An image of the cover of Jaime Lara's book.

'Flying Francis of Assisi'


Bret Hovell

Jaime Lara, research professor at Arizona State University’s Hispanic Research Center and the Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, has published the first volume in the innovative “Medieval and Renaissance Latin America” (MARLA) series.

ASU takes seriously the study of Latin America within the rubric of “the Middle Ages and the Renaissance,” for which it is gaining international fame.

Lara’s new book, Birdman of Assisi: Art and the Apocalyptic in the Colonial Andes , bridges the Old World of Europe and the New World of the Inca Empire, from the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries. It looks at a mythological flying Francis of Assisi as a confrontational and anti-establishment figure who was received by native peoples as a shaman, bird-man and avenging angel in colonial South American. Flying Francis continues today to perform similar roles in the rural Andes.

Lara is an art historian with advanced degrees in anthropology and religious studies. He taught for many years at Yale University before coming to ASU where he has taught this material. His previous books on the christianized Aztecs won him a Guggenheim Foundation Senior Fellowship in 2009. In the same year, he also won a fellowship at the National Humanities Center, as well as being named the Kress Senior Professor at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, which is part of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. While there, he was interviewed on National Public Radio regarding his research on flying human beings in Andean mythology, missionary art, and present-day folklore; Cronkite News recently aired an interview with him at the Phoenix Museum of Art.

Birdman of Assisi was published jointly by the Bilingual Press of the Hispanic Research Center and the Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies. It is being translated into Spanish for publication in Peru.

Watch for more medieval-Renaissance Latin American topics forthcoming in the MARLA series.