco, Assistant Professor

Department of History
428 Major Williams Hall, 220 Stanger Str.
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Dr. Edward Polanco is a Kuskatanchanej – a person from Kuskatan (Western and Central El Salvador) – scholar of Mesoamerica. Although he was born in Los Angeles, CA, his ancestors are from Kuskatan and his parents fled their homeland due to political violence and instability. Dr. Polanco is committed to amplifying and centering Indigenous voices and perspectives in his research, his classroom, and on Virginia Tech’s campus. To achieve this, he works closely with the Latinx and Native communities on campus, and more broadly in the US and Latin America. Dr. Polanco is on leave in the Fall of 2023.

His first book, Healing Like Our Ancestors: The Nahua Tiçitl, Gender, and Settler Colonialism in Central Mexico; 1535-1660 (University of Arizona Press; in press, expected August 2024) examines healing ceremonial specialists among 16th and 17th-century Nahua people (Indigenous groups with diverse communities in Mexico and El Salvador) in Central Mexico. Dr. Polanco carefully analyzes the different healing tasks women and men had in their communities, he also unpacks the importance of women as titiçih (healing specialists), and he unearths how Spanish authorities attacked Native healers as they attempted to evangelize and hispanize Indigenous populations in New Spain (today known as Mexico and Central America).

He has published on Indigenous healing knowledge, and gendered understandings of the human body. Various fellowships and institutions have funded Dr. Polanco’s work, including the Fulbright-García Robles research grant, FLAS summer and AY fellowships, and a Newberry Library National Endowment for the Humanities Long-Term Fellowship. For more information and updates, please visit Professor Polanco's personal website.

Dr. Polanco’s teaching interests include Native history, Latin America, Mexico, El Salvador, Mesoamerica, sorcery, race, gender, and class. He has introduced various new courses to Virginia Tech that challenge students to think about the past from Indigenous perspectives.

  • Ethnohistory
  • Colonial Mexico
  • Abya Yala (Latin America)
  • Colonialism
  • El Salvador
  • Native History
  • The Nahua world
  • Ph.D. in History with a minor in Anthropology, The University of Arizona
  • M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside
  • B.A. in History, University of California, Riverside
  • Department of History Diversity and Inclusion Committee Member
  • Department of History Undergraduate Committee
  • Human Dimensions of Infectious Disease mini-grant, Center for Emerging, Zoonotic and Arthropod-borne Pathogens
  • College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Research Grant
  • College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Diversity Award, Virginia Tech, 2023
  • Presidential Principles of Community Individual Award, 2021
  • Dr. Maria Teresa Velez Diversity Leadership Scholarship, The University of Arizona

Journal Articles

Polanco, Edward. “Tiçiyotl and Titiçih: Late Postclassic and Early Colonial Nahua Healing, Diagnosis, and Prognosis.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. Oxford University Press. Article published October 2019. doi:  

Polanco, Edward Anthony. "“I Am Just a Tiçitl”: Decolonizing Central Mexican Nahua Female Healers, 1535–1635." Ethnohistory 65, no. 3 (2018): 441-463.doi:

Polanco, Edward Anthony. “‘The Chamber of Your Virginity does not have a Price’: The Scientific Construction of the Hymen as an Indicator of Sexual Initiation in Eighteenth-Century Spain.” Footnotes: A Journal of History 1, 2017: 67-88.

Digital Scholarship

Polanco, Edward Anthony. “Healing among Nahua Communities.” Mexicolore, May 31, 2022.

Polanco, Edward Anthony. “Oscillating and Depreciating: Early Modern Spanish Views of Unsanctioned Female Healers.” Nursing Clio, January 5, 2021.

Polanco, Edward Anthony. “Archivo General De La Nación: Mexico's Black Palace.” H-Net, February 3, 2020.

  • Newberry Library National Endowment for the Humanities Long-Term Fellowship, 2021-22
  • American Indian and Indigenous Community Center Faculty Fellow, VT 2020-21
  • Juneteenth Scholar, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, VT 2020
  • New Faculty Mentoring Project Grant, Office of the Provost, VT 2020
  • Niles Research Grant, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, VT 2019
  • International Initiative Small Grant, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, VT 2018 & 2019
  • International Travel Grant for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, VT 2019
  • Fulbright-García Robles Research Grant for Mexico, US Department of Education (2015-16)

“Making Medicine out of Tiçiyotl”, Medical Humanities Research Group – University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, November 29, 2018


  • Historical Methods
  • Colonial Latin America
  • Conquest and Culture in Latin American Empires
  • Witchcraft and its Repression


  • Colonialism in the Americas
  • Decolonization in Turtle Island and Abya Yala
  • Historical Methods (Virginia Indigenous History)
Dr. Polanco invites all students interested in working on Latin America, Colonialism, or Native History to contact him.

Featured Books