Special Message by LALS Director Tulia Falleti in the May Newsletter

The Director of Latin American and Latinx Studies, Dr. Tulia Falleti, sends a special message to the LALS Community in the recent May newsletter.  She celebrates this past year's extraordinary accomplishments by the students, faculty, and community partners affiliated with LALS.  She also charts the inaugural vision for the soon-to-be Center of Latin American and Latinx Studies (CLALS). 

Please read her end-of-the academic year message here:


LALS May 2021 Newsletter


Dear LALS community,


As the academic year comes to a close, I feel extremely grateful to our faculty, students, and staff, for all that LALS has achieved in a year marked by uncertainty and many challenges. Although we had to be apart from each other, LALS hosted 37 academic events that brought us together, with an average attendance of 29 participants per event. Together, we learned and discussed about crucial and wide-ranging topics: from the Green New Deal, to the rights of nature in Colombia, to global education, mental health of immigrants, the Brazilian Black movement against police violence, and international peacemaking in Venezuela (the video recordings of many of our events are available in our website). Our Undergraduate Advisory Board organized two magnificent events on urgently relevant topics: the Flores Exhibits, on the detention of migrant minors in the US-Mexico border, and Gender and Violence in Latin America, on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on violence against women and LGBTQIA+ communities. In May, we look forward to two additional important events: the Graduate Student Research Symposium (May 4 at noon), where we will learn from the cutting-edge research of our doctoral students; and the LALS Graduation Ceremony (May 14 at 5pm), when we will celebrate our graduating majors and minors.


This year, we have also celebrated important milestones for our members, such as the publication of Jennifer Ponce de León’s book "Another Aesthetics is Possible: Arts of Rebellion in the Fourth World War," jointly with her promotion to Associate Professor with tenure in the Department of English, and the imminent publication of Jorge Téllez’s book “The Picaresque and the Writing Life in Mexico” (stay tuned for the book launch event) and his promotion to Associate Professor with tenure in the Department of Romance Languages. Michael Jones-Correa presented his latest book (with James A. McCann) “Holding Fast: Resilience and Civic Engagement Among Latino Immigrants,” which has fascinating results. We also celebrated the promotion to Associate Professor with tenure of Amalia Dache in the Graduate School of Education and the honorable mention of Kristina Lyons’ book “Vital Decomposition: Soil Practitioners and Life Politics” for the prestigious Bryce Wood Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association. Also, Michael Hanchard, Professor and Department Chair of Africana Studies, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Congratulations to Jennifer, Jorge, Michael J., Michael H., Amalia, and Kristina! 


We granted the José M. Oviedo award for the best undergraduate project to Jean Chapiro for her film “Hambre: Hungry for Life” and the honorable mention to ThomasMaggiola for his thesis “A Death Foretold? Extractivism, Development, and Human Rights in Latin America.” The Nancy M. Farriss award was shared this year by graduate students Marco Avilés (Romance Languages) for his paper “Tan lejos y tan cerca: Ideas sobre el mestizaje en dos textos de José María Arguedas y Nicolás Guillén” and Yasmín Mertehikian (Sociology) for her paper “The Place of Non-heterosexual Women in Sexual and Reproductive Public Health Policies in the City of Buenos Aires.” We are also very proud that our LALS major Pamela de la Cruz (‘23) won the Pulitzer International Student Reporting Fellowship to examine violence against Central Americans in the US-Mexico border. Congratulations to Jean, Thomas, Marco, Yasmín, and Pamela!


With other seven colleagues, five of whom are LALS affiliated faculty (Ricardo Castillo-Neyra, Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, Michael Hanchard, Richard Leventhal, and Michael Levy), we had the immense honor to be awarded a $5M dollar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to carry out a multiyear research project on “Dispossessions in Americas: The Extraction of Bodies, Land, and Heritage from La Conquista to the Present.“ This project will bring together communities, scholars, and policy-makers from the Americas to document dispossessions and propose policies for more just futures.


Regarding our curriculum, our Penn Model Organization of American States (OAS) Program, led by LALS Associate Director Dr. Catherine Bartch, with additional support from our School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), the Fox Leadership International (FLI) Program, the Andrea Mitchell Center (AMC), the Perry World House (PWH), and the Netter Center, graduated its third cohort of public high school students from Philadelphia and Norristown who participated in the 2020 39th Model OAS for High Schools competition. This program has proven transformational in the lives of many students (read powerful testimonials here). We are delighted and proud to see some of our Penn MOAS high school graduates stay at Penn as undergraduates.


This year, our LALS students could choose among a robust roster of 29 courses in the fall and 35 classes in the spring semesters, cross-listed with eight departments and four other interdisciplinary programs.  Throughout this year, we have continued strengthening our partnerships with the PWH, Penn Global, the Netter Center, AMC, the FLI program, La Casa Latina, the Department of Africana Studies, the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, and the Gender Sexuality and Women Studies Program, among many other productive and rewarding on-campus collaborations. Outside of Penn, our collaborations with CCATE (Norristown) and the OAS have provided valuable outreach and engagement opportunities to our students. Thank you to all our professors, instructors, graduate student teaching assistants, and our partners for all your work and support, which are vital to our program!


Finally, we are extremely excited that as of July 1st, the School of Arts and Sciences is committed to transforming our LALS program into the Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies (CLALS) at Penn. Our new Center will continue working on the programming and educational mission of LALS and will have more resources to support research, among other possibilities in the form of a postdoctoral fellow, a visiting fellow, and more grants and awards to support faculty, and graduate and undergraduate students’ research projects and initiatives. We thank SAS Dean Steven Fluharty, Associate Deans Emily Hannum and Jeffrey Kallberg, and Dean of the College Paul Sniegowski for their trust and instrumental support. We also owe a great debt of gratitude to former LALS Directors Ann Farnsworth-Alvear and Emilio Parrado. Prof. Parrado led the conversations on the formation of the center and as its Founding Director will oversee our programming on Latinx populations in the U.S.


I am honored and humbled to direct this new Center and to work with all of you to make it succeed. The inaugural vision for our CLALS is to provide the human and intellectual capital capable of addressing the most pressing challenges and opportunities that Latin America and the Latinx populations of the U.S. will face during the 21st century. Our main mission is four-fold:

·      To educate tomorrow’s global leaders for Latin America and the world.

·      To conduct cutting-edge and eminent interdisciplinary research on the pressing challenges and opportunities of Latin America and the Latinx populations of the U.S. in the 21st century, with a deep understanding of how history and culture shape our collective present and future.

·      To transfer our knowledge and discoveries to governments, societies, and communities at all levels: global, national, state, and local; while at the same time learning from and incorporating the transformational knowledge of those communities into the academe in a collaborative and non-extractive manner.

·      To serve and provide linkages for our various constituencies and communities (at the university, in the greater Philadelphia area, in the U.S., and in Latin America) making sure that our research and training are conducted in collaboration with the relevant communities we aim to serve.


Dr. Catherine Bartch, Anabel Bernal Estrada, and I are extremely thankful to all of you for the contributions you have made to LALS, which have helped make the dream of this new research Center a reality. We look forward to continuing working with all of you to build an even stronger community for the study of Latin America and Latinx populations at the University of Pennsylvania.


With warmest regards and best wishes for the end of the semester and summer. 


Prof. Tulia G. Falleti

Class of 1965 Endowed Term Professor of Political Science

Director of the Latin American and Latinx Studies Program