Staff & Steering Committee

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

RCA Leadership
Sylvanna Falcón HeadshotSylvanna M. Falcón, Director

Associate Professor, Latin American and Latino Studies

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 Belongin: Labor, Migration, and Noncitizenship (Rutgers University Press, 2021) and during 2016-17, she was a co-principal investigator of Non-citizenship, UC Santa Cruz's Mellon-funded Sawyer Seminar on migration and mobility, belonging, and rights. She is the founder and director of UC Santa Cruz's Human Rights Investigations Lab for the Americas.

dario-headshot.jpgDarío León, Program Manager

Darío manages daily operations of the RCA, such as guest speaker relations, and faculty and student awards. He grew up in Chico, CA to farmworking parents who immigrated from the state of Guanajuato, México. Darío is an alumnus 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. In addition to managing daily operations, Darío is a Community and Research Coordinator for the Institute for Social TransformationOn his free time, he enjoys watching sports, movies, traveling, restoring and customizing sneakers as well as restoring classic cars. 

Graduate Student Researchers


Alejandra W. Farro, Graduate Student Researcher (Summer 2019 – Present)

Latin America and Latino Studies

Alejandra is a PhD student in the Latin American and Latino Studies department at UC Santa Cruz. Her research interests explore the construction of narratives in the climate justice organizations from the Global North regarding development and conservation. Specifically, she explores how to incorporate inputs from different worldviews and to increase the representation and visibility of movements from the Global South. She is interested in how social movements and grassroots environmental activists in Latin America organize based on their territory, their processes and the mechanisms of transnational contention to resist climate crisis impacts. Alejandra is currently a Graduate Student Researcher for the Human Rights Investigations Lab.

marina-segatti-headshotMarina Segatti, Graduate Student Researcher (Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021)

Feminist Studies

Marina is a PhD candidate in the Feminist Studies Department and Latin American Latino Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz. Her research investigates how queer Brazilian immigrants reinscribe and challenge aspects of gender, sex, race, ethnicity, and culture while forging their social and political identities in the context of the United States. Marina is currently a Graduate Student Researcher for the Human Rights Investigations Lab and the co-founder of Coletivo Desbordar, a feminist and leftist collective of Brazilian immigrant women in the Bay Area that through direct actions, media campaigns, and support groups, aims to bridge transnational solidarity with social movements in Brazil and Latin America.

Undergraduate Intern - forthcoming

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

RCA Steering Committee

amengual-80.jpgMark Amengual

Associate Professor, Languages and Linguistics

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, including Journal of Phonetics, Phonetica, Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, International Journal of Bilingualism, Frontiers in Psychology, Applied Psycholinguistics, and Lingua, among others. He is the director of the Spanish Language Program in the Department of Languages and Applied Linguistics, and the director of the UCSC Bilingualism Research Lab.


Gabriela Arredondo, ex officio

Associate Professor, Latin American and Latino Studies

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.

balloffet_photo_july-201.jpgLily Pearl Balloffet

Associate Professor, Latin American and Latino Studies 

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 current book project, American Venom: Snakes & Our Interconnected Hemisphere bridges environmental, medical, and labor histories of moving people and animals in the Caribbean Basin. She has also published articles in the Journal of Latin American Studies, Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of North African & Middle East Migration Studies, Latin American Studies Association Forum, and The Latin Americanist. Other research and teaching interests include contemporary Latin American hip hop, and social revolutions.

chemers-thumb.pngMichael Chemers 

Professor and Chair, Theatre Arts

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. His books include Staging Stigma (Palgrave MacMillan 2008), Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy (Southern Illinois University Press, 2010), and Systemic Dramaturgy: A Handbook for the Digital Age (Southern Illinois University Press, 2020).

k-eaton-80.jpegKent Eaton

Professor and Chair, Politics

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 politics in the region has been published in Latin American Politics and Society, Latin American Research Review, and Journal of Latin American Studies. His newest book is entitled Territory and Ideology in Latin America (Oxford University Press, 2017). 

JGonzalez.HeadshotJennifer A. González

Professor, History of Art and Visual Culture

Professor González's books include Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation Art (MIT Press, 2008) and Pepón Osorio (University of Minnesota Press, 2013). Her essays about digital bodies and critical race studies have appeared in anthologies such as The Cyborg Handbook, Race in Cyberspace, Visible Worlds, and Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self. She is now coediting with Tere Romo, Chon Noriega, and Ondine Chagoya Chicana/o Art: A Critical Anthology, forthcoming from Duke University Press.

KGruesz.HeadshotKirsten Silva Gruesz

Professor, Literature

Professor Gruesz teaches and writes on the long history of Chicanos and Latinos in the United States. In addition to Abassadors of Culture: The Transamerican Origins of Latino Writing (Princeton University Press, 2001), she has published over two dozen essays on topics ranging from early Spanish-language periodicals in the borderlands, to the Hispanic Gulf of Mexico, to the politics of making a contemporary Latino canon. Her current book, Cotten Mather's Spanish Lessons: Language, Race, and American Memory, is forthcoming from Harvard University Press. She is also coordinator of UC Santa Cruz's Latino Literary Cultures Project/Proyecto culturas literarias latinas.

john-jota-80.jpegJohn Jota Leaños

Professor of Social Documentation, Film and Digital Media

Professor Leaños is an award-winning Xicano-mestizo new media artist using animation, documentary and performance focusing on the convergence of memory, social space and decolonization. Leaños’ animation work has been shown internationally at festivals and museums including Sundance Film Festival, Cannes Short Film Corner, the Morelia International Film Festival, Mexico, San Francisco International Festival Animation, the KOS Convention 07, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. Leaños has also exhibited at the 2002 and 2008 Whitney Biennial in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Leaños is a Guggenheim Fellow in Film (2012), Creative Capital Foundation Grantee, a United States Artist Fellow and has been an artist in residence at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the Center for Chicano Studies, Carnegie Mellon University in the Center for Arts in Society, and the Headlands Center for the Arts.

Steve McKay headshot

Steve McKay

Associate Professor, Sociology

An internationally renowned scholar of labor, migration, globalization, and race, Professor McKay is the author of the award-winning Satanic Mills or Silicon Islands: The Politics of High-tech Production in the Philippines (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006) and co-editor with Sukanya Bannerjee and Aims McGuinness of New Routes for Diaspora Studies (Indiana University Press, 2012). In addition to serving on the RCA Steering Committee, he directs the Center for Labor Studies and is the principal investigator of Working for Dignity, a project on low-wage labor in Santa Cruz County. He was also a co-principal investigator of Non-citizenship, UC Santa Cruz's 2016-17 Mellon-funded Sawyer Seminar on migration, mobility, belonging, and rights.

m-ohara-80.jpegMatt O’Hara

Professor and Chair, History 
Provost of Stevenson College

Matt O'Hara is a historian of colonial and nineteenth-century Latin America with a focus on Mexico. His areas of research interest include political culture, religion, and the history of time. 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).

juan-pedroza-headshot.jpgJuan Manuel Pedroza

Assistant Professor, Sociology

Juan 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. Juan's research has been published in Policy Studies Journal, Annual Review of Public Health, International Migration ReviewRace & Social Problems, and The Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies. Prior to completing a Sociology Ph.D. at Stanford University, he was a Research Associate at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC.

pinho-2-headshot.jpgPatricia de Santana Pinho

Associate Professor, Latin America and Latino Studies

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), an updated and expanded version of the award-winning Reinvenções da África na Bahia (Editora Annablume, 2004). Her research and teaching focus on blackness, whiteness, racism, and forms of resistance to racism in Brazil and, more broadly, in the Américas. Her new research project examines whiteness and the rise of the far-right in Brazil. She has contributed book chapters to several edited volumes and published in Latin American Perspectives, Latin American Research Review, Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, Les Carnets du Lahic, Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais, and Tempo Social. She co-edited with Bianca Freire-Medeiros a special issue on tourism and mobilities of Revista Plural. Pinho is a member of the Executive Committee of BRASA (Brazilian Studies Association) and the Advisory Board of Luso-Brazilian Review. 

FSchaeffer.HeadshotFelicity Amaya Schaeffer

Professor, Feminist Studies

Felicity Amaya Schaeffer is Professor of the Feminist Studies Department, Participating Faculty in Latin American and Latinx Studies and Affiliate faculty in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at UC Santa Cruz. Her first book, Love and Empire: Cybermarriage and Citizenship Across the Americas (New York University Press, 2013), follows Internet marriages across the United States, Colombia, and Mexico alongside colonial fantasies of racial and gendered difference and follows the interplay between intimacy and neoliberal economic and social changes across national borders. Her second book, Tracking Footprints: The Militarized Science of Surveillance Bordering Sacred Indigenous Land (Duke University Press, 2021) aims to re-map contemporary innovations in automated border control, from a war against Mexican migrants, to the understudied context of colonial war with Indigenous peoples at the Arizona border and beyond. She has published articles in a variety of international journals in Mexico, France, and Brazil, and U.S. journals such as Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, American Quarterly, Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, and Sexualities

director-headshot_for-the-love-of-rutland_jennifer-maytorena-taylor.jpgJennifer Maytorena Taylor

Associate Professor, Film and Digital Media
Director of Graduate Studies, Social Documentation MFA Program

Jennifer 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. Jennifer’s new feature documentary For the Love of Rutland is now premiering in film festivals, beginning with a World Premiere at the prestigious Hot Docs International Documentary Festival. Her most recent short film Redneck Muslim was presented by POV in the 2018 PBS Online Film Festival and is streaming worldwide on 

zz-inhotim-ceramic-chucks.gifZac Zimmer

Assistant Professor, Literature

Zac Zimmer received his PhD from the Department of Romance Studies, 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. Zac is also a faculty affiliate with Legal Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies.