For more details regarding my work, click on “vita” to check out my Curriculum Vita. Below you can find my on-going researches:

Emotional Adaptation and Incorporation Post-disaster Migration

(with Elizabeth Aranda, Ph.D.)



The Puerto Rican population has grown substantially in the U.S., and since Hurricane Maria struck the island in 2017, the mass exodus has accelerated. Since the hurricane, an estimated 159,415 to 176,603 Puerto Ricans have moved to the continental U.S. (Vargas-Ramos, 2018) with the largest numbers coming to Florida. About 56,000 Puerto Ricans relocated to Florida after the hurricanes (Gamarra, 2018), 22% settling in Tampa. This proposed project will examine Puerto Rican post-Hurricane Maria migrants’ “pathways to incorporation”—the causal mechanisms that either place Puerto Ricans on a track that facilitates long-term socio-economic stability or one that challenges this stability and leads to marginalization and unequal life chances. In three stages of data collection involving a survey with 900 post-hurricane migrants, 50 in-depth interviews with heads of households and a subsample of 10 families, this project’s main research question interrogates the ways in which the individual statuses (i.e., their gender, race, and human capital) of these migrants interact with the context of reception (e.g., the locality of Tampa or regionality of Central Florida, including the labor market reception, the ethnicity of a community, and the state and federal policies that can facilitate or make adaptation more difficult) to shape their pathways of incorporation into mainstream society, including their emotional wellbeing, an often neglected dimension of integration. Last, we examine how the challenges of incorporation affect families and how future settlement decisions are negotiated.

Protest(arte): reimagining and redefining Puerto Ricanness during financial crisis and “natural” disasters



Art has an inherent history of being revolutionary and revolutions have a history of being artistic (Rosa, 2013). Despite the variations in their end goals, both strategically and creatively express a message that engages and provokes audiences, challenging them to think critically about the world we live in.

From murals, performances, to hashtags and memes Puerto Rican artists have used art and new media technologies as a way to reconstruct and reclaim spaces of resistance in the archipelago and in the diaspora. Focusing on Puerto Rico’s current situation (i.e. financial crisis and “natural” disasters), this presentation emphasizes local artists that use protest art as a catalyst for social change by reimagining and redefining Puerto Ricanness. The expectation is to create a sense of collective memory of the humanitarian crisis and disaster capitalism we are confronting in order to help us heal and move forward to a more just future.

Santa María: navigating emotional and vicarious trauma after “natural” disasters



When we talk about the consequences of a “natural” disaster such as a hurricane, we tend to focus our discussions of devastation in political and economic terms.  However, equally or more importantly, is the discussion of the social and emotional toll for people who directly or indirectly lived through it and are grappling with the recovery process. Puerto Ricans have not only lost family member(s) and/or everything they owned but still 5 months after impact, lack access to basic necessities such as portable water, warm food, shelter, medicines, or electricity. Living under these impoverished conditions has become the new “normalcy” where solidarity, hope, and humor become acts of resilience in rebuilding a more just future. As such, this presentation aims to explore the emotional and vicarious trauma lived by Puerto Ricans (in the archipelago and diaspora) during and after hurricane Maria impacted Puerto Rico. The expectation is to create a sense of collective memory of the humanitarian crisis and disaster capitalism we are confronting in order to help us heal and move forward from here to more just future.

Resistance performances: (re)constructing spaces of resistance and contention in the 2010-2011 University of Puerto Rico student movement

Brief chronology of the UPR student movement

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On the night of April 20, 2010, a group of students from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Río Piedras campus, met to organize an indefinite strike. Through phone calls, text messages, emails, social networking sites, and word of mouth the students spread the news to others to meet at two specific locations within the campus at five am. To the astonishment of the initiators the number of people that showed up was three times more than expected and they were able to take over the campus from within by closing down its six gates. By using protest camps, physical barricades, and alternative media, such as the Internet, the students constructed spaces of resistance that initiated a lock-down of ten out of the eleven UPR campuses. Thus, on April 21, 2010, the students of the UPR officially announced the beginning of their strike that quickly broadened into a defense of accessible public education of excellence as a fundamental right and not a privilege.

Although the history of student activism in the UPR can be traced back to the 1900s, the 2010-2011 strike will be known for being part of the international student movement to guarantee the accessibility to a public higher education. More importantly, this strike will be remembered for the student activists’ use of new media technologies as resources that rapidly prompted and aided the numerous protests. In view of this, it is imperative to consider the role of traditional and alternative media in covering the strike. This study of student activism will explore several questions related to the representations of the 2010-2011 UPR student strike. How was UPR student activism represented in the media? That is, what events and discourses were considered newsworthy and why? How did the UPR students use the media in constructing “offline” and “online” spaces of resistance and contention during the strike? Moreover, how has media coverage of the UPR student strikes changed when comparing the first most televised strike in 1981 and the recent 2010-2011 student strikes? Did the traditional and alternative media coverage and treatment have any effect on collective identity(ies)?

This study entailed a critical ethnography and a critical discourse analysis (CDA) of traditional and alternative media coverage and treatment during the 2010 -2011 University of Puerto Rico student strike. Critical ethnography permitted me to delve into the strike as an activist researcher, conscious of her positionality as both an insider and outsider. CDA allowed for a deeper understanding of the media’s ideological role. As such, this study assessed traditional and alternative media as spaces of resistance and contention in constructing and presenting its actors and the ways in which they are currently perceived by the University community. By adapting the concept of resistance performance, I illustrate how both traditional and alternative media (re)presentations of student activism can develop, maintain, adjust or change the students’ collective identity(ies). The UPR student activism’s success should not be measured by the sum of demands granted, but by the sense of community achieved and the establishment of networks that continue to create resistance and change. These networks add to the debate surrounding Internet activism and its impact on student activism. Ultimately, the results of this study highlight the important role these movements have had in challenging different types of government policies and raising awareness of the importance of an accessible public higher education of excellence.


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