Professor of History Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo was awarded the 2015 Gordon J. Laing Prize for his book, I Speak of the City: Mexico City at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. The prize is awarded by the University of Chicago Press for the “faculty author, editor, or translator of a book published in the previous three years that brings the Press the greatest distinction,” according to the University of Chicago Press website.
I Speak of the City: Mexico City at the Turn of the Twentieth Century chronicles the arts, culture, and society of Mexico City from roughly 1880 to 1940. The book was published in 2013 and was also the recipient of the Spiro Kostof Book Award by the Society of Architectural Historians and the honorary mention for the Bolton-Johnson Prize of the American Historical Association. According to the University of Chicago Press website, I Speak of the City “investigate[s] the city in a variety of contexts: as a living history textbook, as an expression of the state, as a modernist capital, as a laboratory, and as language.”
Tenorio-Trillo was surprised to learn that he had been awarded the prize. “At first, I did not understand what was going on...I was very surprised. I have published several books, both in Spanish and English, but early in my career I realized that—though my work had received as much recognition as to make me Professor of History at the University of Chicago—I was sure I was not, and will never be, so I thought, a winner of prizes,” he wrote in an email to The Maroon.
Tenorio-Trillo claims that his work, while technically historical, transcends genre. “I am fully aware of the idiosyncratic nature—and it is not a compliment, just a description—of my work,” he wrote. “It is peculiar—it has no school, no chapel, almost no discipline.”
According to a press release by the University, Tenorio-Trillo did not believe that the book would ever be published until his colleague recommended the University of Chicago Press. “The more I think about it, the more I realize how much my book…has a very strong University of Chicago mark. With or without prizes, it’s been a privilege to work here and to collaborate with the University of Chicago Press. The Laing Prize…recognizes more the work of the incredible editor of the University of Chicago Press than mine.”
“I do not know if my work has finally reached the maturity to deserve such a prestigious prize or if I have luckily arrived to the intellectual milieu where what I believed to be mere odd institutions are considered true intellectual contributions,” Tenorio-Trillo said.