Priscilla Cisternas Portrait
1 Shields Avenue, Davis CA 95616


Priscilla Cisternas is a Ph.D. candidate in Latin American History, specializing in Food History and Andean Social History. She is currently conducting her doctoral research project “Quinoa and its People. Empire, Food, and Agrobiodiversity in Colonial Andes”. Priscilla obtained a master’s degree in History with emphasis in Ethnohistory at the University of Chile and graduated in education and teaching credentials at the University of Tarapacá. She has participated in numerous research projects and publications on the regional and Andean history of northern Chile. She taught in the University of Viña del Mar in Chile. Priscilla is also a Research Associated of the Center of Historical Studies at the University Bernardo O ́Higgins, Chile. During 2021-22, she is conducting her research in Bolivia, Perú, Spain, and the United States (John Carter Brown Library).

Research Focus

Priscilla is interested in food history, history of plants, botanical practices, gender, and Indigenous agricultures in the face of colonial expansion and climate change. Her dissertation “Quinoa and its People. Empire, Food, and Agrobiodiversity in Colonial Andes” explores how the Spanish Empire, Indigenous people, and other groups within Andean colonial society conceived and employed quinoa in the Viceroyalty of Perú (present-day Perú and Bolivia). Drawing on little explored notarial, ethnographical, and botanical colonial records, Priscilla recovers quinoa from narratives that have cast it as an irrelevant and ignored Indigenous food. The project argues that quinoa-producing people developed a close interaction with the plant that allowed them to simultaneously resist and adapt to the Spanish Empire’s aim to appropriate highland food production.



Aguilar, J., Cisternas, P. & C. Mondaca (2010) En los Umbrales de la Muerte. Testamentos de Arica y Tacna siglo XIX, Fondart Regional, Arica, Chile.


Hidalgo, J., N. Castro, P. Cisternas, and J. Aguilar (2014) “Género, etnicidad, poder e historia indígena en Chile”. In: Hidalgo, J. (editor) Historia andina en Chile vol. II: Políticas Imperiales, dinámicas regionales y sociedades indígenas, Editorial Universitaria, Santiago, 365-391.

Journal Articles

Hidalgo, J, P. Cisternas, and J. Aguilar (2019) “Cambios políticos, sociales y económicos en relación a la pesca y la extracción de guano en las costas de Arica y Tarapacá, siglos XVI a inicios del XIX,” Estudios Atacameños, No. 61, 275-298.

Aguilar, J. and P. Cisternas. (2013) “Pesquerías coloniales en Tarapacá, siglo XVII. Mercado interno y cristianización”. Allpanchis N°81/82, 155-195.

Marsilli, M. y P. Cisternas. (2010) “Pathways of idolatry: the journey of Vázquez de Espinosa around the Altos of Arica, 1618,” Chungará. Revista de Antropología Chilena, Vol. 42, N° 2: 465-476.


2021-22 Mellon International Dissertation Research – Social Science Research Council

2022 John Carter Brown Library Short-term fellowship

2017 Graduate Fellowship National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT) Becas-Chile Ph.D. UC-Davis

2009 Graduate Fellowship National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT) Master’s in History Program mention Ethnohistory.

2005-2006. Research Support Thesis Undergraduate Research Center of the Man in the Desert (CIHDE)