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Graduate Students

  • Kayla J. Aceves

    Kayla J. Aceves

    I am a first-gen student from Calexico, a small agricultural town that is the sister city of Mexicali, Baja California. My B.A. is in philosophy with a minor in bioethics (UCSD). After working at a fertility clinic as a case manager for surrogate mothers, who were mostly Latinas, I am very interested in how race and migration shape the different forms of labor available to women here on the US-Mexico border. Since starting the LAS program I have become more interested in Latinx/Chicanx theater as a form of cultural resistance. 

     Research Interest: Mexican philosophy, critical philosophy of race, Marxist theory, Latinx & Feminist Epistemologies, US-Mexico Border Migration and Mass Detention, Love and Aesthetics (especially film).

    Hometown: Calexico, CA


  • Gabriel Bonilla

    Gabriel Bonilla


    I am a first-year Latin American Studies MA student who recently graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a BA in International Affairs/Political Science. I love the interdisciplinary approach to Latin American Studies and plan to use it as a foundation for a Ph.D., most likely, in economics. 

    Research Interest: International trade, international monetary theory, sustainability, political economy, cultural anthropology, gender studies, and decolonial thought

    Hometown: Sacramento, CA


  • Erick Calderon

    Erick Calderon

    I recently graduated from Brigham Young University where I double majored in Latin American Studies and Sociology. I fell in love with the interdisciplinary approach of LAS because I was able to learn about this beautiful region through different lenses. Today I am studying how the Latin American diaspora in the US creates and magnify their identity through sports. 

    Research Interest: Immigration, Self-identity, Fandom, Sports, Modern Latin American History.

    Hometown: Santa Ana, CA


  •  Lourdes Carmona

    Lourdes Carmona

    Lourdes is currently in her second year of the Latin American Studies program at UCSD, having graduated summa cum laude from California State University, San Marcos, with double majors in Social Sciences and Spanish. Hailing from Yecapixtla, Morelos, and México City, and now calling San Diego home, Lourdes brings a rich tapestry of diverse experiences to her academic pursuits, actively challenging and questioning the structures of knowledge and power imposed by colonialism through her research.

    Research InterestHer research focuses on exploring the intricate narratives surrounding Malintzin, drawing from oral histories to shed light on the often overlooked stories of indigenous communities, curanderas/os, and the role of food as a tool for decolonization. She utilizes Zine praxis to challenge and question the structures of knowledge and power imposed by colonialism.

    Hometown: Yecapixtla, Morelos, México City, and San Diego, California


  • Ashley R. Casarez

    Ashley R. Casarez

    Ashley Casarez is a second-year graduate student in the LAS program. She achieved her B.A. in Mexican American Studies from the University of Arizona. Much of Ashley’s identity as a Chicana, 1st generation college student, and educator influences her research and community engagement. She looks to see how the Community Cultural Wealth framework can support Latinx/Chicanx students in navigating their cultural capital within educational spaces, especially college bridge programs.

    Research InterestCommunity engagement/involvement, Chicana (feminist) epistemologies, higher education, culturally relevant pedagogy/practice, student activism.

    Hometown: Tucson, Arizona


  • Marina Martins Chebly

    Marina Martins Chebly

    Marina achieved a double major in Social Sciences and Sociology teaching, both from UFMG. She has a MA degree in Political Science at UFSC. Has experience designing surveys, structuring and analyzing social data, and coordinating fieldwork. Participated in research groups focused on Political Behavior, taught sociology to high school students, and was a monitor for undergraduate students for the Compared Political Institutions course at UFMG. Her thesis is about Executive orders and subnational bargains. Is a specialist in quantitative methodology and political institutions.

    Research InterestElectoral behavior in Latin America, parochialism, presidential particularism and, procedural orders.

    Hometown: Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brasil


  • Juliana Diaz

    Juliana Diaz

    Juliana is a graduate student in the Latin American Studies program with a concentration in International Migration.

    Prior to pursuing my graduate studies in San Diego, I graduated from the University of Southern California with my Bachelors in Sociology (minor in Spanish). As an undergraduate, I came across a Sociology course in my second year that focused on the Mexican immigrant experience, in which our discussions focused on examining the effects of global inequality, as well as legal status, language, and gender (among additional factors) that serve in distinguishing the experiences of Mexican immigrant populations in the U.S. Here, it was made privy to me to the possibility of pursuing studies centered on migration & immigration. This newfound revelation provided the impetus and encouragement that led me to Oaxaca, México in my third year to participate in a study abroad program focused on migration (both from and through México), borders (U.S-México/México-Guatemala), and transnational communities.

    These experiences, along with my identity as a first-generation college student whose family's story is shaped by migration and immigration, have had a nuanced impact on my personal and academic interests.

    Research Interest:  International Migration, Transnational Identities, Transborder Mobility, U.S-México Border, Transfronterizx community (in the Tijuana/San Diego Region), Social Networks, Latin America

    Hometown: Santa Ana, California 


  • Ricardo Favela

    Ricardo Favela

    Ricardo was born and raised in San Diego's North County in the town of Fallbrook during the time when this community was the epicenter of hate and white supremacy in the state.  From an early age, Ricardo became involved in social and racial justice issues affecting the Mexican community and witnessed historic events that arose from social conflict in the area.  In 2020, Ricardo was part of a slate of Latino and Latina candidates who won seats on governing boards in Fallbrook, breaking a long-standing history of all-white governance in the town. He serves as the Trustee for area 3 for the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District.

    Research Interest: Ricardo is interested in researching the presence and history of Mexican people in San Diego's North County, the link between the Battle of San Pasqual and the popularization of 5 de Mayo in California, and how a people's history can be ignored or deliberately forgotten, but never erased.  Additionally, Ricardo is interested in researching the history and presence of the Ku Klux Klan in the area and how the Mexican community responded to a culture of hate and violence.

    Hometown: Fallbrook, California


  • Kathryn Garcia

    Kathryn Garcia

    Kathryn Garcia is a second year Master's student in the LAS program. Growing up nearly 15 minutes from México in San Diego, California, the US-México Border had a lasting impact on her studies and passion for social justice. She participated in the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates on Immigration and Border Communities in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, conducted fieldwork with the Undocumented Migration Project, studied abroad at Universidad de Las Américas Puebla in Puebla, México, and continues to volunteer in migrant shelters in San Diego. Kathryn received her BA in Cultural Anthropology from Northeastern University where her final capstone focused on the "legal violence" of the Remain in Mexico program.

    Kathryn's current research analyzes narrative themes and active processes of social boundary making amongst different immigrant groups (both the recent influx of American expats as well as other migrants) and Tijuanenses through anthropological ethnographic fieldwork in Tijuana, México.

    Research Interest: Immigration, US-Mexico Border, Participatory Action Research, Community Organizations, Liminality, Cultural Anthropology, Structural and Symbolic Violence 

    Hometown: San Diego, California 


  • Nelly Gomez

    Nelly Gomez

    Research Interest:  International Migration, Latin American Diaspora, and History.

    Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina


  • Anayeli Hernandez

    Anayeli Hernandez


    Anayeli Hernandez is a first-generation Latina and a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants. Coming from a mixed-status family, at a young age, she experienced the effects of immigration policies on her family and those alike. She draws inspiration and motivation from her parents’ struggles which greatly influenced her decision to pursue higher education as a tribute to her parents’ sacrifices. Yet, she also found meaning in advocacy and community work with a variety of underserved and vulnerable populations. She recently graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Long Beach with her B. A. in International Studies and a minor in Translation Studies. There, she completed and presented research on her work about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected asylum seekers living in Costa Rica. Due to that and a family situation, she decided to hone in on researching how parental deportation affects first-generation Latinx students, family dynamics, and their trajectory into higher education. She hopes use a community-based research approach during her M.A. and eventually work as a professor or for a non-profit. A fun fact about her is that she speaks a smidgen of Italian! 

    Research Interest: Immigration, First-generation Latinx students, Parental deportation, Mexico-U.S. border, Mixed-status families, Family dynamics, Higher education, Ethnicity and Race.

    Hometown: Oceanside, California


  • Amci Hernandez

    Amci Hernandez

    Amci is a first-generation student, born and raised in San Diego in the neighborhood of Barrio Logan. She obtained her B.A. in Sociology with a concentration in Social Inequality at the University of California San Diego. 

    Research Interest: Feminism, Gender, Sexuality and Motherhood. Cultural Traditions, Critical Theory, Settler Colonialism, Indigenous Spirituality Practices; Interdisciplinary Studies, Mexican History, Oral History.  

    Hometown: San Diego, California 


  • Areli Hernandez

    Areli Hernandez

    Arelí is a first-generation student from Napa Valley, CA. She earned her BA from Santa Clara University with majors in Ethnic Studies, Spanish and Political Science. 

    Research Interest: Critical Marxisms, Decolonial Critiques of Marxisms, Race and Racialization in Political Economy, Decolonial Theory, Critical Gender & Sexuality Studies, Racial Capitalism, Cultural Studies.

    Hometown: Napa Valley, CA


  • Ruby Johnston

    Ruby Johnston


    I graduated early from SDSU in December 2022 with a BS in Political Science, and two minors in Spanish and Latin American Studies. I am originally from Santa Cruz California, and I have lived in San Diego for the last 4 years. I have spent the last couple years volunteering with various organizations to assist Central American asylum seekers in Tijuana and San Diego to connect with legal, medical, and other basic services. Over the last two years, I have dedicated myself to my work at the International Rescue Committee in the refugee resettlement department at the El Cajon office, managing client cases from mostly Middle-Eastern and African countries.
    Research Interest: My research interests surround the idea of finding the most efficient ways of involving domestic and international communities to assist the immigrant and asylum seeker population. I am passionate about combating the exploitation of immigrant lives within the borderlands and addressing the permanent situation which has become the so-called "border crisis". I hope to study the ways in which we can protect indigenous families and communities effectively, and also how to best address the gender and sexual orientation based violence that many immigrants and asylum seekers experience while traveling north to reach the US southern border.
    Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA
  • Riley (Red) Klug

    Riley (Red) Klug

    (they/them & she/her)

    I am a first generation graduate student from New Martinsville, West Virginia. I received my BA in both Art History and Anthropology with minors in History, Native American Studies, and Political Science from West Virginia University in 2024. I aim to focus my research on women’s movements in South America, looking mainly at Argentina’s Ni Una Menos movement and their successes in furthering women’s rights in the country. I would like to expand my research further to encompass other women’s movements in the Southern Cone, with a focus on contentious politics and social mobilization. 

    Research Interest: Women’s rights; Argentina; feminist theory; abortion, post abortive, and maternity care; gender studies; LGBTQ+ rights; feminist and queer film, performance art, and literature; contentious politics; art history, theory, and production. 

    Hometown: New Martinsville, WV


  • Fabian Mendoza

    Fabian Mendoza

    I am a first-generation graduate student in the LAS program who graduated recently from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in English. Hailing originally from Santa Ana, California, I am interested in the important role that language and academia play in the production of knowledge in service to Latin American communities, social justice advocacy, and in finding remediating alternatives to the open wound produced by colonialism and globalization. 
    Research Interest: Chicano/a/x subjective fragmentation, ego psychology, the formation of Latin America in the 20th century, decolonial thought, immigration, and more! 
    Hometown: Santa Ana, CA
  • Yael M V Rangel

    Yael M V Rangel


    I was born in California, but lived in Michoacán, Mexico up until the age of 12. I moved around a bit, but have always tried to return to México whenever possible. I had four transformative years at UCSD studying Spanish Literature and Clinical Psychology. My years, through being so close to the border, there developed my interest in border culture and lifestyle. After graduating, I have spent two years mostly working with children. 

    Research interest: Cross-border relations, cross-border lifestyle, Mexican-American identity

    Hometown: Morelia, Michoacán


  • Luis Ramirez

    Luis Ramirez


    I am a first year masters student who previously attended UCSD for a bachelors in Spanish Literature. I like the multifaceted approach that the Latin American Studies program has as it allows for a flexibility of multiple subjects in one study.  Having grown up in a primarily catholic household, I have been interested from a young age in the aesthetic and religious fanaticism that Latin America has with the idea of virginal saints.  Other interests I have include the study of the mother as an evil being and the representation of it in popular culture. In my spare time I like to do clothing alterations and sew.

    Research interest: Monstrous Maternities, Catholic Iconography, Marianismo, Southern Cone dictatorships 

    Hometown: Huntington Park



  • Samantha R. Sotomayor

    Samantha R. Sotomayor


    Sam Sotomayor, born and raised in Ceres, California, developed a deep passion for theatre from a young age. Their love for the stage was ignited by their grandfather, who regularly took them to experience a diverse array of  plays and musicals. Building upon this foundation, Sam's journey in the world of theatre led them to San Francisco State University, where in 2020, they earned a B.A. in Theatre Arts, specializing in Performance. Here, they discovered that theater encompasses more than just Greek plays and Shakespearean tragedies. Through UCSD, their goal is to pursue a doctorate and teach Latin/Mesoamerican plays and performance styles. By leveraging the knowledge gained from their academic journey, Sam envisions a future where they can share their passion for theatre, championing the narratives and traditions that resonate with their heritage.

    Research Interest: Theatre beginning with Mesoamerican storytelling to modern times with Latin theatre.

    Hometown: Ceres, California


  • Lucas Taglia

    Lucas Taglia

    Lucas is a first year graduate student in the LAS program. He earned a BA from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, having studied Political Science and Spanish. He grew up in Madison, WI, and has lived and studied in Buenos Aires (2016-2017) and Milwaukee (2018-2022).

    Research Interest: Politics, society, history, Southern Cone, 20th Century, Cold War, political identity, international relations, race and ethnicity, cultural anthropology, authoritarian regimes. 

    Hometown: Madison, WI


  • Karo Valerio

    Karo Valerio

    Research Interest:  Decolonial Restorative Literature, Migration and Dislocation, Afro-Carribean Diaspora, Critical Race Theory, Post-colonial Feminism. 

    Hometown: Newark, New Jersey and Nagua, Dominican Republic


  • Sophia Veran

    Sophia Veran


    Sophia Veran is a first year graduate student in the LAS program and graduated from UCSD with a B.A. in History and a minor in Literatures of the World. She looks forward to researching the relationships between gender expression, literature, and political motives within Latin American societies. As well as being a graduate student in the LAS program, she will be a TA in the Making of the Modern World Writing Program in ERC for the 2023-2024 academic year.

    Research Interest: Liminality, Gender Expression, Social Anthropology, Literature as a Political Tool, Storytelling
    Culture, the Mythologization of the Ideal Woman in Medieval Iberia and Latin America, Social Entanglement

    Hometown: Concord, California


  • Eden Wiggins

    Eden Wiggins

    Eden Wiggins is a first-year student in the MA Latin American studies program. Eden grew up in Joppa, Maryland, and was privy to diverse influences from migrants from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. She graduated from the Illustrious Claflin University, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Spanish. Eden is a lover of people, and culture and global diversity has always been a value that has been instilled in her since childhood. Eden’s interests are multidisciplinary and all driven by her love of learning and advocacy. Eden is also a performer who enjoys acting and singing.

    Research InterestMigration, Race/Ethnicity in Latin America, Educational Attainment Gaps, Intersection of the Latin and Black Diasporas.

    Hometown: Joppa, MD