A Medical Archaeopedagogy of the Human Body as a Trauma-Informed Teaching Strategy for Indigenous Mexican-American Students

  • Santiago Andrés Garcia
  • Maritza Arciga
  • Eva Sanchez
  • Robert Arredondo


In this article, three co-authors share their narratives and clay figurines sculpted during the Mesoamerican Figurine Project of Rio Hondo College (Garcia, in press-a). Through reflective writing exercises and the sculpting of small-scale clay figurines, Los Angeles-based Mexican-American students unearthed parts of their Mesoamerican ancestry and materialized their stories of displacement and violence to assist in meeting student learning outcomes (SLOs). After interpreting these data alongside the medical tools observed on the four Tezcatlipocas of Mesoamerica (Acosta, 2007), the supposition is that Indigenous Mesoamerican students benefit when engaged through the following topics: 1) land and cosmology, 2) trauma and medicine, 3) resiliency and self-determination, and 4) community and family. To support all students’ educational and mental health goals, and to prevent further trauma accumulation, the Mesoamerican figurine is modeled as a pedagogical tool with a wide range of therapeutic values. By employing a critical autoethnographic approach (Ohito, 2017), Instructor Garcia’s ancestral knowledge—combined with his students’ insights—enabled his conceptualization of a medical archaeopedagogy of the human body as a trauma-informed teaching strategy (Cole, Eisner, Gregory, & Ristuccia, 2013) to begin to address the mental health challenges prevalent in the Mexican-American community related to the cultural genocide of Native Americans.