1. The Capture of Tenochtitlán
  2. Pueblos de Indios
My interests within the discipline are diverse, currently I am working on three paralell research agendas, including several projects with brilliant co-authors.
Research Agenda
The Historic Origins of Conflcit and Cooperation
The Causes and Consequences of Criminal Violence in Latin America
The Political Economy of Human Capital and Educational Policy
Published Work

Working Papers
  • ​​Killing in the Slums: Social Order, Criminal Governance, and Police Violence in Rio de Janeiro. (R&R at the American Political Science Review) State interventions against drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) sometimes work to improve security, but often exacerbate violence. To understand why, this paper offers a theory about different social order dynamics among five types of criminal regimes – Insurgent, Bandit, Symbiotic, Predatory, and Anarchic. These differ according to whether criminal groups confront or collude with state actors; predate or cooperate with the community; and hold a monopoly or contest territory with rival DTOs. Police interventions in these criminal orders pose different challenges and are associated with markedly different local security outcomes. Evidence for the theory is provided by the use a multi-method research design combining quasiexperimental statistical analyses, extensive qualitative research and a large N survey in the context of Rio de Janeiro’s “Pacifying Police Units” (UPPs), which sought to reclaim control of the slums from organized criminal groups.(with Beatriz Magaloni and Vanessa Melo). [ SSRN Version ] [PDF] [Appendix] [Replication Materials]

  • Justice as Checks an Balances: Indigenous Claims in the Courts of Colonial Mexico. (R&R at World Politics) Why do colonial rulers decide to protect Indigenous populations? Despite being a fundamental element of colonial governance, existing research in political science and political economy has overlooked how these regimes managed Indigenous grievances. Drawing on the economics of law literature this paper introduces a theory to understand the existence of a judicial system designed to process Indigenous claims. The main prediction is that a colonial power would protect Indigenous populations strategically in order to keep local elites in check. I support my predictions with a mixed-method approach and evidence from colonial Mexico. I rely on transcriptions of claims, and a novel dataset from nearly 30,000 claims sent to the General Indian Court from 1592 to 1820. Using text analysis techniques, I find that the decisions of the court are consistent with a theory of strategic judicial protection. Indians were more likely to win court cases when their local population was under decline, when settler elites were powerful, and when their claims did not challenge the power the central state. These results have implications for our understanding of both the development of Indigenous legal autonomy in colonial history and for the more general strategic development of judicial power in autocracies. [PDF] [Appendix] [Replication Materials]

  • Riot, Rebellion, and Lawsuits: Strategies of Indigenous Resistance and Accommodation to Colonial Rule​. Indigenous groups used a rich variety of methods to face the challenges imposed by European colonization, from violent collective action to active collaboration, and from voluntary isolation to cultural assimilation. This paper addresses the complexity of Indigenous responses to the imposition of colonial rule by advancing a theory of strategic resistance and accommodation. Drawing on the literature of tactics employed by social and political movements, I argue that Indigenous groups had a preference to channel their grievances using institutional tactics rather than resorting to violence. It is only when the institutional solution failed that we observe violent collective action. Paradoxically, using the colonial institutional apparatus to resist colonial rule also facilitated the assimilation of Indigenous populations. I provide empirical evidence of these claims with two novel data sets of rebellions and Indian claims sent to the courts of colonial Mexico. In line with my theory, I find that Indigenous groups used colonial courts intensively to resist land invasions, ruthless working conditions, and arbitrary imprisonment. These groups were more likely to resort to violence only when judicial mediation failed systematically against them. These findings suggest that the rule of law had a central role in the provision of social order in the Spanish Empire, and in the assimilation of Indigenous people more broadly. This research also sheds light on the complex and strategic thinking that Indigenous people employed to confront European rule.

  • Colonial Rule, Local Governance and Development: Evidence from Tlaxcala, Mexico. (APSA 2016, MPSA 2016, LASA 2017) In this paper, I investigate the effects of political autonomy as a byproduct of early colonial alliances. Specifically, I study the case of Tlaxcala, Mexico. This province enjoyed unique privileges as a result of its alliance with the Spaniards during the conquest. I test the effects of Tlaxcalan colonial institutions using a geographic regression discontinuity approach with data from 1930, 1940 and 2010.

  • Measuring Civilan-Criminal Cooperation and Trust in the Police with Anonymous Calls from Rio de Janeiro. (APSA 2017) Police corruption and improper use of force are pressing problems in developing countries. Measuring the true prevalence of these problems raises some empirical issues since they are commonly subject to underreporting due to citizen’ mistrust in authorities. To overcome these challenges, in this paper I use a unique dataset of anonymous reports collected in Rio de Janeiro by the crime hot-line Disque-Denuncia (DD). 


Projects in Progess
  • From Indios to Citizens: the Unintended Effects of Liberalism in Latin America. In this project I explore the transition from colonies to independent republics in Latin America. In particular, I focus on how Indigenous lands and their local governments (formely protected by the Crown) were captured by the new economic and political elite.

  • The Historical Roots of Social Capital and Community Governance: A Survey Experiment in the Former Indigenous Republics of Rural Mexico. Social norms determine patterns of conflict and cooperation within and between communities. In this project, I explore the nature of such norms and their outcomes using historical allocation of institutions and survey experiments. (See EGAP pre-registration materials )

  • Private Provision of Public Goods: The Case of School Fees in Public Schools. (with Aala Abdelgadir ). In several developing countries public education is supposedly free of charge. However, public schools often collect extra fees from parents. We explore the causes and consequences of these fees using quantitative and qualitative evidence from Mexico and Uganda. 

  • Gang Recruitment and the Reversal of Gender Gap in Education: Evidence from Mexican Schools. (with Cesángari Lopez) In some countries girls often have lower drop-out rates and oftern perform better in school than boys. Using data from Mexico we study an alternative explanation for this reversal. In particular, we examine the effect of gang recruitment in schools as a consequece of demand for labor from drug cartels.

  • The Political Economy of Talent: An Analysis of High Performing Students in PISA from a Comparative Perspective. (with Blanca Heredia). High skilled students are rarely identified in time to make the most of their potential. Few countries have implemented effective policies to identify those students at an early age and provide them with an adequate educational environment. In this paper, we provide a quantitative exploration of the individual, environmental and school factors that explain high scores in PISA as a proxy for talent. 

Other work
  •   La geografía electoral de 2012 . (2012 ). Center for US-Mexican Studies-University of California-San Diego, Program on Poverty and Governance-Stanford University, México Evalúa, México. (with Alberto Díaz Cayeros, Beatriz Magaloni and Jorge Olarte).

  • When Change Matters: Identifying Score Gains School Determinants in Mexico, an intra-cohort value-added approach (2013). Economia Mexicana Nueva Epoca, Vol. Cierre de Época.