Mexican Red: The Perfect Color that Changed the World


Wednesday, April 20, 2022, 6:00pm to 7:00pm

This event is virtual and will be held in English with simultaneous Spanish interpretation. To register, click here.

Speaker: Gabriela Soto Laveaga, Professor of the History of Science and Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico, Harvard University

Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) is a small insect that produces a brilliant red pigment. Found in textiles, paintings, cosmetics, and many other objects that span the globe, cochineal is an integral part of world history. Cochineal pigment was used by Mesoamerican peoples long before the Spanish arrived in the sixteenth century. After being introduced to Europe, it quickly became a precious commodity and control over its global trade was a source of conflict and competition for over three centuries. In this lecture, Gabriela Soto Laveaga will trace the fascinating history of cochineal production and the many efforts to control its trade.

Gabriela Soto Laveaga is Professor of the History of Science and Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico at Harvard University. Her current research interests interrogate knowledge production and circulation between Mexico and India; medical professionals and social movements; and science and development projects in the twentieth century. Her first book, Jungle Laboratories: Mexican Peasants, National Projects, and the Making of the Pill, won the Robert K. Merton Best Book prize in Science, Knowledge, and Technology Studies from the American Sociological Association. She is completing two book manuscripts: one on doctors as agents of social unrest and one that examines agricultural science exchange between India and Mexico.

Presented in collaboration with Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Harvard Museums of Science & Culture

See also: Virtual, Mexico