colorful fabrics

Message from the Director

Ramona Perez and President De la Torre

As we prepare for the new academic year and welcome our new cohort of brilliant and passionate graduate students, undergraduates, and their families to our CLAS community, I also want to take a moment to recognize the traumas of this last year. As Kristina vanden Heuvel of the Nation Magazine said, “We are in the midst of a once-in-a-century crisis moment—confronting the triple threats of a health crisis, an economic crisis, and a racial injustice crisis. The day after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officers, the Covid-19 death toll in the United States passed 100,000. Two days later, the unemployment number passed 40 million. Across the board, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color.” This is not an abstract phenomenon and none of us have escaped these tragedies. Each of us is experiencing them in different ways but together, we can support and empower each other.

Here at the Center for Latin American Studies, our 2020 graduating seniors and master’s students lost that pivotal ceremony that marks their accomplishments and allows them to express their appreciation to their families and friends that supported them along the way. Please know that the faculty and staff felt your loss and will carry that with us for years to come. At the same time, our faculty, staff, and students were sent home to finish out the academic year, learning new ways to communicate and maintain relationships; some were unable to make that transition while also addressing the other traumas that suddenly appeared including unemployment, stalled research that extends their time and cost to complete their goals, illness, isolation, and confusion. We are learning to live in our spaces for extended periods of time while also working, teaching our children, and caring for other family members within those same spaces and without any down time. This too will pass but also these changes in our lives will have long-term impact. As the cases of COVID-19 surge across the globe and protective measures are relaxed, we must recognize that changes in our lives will continue. The staff and faculty of the CLAS remain dedicated to the continuation of our engagement with our Latin American colleagues, to our students and community, and to each other.

Our lives and worlds are further challenged by the all-too-familiar violence against Black bodies that also exists for Indigenous, Latinx, and other People of Color along with our LGBTQI communities. We are witnessing a revolución in the making and intend to be active participants. We stand in solidarity with our Black community and pledge our support and engagement while also continuing with our struggle to expose the injustices and violence against our many Latin American communities in the US, at the border, and in their home communities. We recognize and fight against the racism that perpetuates these injustices and violence and that is deeply embedded in the histories, politics, and economies across the globe and that manifest in structural violence that is invisible to some but very clear to us.

We encourage you to be vocal in your classes with us and to dive into the literature produced outside of the US academy, to volunteer with us through our many internships that fight against racism and injustice, to learn to view the world through the eyes of our colleagues in Latin America by participating in our transnational courses and our study abroad opportunities, and to broaden your personal worldview by learning one of the languages of the pueblos originarios that we offer through the CLAS. These are not new actions but rather these principles have been the foundation of CLAS for decades.

We are stronger together, united in our pursuit of knowledge and actions gained through compassion, respect, honor, and inclusion that lead us directly to our anti-racist and decolonial position in all that we do.

Past Messages

The beginning of each academic year is full of anticipation. At the Center we eagerly reconnect with our friends and colleagues after the summer months and welcome in our new students, faculty and staff. The 2018-2019 academic year was full of film screenings, guest lectures, visiting scholars, happy hours, and outreach programming. We created more opportunities for study and travel, new courses, and sponsored more than two dozen events. Although each of these events were important in connecting our students and our community, I would like to take this moment to highlight some of the great work of our faculty and students and give you insight into what we have planned for this new academic year.

Our students have continued to demonstrate their amazing potential through their research and studies. Over the last five years we have sponsored the research travel of 72 students through the Tinker Foundation Field Research Grant and the CLAS/CAL Travel Grant. In 2019, the Tinker Grant recipients traveled across Latin America to countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Paraguay. The award allowed our graduate students from various disciplines (Latin American Studies, Public Health, Public Administration, Anthropology, School of Communication, and Geography) to acquire a comprehensive knowledge of language and culture, conduct preliminary investigations, and develop contacts with scholars and institutions in their respective fields.

The Center for LAS is a major contributor to the mission of the University in many ways and sending students abroad to Latin America is one of our great accomplishments. Our indigenous language (Mixteco and Zapoteco) and field research programs in Oaxaca continue to draw students from across the US. This summer, 7 undergraduate students from SDSU traveled to Ixpantepec Nieves, a small community in Oaxaca as part of the Sustainable, Optimized Urban and Latino-driven (SOULA) project. The project was funded by the US Department of Agriculture. Our mission is to expose Latino and Latina students to agricultural sciences through the process of learning and honoring the science and knowledge of our indigenous farmers in Mexico.

A special thanks goes to Professor Victor Clark Alfaro for continuing to offer our academic year study abroad programs in Tijuana. In 2018/19 we sent 100 + students to learn about the intimacies of this amazing border city and the realities of life for its 1.7+ million residents from Professor Clark. LATAM 350: Globalization and the Americas at UABC in Tijuana will continue to be  taught as part of our study abroad courses at SDSU. The course is open to SDSU and UABC students and is taught in English. When you take our various study abroad programs, internships in Mexico, travel grants, and student exchange programs with COLEF and UABC into account, the Center sent more than 200 students abroad in 2018/19.

The Center continues to promote indigenous language and culture through our Mixtec, Zapotec and Nahuatl courses. SDSU is the only university in the US that teaches Mixtec, Zapotec and Nahuatl culture and language.

In Spring 2019, the Center hosted, Eternos Indocumentados: Central American Refugees in the United States, a documentary based on interviews with recently arrived Central Americans and organizers leading the struggle on the ground in Central America and the U.S. We also hosted Ñuu Savi activist, poet, narrator, translator, and linguist, Celerina Sanchez. Her presentation, Mujer de Pueblo Originario en Activismo, explored the movements and activism of indigenous women in Mexico. The Center for Latin American Studies in co-sponsorship with the Latin American Studies Student Organization (LASSO) and Student Success Fee programming, facilitated three community events in the Spring semester including a tour of Homeboy Industries, Culture Night: Transborder Art featuring

Our MA along with our three concurrent Master’s degree programs with Public Health (MPH), Public Administration (MPA) and Business Administration (MBA) continues to grow and our students and alumni are making important contributions to our knowledge on Latin America. Our faculty are offering undergraduate and graduate courses across the disciplines on Latin America this upcoming year including:

  • LATAM 550 Mexican-US Border from a Latin American Perspective
  • ART 571 Blurring Borders
  • CCS 554 United States-Mexico Transborder Populations and Globalization
  • HIST 557 Dictatorships and Human Rights in Latin America
  • POLS 577 Politics of International Law
  • SOC 700 Theory of Race and Ethnicity

And yet there is still more…. To find out, please join us in our monthly Happy Hours where faculty, staff, and students come together to relax, debate the world, and hacer un brindis o dos!

Check out our website to see our featured faculty and students along with news and other updates on our neighbors throughout Latin America.  And always feel free to come by the Center to see us, our coffee is fresh and our conversation lively!

The beginning of each academic year is full of anticipation as we welcome back our friends and colleagues that we haven’t seen for a few months and welcome in our new students, faculty and staff. The 2017/18 academic year was a great one! We created more opportunities for study and travel, new courses, and sponsored more than two dozen community events that included film screenings, guest lectures, visiting scholars, happy hours, and outreach programming. I would love to tell you about each and every one but instead will take this moment to highlight some of the great work of our faculty and students and give you insight into what we have planned for the new academic year.

Our students have, once again, demonstrated their amazing potential through their research and studies. Over the last five years we have sponsored the research travel of 58 students through the Tinker Foundation Field Research Grant and the CLAS/CAL Travel Grant. In 2018, the Tinker Grant recipients traveled across Latin America to countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Brazil and Paraguay. The award allowed our graduate students from various disciplines (Latin American Studies, Public Health, Public Administration, Anthropology and Geography) to acquire a comprehensive knowledge of language and culture, conduct preliminary investigations, and develop contacts with scholars and institutions in their respective fields.

The Center for LAS is a major contributor to the mission of the University in many ways and sending students abroad to Latin America is one of our great accomplishments. Our indigenous language (Mixteco and Zapoteco) and field research programs in Oaxaca continue to draw students from across the US. This summer, 8 undergraduate students from SDSU traveled to Ixpantepec Nieves, a small community in Oaxaca as part of the Sustainable, Optimized Urban and Latino-driven (SOULA) project. The project was funded by the US Department of Agriculture. Our mission is to expose Latino and Latina students to agricultural sciences through the process of learning and honoring the science and knowledge of our indigenous farmers in Mexico.

A special thanks goes to Professor Victor Clark Alfaro for continuing to offer our academic year study abroad programs in Tijuana. In 2017/18 we sent 127 students to learn about the intimacies of this amazing border city and the realities of life for its 1.7+ million residents from Professor Clark. LATAM 350: Globalization and the Americas at UABC in Tijuana continues to be taught by our LAS alumni and now faculty colleague, Dr.  David Wysocki. The course is open to SDSU and UABC students and is taught in English. When you take our various study abroad programs, internships in Mexico, travel grants, and student exchange programs with COLEF and UABC into account, the Center sent more than 200 students abroad in 2017/18.

Along those lines, we are excited to announce a new indigenous language and culture course, LATAM  296 Elementary Nahuatl I, which is being taught live by a native-speaking instructor in Eduardo de la Cruz. He is a native modern Huastecan Nahuatl speaker from Veracruz, teaching through IDIEZ. SDSU is the only university in the US that teaches Mixtec, Zapotec and Nahuatl culture and language.

We had a really fantastic year in terms of special events. We are proud to have brought Greg Rainoff, filmmaker and MA in Latin American Studies alum, to SDSU. The event included a screening of Rainoff's new film Burning Paradise, followed by a Q&A. The film documented indigenous farmers of the Mixteca region in Oaxaca, who have turned to illegally burning wood to make charcoal in order to survive. CLAS also co-sponsored along with the International Security and Conflict Resolution program a discussion and Q&A with Francisco Palmieri, who served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central America and the Caribbean in the State Department. From October 20, 2018 to November 10, 2018, the Center for Latin American Studies, in collaboration with the Chicana/Chicano Studies Department, put a Dia de los Muertos Altar on display. The theme for the altar was "DACA, RIPped…but not our dreamers!" Students developed art pieces, wrote poems, attached data charts, and other pertinent content that reflected the altar's theme.

In Spring 2018, we collaborated with the Department of Chicana/Chicano Studies to host Mare Advertencia Lirika, a Zapotecan feminist rapper born in Oaxaca. She is part of the first and only female rap group in the state of Oaxaca. CLAS alongside the Master Arts in Liberal Arts & Studies, brought Dr. Julie Hempel to present, By Chance and By Design: The Loteria of Mexican and Chicanx Identities. This presentation explored the construction of Mexican and Chicanx Identities and how they continue to be vividly expressed through Loteria figures in contemporary art, literature, and popular culture. The Center for Latin American Studies in co-sponsorship with the Latin American Studies Student Organization (LASSO) and Student Success Fee programming, facilitated three series in the Spring semester including the Homeboy Industries project, Undocu Series and Rompiendo Muros, Construyendo Puentes: A Cultural Exchange.

Our MA along with our three concurrent Master’s degree programs with Public Health (MPH), Public Administration (MPA) and Business Administration (MBA) continues to grow and our students and alumni are making important contributions to our knowledge on Latin America. Our faculty are offering undergraduate and graduate courses across the disciplines on Latin America this upcoming year including LATAM 545 The Latin American City, POLS 667 Seminar in Latin American Politics, WMNST 512 Latinas in the Americas, SOC 555 Immigrants and Refugees, GEO 324 Latin America, HIST 416 Modern Latin America, and POLS 430 Immigration and Border Politics. And yet there is still more…. To find out, please join us in our monthly Happy Hours where faculty, staff, and students come together to relax, debate the world, and hacer un brindis o dos!

Check out our website to see our featured faculty and students along with news and other updates on our neighbors throughout Latin America.  And always feel free to come by the Center to see us, our coffee is fresh and our conversation lively.

The beginning of each academic year is full of anticipation as we welcome back our friends and colleagues that we haven’t seen for a few months and welcome in our new students, faculty and staff. The 2015/16 academic year was a great one! We created more opportunities for study and travel, new courses, and sponsored more than two dozen community events that included film screenings, guest lectures, visiting scholars, happy hours, and outreach programming. I would love to tell you about each and every one but instead will take this moment to highlight some of the great work of our faculty and students and give you insight into what we have planned for the new academic year.

Our students have, once again, demonstrated their amazing potential through their research and studies. Over the last four years we have sponsored the research travel of 43 students through the Tinker Foundation Graduate Research Travel Fellowship and the CLAS/CAL Travel Grant. At this year's Student Research Symposium, ten of the 2015 awardees presented their research and several received special awards: Adriana Moosekian won the Research Award for Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice for her project, Lunfardo: A Contemporary Study of Porteño Spanish; Gustavo Alcoser won the Creative Arts Award for his project on Jarabe Mexicano, La Bamba Moderna: Making Traditional Music Relevant to Young Audiences. Marisa Alvarez (MA/MPH) won the Provost's Award for her poster presentation, Herbal Healing: A comparison of medicinal plant and pharmacy medication preference in two communities of Libertad, Peru.

Two of our recent graduate students, Benjamin Aceves and Grecia Pérez will be leaving SDSU for doctoral studies at U of Arizona and U of New Mexico, respectively. Congratulations to them and our many other wonderful students.

The Center for LAS is a major contributor to the mission of the University in many ways and sending students abroad to Latin America is one of our great accomplishments. This last year the Cuba program hit its maximum student cap of 20 and is set to do the same this year. Our indigenous language (Mixteco and Zapoteco) and field research programs in Oaxaca continue to draw students from across the US. A special thanks goes to Professor Victor Clark Alfaro for continuing to offer our academic year study abroad programs in Tijuana. In 2015/16 we sent 111 students to learn about the intimacies of this amazing border city and the realities of life for its 1.7+ million residents from Professor Clark. The new fall semester has had such high demand for Professor Clark’s class that we had to open two additional sections making enrollment for this study abroad class 90 and counting. When you take our various study abroad programs, internships in Mexico, travel fellowships, and student exchange programs with COLEF and UABC into account, the Center sent more than 130 students abroad in 2015/16. We look to increase that this coming year by at least 20%.

Speaking of student exchange programs, we are excited to announce a new course at UABC in Tijuana, LATAM 350 Globalization and the Americas, which is being taught by our LAS alumni and lecturer, (ABD, U of Arizona). The course, which hit maximum capacity and had new seats added, is open to SDSU and UABC students and is taught in English.

Along those lines, we had a good turn out for our Strive Campaign to raise funds for our students who cannot afford our programs in Tijuana. Although our deadline has past, you can still contribute!

We had a really fantastic year in terms of special events. We are proud to have brought Georgina Herrera, Cuban poet laureate and writer, to SDSU. Renowned for her work in television, filmmaking, and in representing the history of Cuba in her work, Ms. Herrera provided us with an intimate opportunity to hear her work, ask her questions, and listen to her tell us about Cuba before, during, and after the Revolution.  Her presentation was attended by more than 100 people and was co-sponsored by Women’s Studies, Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages, The MALAS Program, and Chicana/o Studies. A big thank you to Alda Blanco for providing unending hospitality to our guest and to Norma Iglesias for serving as the event facilitator. As we break down the categories that have defined so much of our worlds, the Center for LAS intends to extend our understanding of Americalatina to include what many call the Caribbean and to include this within our mission. Look for more emphasis on the whole of Americalatina from us, which leads me to talking about one of our first events for this year.

We are very excited to host the screening of Kombit, a documentary film on food insecurity in Haiti, followed by a Q&A with our alumni, Major Eldridge Singleton on September 29th. Major Singleton, who served as the Foreign Relations Officer responsible for coordinating aid distribution in Haiti after the earthquake, is now stationed in La Paz, Bolivia and is heading the DoD at the US Embassy in Jamaica during the summer.  He is the four-time recipient of the Bronze Star and served in the Special Forces before moving into his current work on humanitarian assistance for the US Army.

Our relationships in Tijuana and Mexico grow stronger each year and our amazing student organization, LASSO, used their IRA funding to form a relationship with El Lugar del Nopal, a popular "Cultural Forum" in Tijuana. Together they held our first binational photo exhibit featuring local photographer Mariana Palafox entitled "Entre Los Lentes y Fronteras, Algunas Vistas y Vidas de México y Cuba - Between the Borders and Lenses, Views and Lives of México and Cuba". The event focused on creating imagery and research that is socially and ethically responsible and decolonizes current and past ideas of Latino Americanos. The event drew people from both sides of the border and really demonstrated our students’ engagement with crossing borders.

We are also excited to announce that our long-term friend and previous director of the CLAS, Dr. Tom Davies, has donated to SDSU much of his life’s work on expert testimony for LGBT asylum seekers from Latin America to the US. Dr. Davies and is wife Adele, who worked with him on the research for these cases, will be here to present on their work October 5th. Their collection can be found at http://library.sdsu.edu/thomas-davies-jr. Dr. Davies was a professor of History and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies for 22 years. His work and life have remained vital to all of us and we are very happy to have him back, if only for a few days.

Our MA along with our three concurrent Masters degree programs with Public Health (MPH), Public Administration (MPA) and Business Administration (MBA) continues to grow and our students and alumni are making important contributions to our knowledge on Latin America. Our faculty are offering undergraduate and graduate courses across the disciplines on Latin America this upcoming year with two special seminars being offered on Latin America, LATAM 696 The Politics of Food in Latin America and CP 710 Theories of Urban Design: Critical Views of Public Space with an emphasis on Latin America.

And yet there is still more…. To find out, please join us in our monthly Happy Hours where faculty, staff, and students come together to relax, debate the world, and hace un brindes o dos!

If you have not already signed up to receive our weekly e-bulletin, please do so through [email protected].  The e-bulletin will keep you up to date on events, funding opportunities, courses, and much, much more.  Check out our website to see our featured faculty and students along with news and other updates on our neighbors throughout Latin America.  And always feel free to come by the Center to see us, our coffee is fresh and our conversation lively.

Welcome to a new academic year that promises to be full of new and exciting opportunities that will advance our knowledge on, and presence in, Latin America.  This last year we saw many of our projects come to fruition and many others move forward in preparation for the upcoming year. With over two dozen community events that included film screenings, guest lectures, visiting scholars, happy hours, and outreach programming, coupled with our prolific LAS faculty and students, it would take a lot more time and space than I have here to effectively review all of our successes.  Briefly, I want to highlight some of the great work of our faculty and students and give you insight into what we have planned for 2016!

Starting with our Latin American Studies Student Organization (LASSO), they received a $4,200.00 grant for their project “Demystifying Tijuana and the Border Region” in the 2014 inaugural Student Success Fee Academically Related Program funding cycle. The goals of the project were to provide a unique opportunity for SDSU students to gain a real world understanding of complex political and socioeconomic issues relevant to our border region. On March 24, 2015 LASSO and CLAS, along with other Arts and Letters sponsors, hosted San Diego/Tijuana: The Circulation of Culture, a colloquium on transborderism, the movement of culture in our local border region, and the new face of Tijuana. This event brought out a broad audience of more than 150 students, staff, faculty and community members from both sides of the border, making this event one of our largest and most interactive. Speakers included Ivan Morales - owner of Cerveceria Insurgente, a Tijuana microbrewery; Derrik Chinn - founder of Turista Libre, "rad tourism" in Tijuana; and Sara Solaimani - collaborator in Storylines TJ/SD, a working group on border art. LASSO is currently applying for increased Student Success Fee funding for the 2015-2016 year.

This last year our collaborating faculty from across the University brought new and ever-evolving courses to our students; we completed our third year of graduate student research in collaboration with the Tinker Foundation; we proudly mentored numerous students and several were recognized for their outstanding work; we expanded our study abroad offerings to be one of the only Centers in the US with a hugely successful three-week program in Havana, Cuba; we re-opened our Zapoteco language immersion program in Juchitan, Oaxaca; we formalized a summer immersion program in Oaxaca for K-12 teachers in the Rio School District on Mixtec culture and language; and energetically collaborated with the new J. Keith Behner and Catherine M. Stiefel Program on Brazil.  

Students from across the University had access to several new courses on Latin America this last year. Pablo Ben (History) created a new 500 level course, Historyof Brazil, that was offered in spring; Amy Schmitz-Weiss offered a new undergraduate course taught in Spanish, Writing Spanish Language Media, in spring; Visiting Scholar Fernando Quintanilla (MALAS) offered a graduate seminar on Latina/o Visual Culture in the fall and a visual culture seminar on Naked War/Film, Art, and Literature in the spring;  Ramona Perez offered a combined seminar on urbanization in Latin America with an emphasis on Brazil through Anthropology and LAS in the spring; and Ricardo Vasconcelos modified the new PORT 535 on Brazilian Literature to take in Spanish speakers in the fall and offered PORT 496: Reading Knowledge and Comprehension in the spring – both are a great opportunity for our graduate students!  This next year will see new courses in LAS on Health in Latin America at the undergraduate and graduate levels, a new undergraduate course on the Political Economy of Brazil, new internship/study abroad opportunities in Brazil, and a renewed emphasis on linguistics in Spanish. For the fall semester, Paul Ganster will offer a new 500 level course, U.S./Mexico Border: Binational Linkages. We have many more courses and internships including our ongoing programs with COLEF, ProSalud, and other universities and organizations in both San Diego and Tijuana.

Our MA along with our three concurrent Master’s degree programs with Public Health (MPH), Public Administration (MPA) and Business Administration (MBA) continues to grow and our students and alumni are making important contributions to our knowledge on Latin America. We are proud to have received three years of Tinker Foundation Field Research Grant funding in 2014. We are the only University to receive this important recognition that focuses on professional development alongside the advancement of scholarly knowledge at the doctoral level. Over the last three years we sponsored 37 graduate students who conducted research in Mexico (Yucatan, Oaxaca, Guerrero, DF, Jalisco, Nayarit and Veracruz), Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Honduras, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Peru. Our recipients came from Latin American Studies (in all four degree programs), Geography (MA & JDP), Anthropology, History, Business Administration, Public Health (Health Promotion), Public Health (Epidemiology), Global Health (JDP), Spanish, and Political Science. This was our last year for this round of Tinker fellowships. We have to take a year off from the grant according to Tinker guidelines but we will be writing for a new grant that will start in 2017/2018 for three more years.

Several of our Tinker recipients have gone on to receive prestigious recognition for their work. Of those, two of our Latin American Studies graduate students received top awards; please join us in congratulating Benjamin Aceves who received a Fulbright Scholars fellowship to work in Mexico City, and Grecia Perez who received the Sally Cassanova Predoctoral Fellowship for her work on community responses to hydro-electric dam construction in Mexico.  Not to be outdone by our students, please also congratulate Dr. Anthony Jerry on receiving the Outstanding Advisor Award for CAL. Speaking of Anthony Jerry, we will say até logo, haste luego, see you soon, to him at the end of the summer. We send him our deepest thanks for all of the mentoring, teaching, and sheer fun he has brought to us over the last few years. We send him congratulations on receiving the UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship for 2015-2017. Thankfully he will be working just up the freeway at UCSD with our colleague Nancy Postero (Anthropology).

We are very excited to have new faculty joining us this year that work in or specialize on Latin America at San Diego State University.  Please join us in welcoming them to our LAS family:

  • Fernando de Sales, PhD: Geography
  • Lauren Schmidt, PhD: Spanish and Portuguese
  • Mariana de Maio, PhD: Journalism
  • Reynaldo Rojo Mendoza, PhD: Public Administration (and an alumni of CLAS!)
  • Ryan Abman, PhD: Economics
  • Zoe Jarocki, MLS: Love Library (Latin American Specialist)
If you have not already signed up to receive our weekly e-bulletin, please do so through [email protected].  The e-bulletin will keep you up to date on events, funding opportunities, courses, and much, much more.  Check out our website to see our featured faculty and students along with news and other updates on our neighbors throughout Latin America.  And always feel free to come by the Center to see us, our coffee is fresh and our conversation lively.