Staff & Steering Committee

RCA Leadership | Graduate Researchers and Undergraduate Interns | RCA Steering Committee

RCA Team (Click on photo to read bio)

Sylvanna Falcon Headshot   Dario Leon Headshot Yoselyne Headshot

Graduate Student Researchers (Click on photo to read bio)

Click here to learn about former graduate student researchers and undergraduate interns

Alejandra Headshot    marina headshot  rca-who-we-are-page-57.png 

RCA Steering Committee (Click on photo to read bio)

Mark HeashotGabriela Arredondo HeadshotLily Headshot

Michael Chemers HeadshotKent HeadshotJennifer A. Gonzalez Headshot

Kirsten HeadshotJohn Jota Leaños HeadshotSteve McKay Headshot

Matt O'Hara Headshotjuan headshotrca-who-we-are-page.png

Felicity HeadshotJennifer HeadshotZac Zimmer Headshot


Staff & Steering Committee Bios 

Sylvanna M. Falcón 

Professor Falcón's research and teaching interests are in the areas of human rights, transitional justice in Peru, transnational feminism, and racism/anti-racism. Her book, Power Interrupted: Antiracist and Feminist Activists inside the United Nations (University of Washington Press, 2016) won the 2016 National Women's Studies Association Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize. She is the co-editor of Precarity and Belonging: Labor, Migration, and Noncitizenship (Rutgers University Press, 2021). She is the founder and director of UC Santa Cruz's Human Rights Investigations Lab for the Americas.


Darío León 

Darío manages daily operations of the RCA, such as guest speaker relations, and faculty and student awards. He grew up in Chico, CA to farm working parents who immigrated from the state of Guanajuato, México. Darío is an alum of UC Santa Cruz. His work in strengthening communities spans over 16 years of experience engaging with diverse neighborhoods and cities in different aspects throughout the state of California. Darío is also the Community and Research Coordinator for the Institute for Social Transformation


Yoselyne Cerros

Yoselyne is a fourth year undergraduate student majoring in Latin American and Latino Studies/Politics and minoring in Legal Studies. Born in Los Angeles, CA, Yoselyne is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants and hopes to advocate for the Latinx community through her work at the RCA. She was part of the inaugural cohort for the Human Rights Investigations (HRI) Lab in Fall 2019 and is now an undergraduate team manager for the HRI Lab. Her interests include legal advocacy and criminal justice reform, which she hopes to pursue in her professional career. 


Alejandra Watanabe-Farro 

Alejandra is a PhD student in the Latin American and Latino Studies department at UC Santa Cruz. Drawing from Latin American political ecology, comparative politics, cultural studies, and critical communications, her research project explores the tensions among multiple discourses (i.e., development, environmental, post pandemic economic activation) around sites of resource extraction advanced by different stakeholders to influence the policy-making processes in Peru and Colombia. Alejandra is currently a Graduate Student Researcher for the Human Rights Investigations Lab. 


Marina Segatti

Marina is a Ph.D. candidate in the Feminist Studies department at UC Santa Cruz. Her dissertation investigates how queer and trans Brazilian activists use social media to respond to processes of social and political exclusion and violence in the context of the rise of authoritarianism. She is the co-author of The colonial necropolitics of “gender ideology” in Brazil: the queer as a question of national security. Marina is currently a Graduate Student Researcher for the Human Rights Investigations Lab


Monica Mikhail

Monica is a Ph.D. candidate in the Anthropology Department at UC Santa Cruz. Her dissertation project explores the commitments, ethics, and practices that inform how faith-based organizations provide social services to those in the Global South. In particular, she examines how the articulation of multiple ideologies of care hold together social service work by faith groups in postcolonial, secular contexts. This dissertation project is based on 18 months of ethnographic research with several Bolivian communities and the Coptic Orthodox Church in the Department of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Monica is currently a Graduate Student Researcher for the Human Rights Investigations Lab. 


Mark Amengual 

Professor Amengual's research and teaching interests focus primarily on bilingualism, experimental phonetics, and psycholinguistics. His research on linguistic and cognitive aspects of bilingualism has been published in international venues, such as Journal of Phonetics, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Phonetica, Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, International Journal of Bilingualism, Applied Psycholinguistics, and Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism. He is the director of the Spanish Studies major and the UC Santa Cruz’s Bilingualism Research Lab in the Department of Languages and Applied Linguistics.


Gabriela Arredondo 

Professor Arredondo (RCA/CLRC Director, 2008–13) received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Chicago and is the author of Mexican Chicago: Race, Identity, and Nation (University of Illinois Press, 2008) and co-editor of Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader (Duke University Press, 2003). Her research and teaching interests range from migration histories and critical race formations in the Americas, to comparative Latino histories and Chicana feminisms. Over 2015-16, she oversaw the oral history component of Nuestras Historias: RCA/CLRC Archive Project


Lily Pearl Balloffet 

Lily Pearl Balloffet is a scholar of migration, mobility, and inter-American relations in historical context. She is the author of Argentina in the Global Middle East (Stanford University Press, 2020), a transregional history told through the lens of alliances, solidarities, and exchanges that emerged from past migration booms in the Global South. Her next book project bridges environmental, medical, and labor histories of moving people and animals in the Caribbean Basin.  


Michael Chemers 

Michael is a scholar of dramatic literature and dramaturgy, whose research on othering and empathy in performance culture has included collaborations with some of the leaders of Chicanx dramatic arts and scholarship, including Luis Valdez, Kinan Valdez, and Jorge Huerta, including Theatre of the Sphere: The Vibrant Being (Routlege 2021), and 4x45: Luis Valdez (Routledge 2021) Other books include Staging Stigma (Palgrave MacMillan 2008), Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy (Southern Illinois University Press, 2010/2nd ed. 2022), and Systemic Dramaturgy: A Handbook for the Digital Age (Southern Illinois University Press, 2020). 


Kent Eaton 

Professor Eaton’s research focuses on a variety of political issues in Latin America, including political parties, economic development, decentralization, and the rise of subnational governments. Over the last twenty-five years he has lived and worked extensively in Latin America, including most recently in Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru. His research on the 2016 Colombian peace accords was recently published in the Journal of Peacebuilding and Development and his newest book is entitled Territory and Ideology in Latin America (Oxford University Press, 2017).  


Jennifer A. González 

Professor González's research focuses on modern and contemporary art in the United States with a focus on Latinx, feminist, and digital art. Her first book Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation Art (MIT, 2008) explores how contemporary artists refigure and critique historical representations of colonialism and racism, especially in the context of museums and public spaces. Her second book, Pepón Osorio (Minnesota, 2013) explores the radical social practice of this acclaimed Puerto Rican artist. She is also editor in chief of Chicano and Chicana Art: A Critical Anthology (Duke, 2019). 


Kirsten Silva Gruesz 

Professor Gruesz’s book Cotton Mather's Spanish Lessons: Language, Race, and American Memory (Harvard University Press, 2022), tells the story of the first Spanish-language imprint in the English colonies and its surprising links to Indigenous and Black Spanish speakers. Her book Ambassadors of Culture: The Transamerican Origins of Latino Writing (Princeton University Press, 2002), documented the creative work of Spanish-language periodicals in the U.S. during the nineteenth century. Her other published work has explored language ideologies, bilingual code-switching, and the material conditions that influence Latinx authorship--often drawing on archival finds such as the first U.S. Latinx novel, serialized in New Orleans in 1848.  


John Jota Leaños 

John Jota Leaños is a Mestizo (Xicano/Italian-American/Chumash) interdisciplinary artist and animator concerned with the embattled terrains of history and memory as they relate to nation, power and decolonization. A Guggenheim Fellow of Film and Media, Creative Capital Artist and United States Artist Fellow, Leaños’s practice includes a range of media arts, documentary animation, video, public art, installation and performance. His work has been shown at the Sundance Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival,, the Whitney Biennial, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Cannes Film Festival; and other international venues.  


Steve McKay 

Professor McKay is the author of Satanic Mills or Silicon Islands? The Politics of High Tech Production in the Philippines (2006); and the co-editor of Precarity and Belonging: Labor, Migration, and Noncitizenship (2021) and New Routes for Diaspora Studies (2012). His community-initiated student-engaged research (CISER) projects conducted across Santa Cruz County focused on low-wage labor (Working for Dignity), affordable rental housing (No Place Like Home), immigrant and mixed-status families (We Belong), and the legacies of early Filipino farm workers (Watsonville is in the Heart). 


Matt O’Hara 

Matt O'Hara is a historian of colonial and nineteenth-century Latin America with a focus on Mexico. His publications include the books A Flock Divided: Race, Religion and Politics in Mexico (Duke University Press, 2010); The History of the Future in Colonial Mexico (Yale University Press, 2018); and Imperial Subjects: Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America (Duke University Press, 2009) (co-edited with Andrew Fisher). His current research is on the history of an Amazonian dart poison that transformed twentieth-century anesthesia. It examines connections and conflicts involving Indigenous plant specialists, U.S. botanists, and international pharmaceutical companies.  


Juan Manuel Pedroza 

Professor Pedroza studies the changing landscape of immigration in the United States. Over the past decade, he has examined the vast inequalities of immigrants' access to justice, the social safety net, and poverty. His research examines how and where deportation and enforcement initiatives exacerbate these inequalities and leave imprints in our local communities. His research has been published in Policy Studies Journal, Annual Review of Public Health, International Migration Review, Race & Social Problems, and The Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies. 


Patricia de Santana Pinho

Patricia de Santana Pinho is the author of Mapping Diaspora: African American Roots Tourism in Brazil (University of North Carolina Press, 2018) and Mama Africa: Reinventing Blackness in Bahia (Duke University Press, 2010). She is currently working on a project that examines the whiteness and the rise of the far-right in Brazil, and another one that investigates the "Science Without Borders" program in Brazil that funded the academic mobility of over 93,000 college students between 2012 and 2016. Pinho is a member of the Executive Committee of BRASA (Brazilian Studies Association). 


Felicity Amaya Schaeffer 

Felicity Amaya Schaeffer is Professor of the Feminist Studies and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Departments. Her award-winning first book is Love and Empire: Cybermarriage and Citizenship Across the Americas (New York University Press, 2013). Her forthcoming book, Unsettled Borders:The Militarized Science of Surveillance on Sacred Indigenous Land (Duke University Press, 2022) re-maps the militarized U.S.-Mexico border alongside the ongoing settler colonial war with Indigenous peoples. She is also a co-editor of Precarity & Belonging: Labor, Migration, and Noncitizenship (Rutgers University Press, 2021). 


Jennifer Maytorena Taylor 

Professor Taylor makes colorful, character-based films about real people with extraordinary stories, often with Spanish-language content. Her work has shown at venues like the Sundance, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Locarno Film Festivals, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, New York Museum of Modern Art, PBS, Sundance Channel, Al Jazeera, and NHK-Japan. Her new feature documentary For the Love of Rutland is premiering in film festivals. Her most recent short film Redneck Muslim is streaming worldwide on 


Zac Zimmer 

Zac Zimmer received his Ph.D. from the Department of Romance Studies at Cornell University. His research explores questions of literature, aesthetics, politics, and technology in Latin America; previous publications have appeared in Latin American Research Review, Chasqui, Modern Language Notes, Technology & Culture, and the Revista de Crítica Literaria Latinoamericana. Professor Zimmer is also a faculty affiliate with Legal Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies.