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Faculty and Staff

Norah L. A. Gharala
Associate Professor


Office: 641 Agnes Arnold Hall

N. L. A. Gharala is a historian of New Spain and the Iberian empires. Professor Gharala holds a BA in Latin American Studies from Wesleyan University (2007) and a PhD in History from The Johns Hopkins University (2014). Prior to joining the department at University of Houston, Gharala taught world history and Latin American history in Arizona and New Jersey. Gharala’s research has most recently received support from the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden, the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Philosophical Society.

Research Interests

Professor Gharala studies colonial Mexico and its regional and global connections. Gharala’s first monograph, Taxing Blackness: Free Afromexican Tribute in Bourbon New Spain (University of Alabama Press, February 2019), examines taxation in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world from the perspectives of free Afromexicans, local officials, and fiscal bureaucrats. Using petitions and lawsuits related to royal tributes, free people of African descent sought to shape colonial ideas of Blackness, subjecthood, and genealogy. As co-PI with Dr. Guillermo de los Reyes (Hispanic Studies), Dr. Gharala created a digital project called, “Slavery in Early Mexico: A Dataset Identifying the Enslaved Persons on the Estates of Hernando Cortés.” Gharala's current research examines Pacific and Indian Ocean worlds and their connections to New Spain in the seventeenth century. These projects include a second monograph and a co-edited volume focused on everyday life in the Philippines. Another project, tentatively titled “Heirs to their Houses: Families of Africans, Europeans, and Native Americans in Early North America,” will focus on property ownership in families that crossed barriers of race and caste.


Professor Gharala has taught courses in Latin American, Mexican, and world history, as well as topical courses on music, gender, empire, and race. As an undergraduate research mentor, Dr. Gharala contributes to university-wide initiatives like the Mellon Research Scholars Program.

Selected Publications


book-cover-image.jpg Taxing Blackness: Free Afromexican Tribute in Bourbon New Spain (University of Alabama Press, February 2019).


“‘This woman’s resistance to her son’s paying tribute’: Afrodescendant Women, Family, and Royal Tribute in New Spain.” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 38, no. 1 (Feb. 2022): 10-34.

“Black Tribute in the Spanish Americas.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014-. Published online December 22, 2021.

“‘Not Even Blood Mixture Could Make Them Unworthy’: Political Loyalty and Tribute in Bourbon New Spain.” Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies 24, no. 2 (Aug. 2018): 195-204. 

“Calidad, Genealogy, and Disputed Free-Colored Tributary Status in New Spain.” The Americas 73, no. 2 (Apr. 2016): 139-170.