The city of Belén, New Mexico was founded in the 1700s as a Pueblo Indian mission, with the Catholic Church, Nuestra Señora de Belén and its associated plaza and cemetery as its social and spiritual center (Sisneros, 2016a). The residents of colonial Belén were not traditional Puebloan communities, but a multi-ethnic mix of Genízaro and Mestízo families. The former site of the colonial church, plaza, and cemetery is now situated on private property in a residential neighborhood in the heart of old Belén. The work to be undertaken is the archaeological excavation and delineation of the church foundations and the recovery, analysis, and respectful re-burial of the human remains at the Catholic Church. During Season 1 (Summer 2017) we exposed and delineated the foundations of the church. The goal of the 2018-2020 field season will be to excavate the mission church and the over 2000 burials associated with it.
This study draws on 50 years of lethal firearm homicide data from the Clark County Coroner and Medical Examiner Office (CCCMEO) in southern Nevada that serves the large metropolitan city of Las Vegas as well as a few bedroom communities and historic towns. The data being collected comes from a variety of reports kept by the CCCMEO since 1966 including the pathologist and coroner report, the investigative team report, interviews with family and friends of the deceased, and other medical and forensic documentation. While almost all prior studies rely on basic demographic data such as age at death, sex, ethnicity and economic and employment status, much of the rich, nuanced information in those files remains unutilized. Using an anthropological approach to the reports and narratives, key aspects of the victims of lethal firearm violence will be collected in order to understand the life history and lived experience of the victims prior to death. Using an innovative methodology from anthropology to systematically collect thematic information from narratives will permit a contextualized profile of the victims so that larger patterns of risk and vulnerability can be better understood. Finally, the data will be interpreted using a theoretical approach that emphasizes the integration of direct (physical) violence with the institutional and structural aspects of society that influences things like inequality and differential access to resources for subgroups within the larger society. This large body of quantitative and qualitative data from 50 years of firearm deaths will provide a unique insight into when, how and where victims are most vulnerable, and there point to places for intervention and prevention. The contextualized profiles will contain more accurate information on factors other than demography that shape patterns of firearm violence because there will be information on home life, education, prior nonlethal violent episodes, religion, beliefs, politics, health and well-being and other information gleaned from interviews with family and relatives as well as investigators and law enforcement. These contextualized profiles of the victims of firearm violence have the potential to clarify with more specificity places for prevention or intervention, thus sparing lives.