Nationally Recognized Scholar
San Diego State University
Professor Miguel León-Portilla is the foremost scholar on the language and culture of the Nahua people, also known as Aztecs, who had a well-established and distinguished civilization in Mexico long before the Spanish arrived in the early 16th century. With probing intelligence, lifelong perseverance, political savvy and humanistic compassion, Dr. León-Portilla has brought "visions of the vanquished" to the forefront of scholarly consideration and public interest, resulting in a nascent understanding of the rich and vibrant culture of indigenous Mexican people from a perspective that amplifies and respects their voices.
Dr. León-Portilla's academic career spans half a century. Currently, he is a professor emeritus at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He received a bachelor's degree in 1948 and a master's degree in 1952 from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA, and in 1956, he received a Ph.D. from the National University of Mexico. His professional career began as a professor of ancient Mexican history in 1954 at the University of the Americas before joining the faculty of the National University of Mexico in 1957. In 1974, after serving as a lecturer at many universities around the world, he was named Distinguished Lecturer at the American Anthropological Association meeting.
In 1949, with Angel Maria Garibay, Dr. León-Portilla cofounded the Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl-a center focused on explorations of the Nahua people and their culture. Since 1959, he has been the primary editor of the center's journal, a publication devoted to sharing works on the study of Nahuatl culture. The journal publishes indigenous documentary proof, codices, and historically important texts; ethnographies, both linguistic and cultural; monographs, bibliographies, book reviews, and brief treatises related to the history, archaeology, art, ethnology, sociology, linguistics, literature, and other cultural manifestations of the Nahua people.
He has contributed to periodicals in Mexico, Belgium, France and the United States. One of his best known works, The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico, first published in 1959 by the National University of Mexico, has been translated into 12 languages; the National University of Mexico Press has published more copies of this book than of any other publication in its history.
In 1994, his university presented Dr. León-Portilla with the coveted Award of Distinction, a lifetime achievement award that recognized his extraordinary scholarship in discovering the history, traditions, culture, and lifestyle of the Aztec people.
In recognition of his lifelong commitment to understanding the great Nahua civilization, together with the wisdom and vision displayed in his scholarship, the Board of Trustees of The California State University and San Diego State University are proud to confer upon Miguel León-Portilla the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.