Professor of History Doug Ambrose and Luis Colli '22 chat about Colli’s Emerson research on South American revolutions.

The idea for Luis Colli’s ’22 Emerson Grant research project has been years in the making. After immigrating to the United States from Venezuela, he noticed parallels between the 18th-century South and North American revolutions — but when he pointed these connections out, Americans tended to resist them. 

“I’ve always known that I wanted to research what I’m studying,” Colli said. “As an immigrant, I got told [about] South American Revolutions. And then I came here and was like oh, it’s the same thing — and then everyone was like no, it’s not.” 

About Luis Colli ’22

Major: History

Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela, and Miami, Fla.

High School: Coral Reef High School

read about other student research 

What Colli is looking to illuminate in his project is the interconnectedness of American revolutions, which, he noted, are often understood in fairly cut-and-dried, cause-and-effect terms. “I’m looking at how the revolutions in North and South America were more of a process, rather than the United States presenting one thing and then the Spanish-American colonies replicating it,” Colli explained. 

To anchor this research, Colli is using the work of Francisco de Miranda (1750-1816), a prominent Venezuelan politician and revolutionary. “He was everywhere, for some reason, during this very revolutionary time,” Colli said. With de Miranda’s writing, he hopes to “show how the United States was affected by him or by Spanish-American ideals, and then how he brought some English-American ideals into Spanish America to create their revolution.”

Fortunately, Colli has not had to go very far to find de Miranda’s writings on his experiences in America. Hamilton’s library, he said, has an English translation (as well as the original Spanish version) of de Miranda’s diaries, which contain accounts of, for example, conversations with John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. With the latter, Colli said, de Miranda “envisioned a Pan-American revolution, and a Pan-American government, where both North and South would be working together.”

The faculty adviser for this project is Professor of History Douglas Ambrose, with whom, Colli said, he has been discussing the idea for around a year. “He’s a great adviser because he knows everything so well, but he’s still willing to be challenged and think of things differently,” explained Colli. “We’d read a book he had been reading for his entire life … I asked him a question, and he was like ‘oh, I never thought of it that way. Let’s keep that conversation going.’ It’s great.”

While the project is still in its early stages, Colli said that his entire family is already aware of and excited about his work. “My grandpa back home, when I told him that I’d be working with one of the diaries, was like: ‘Take pictures of it. I need to see it,’” Colli said. “And he’s telling me that this is a man of your culture. My middle name is Francisco … not because of him, but it feels very accumulative.”

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