UConn Anthropology Alumna’s Book Wins Two Prizes

October 21, 2022

Cover for the book Making Livable Worlds: Afro-Puerto Rican Women Building Environmental Justice
Credit – Copyright @ 2021 by University of Washington Press
Design by Katrina Noble

UConn Anthropology PhD and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Rhode Island, Hilda Lloréns’ latest book, Making Livable Worlds: Afro-Puerto Rican Women Building Environmental Justice has recently won two awards:

Congratulations, Hilda!

Welcome from the Director

October 14, 2022

Hello, everyone! I’m Katerina Gonzalez Seligmann; also known as KGS (they or she pronouns). I’m the new Interim Director of El Instituto, and I have been truly lucky to be in the process of getting to know the faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, and staff of our Instituto community so far. For those of you who do not know me, I’m a scholar of Caribbean literature and intellectual history as well as a literary translator.  I’m joint-appointed in El Instituto and the Spanish section of the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages. A U.S. American of Cuban, Colombian, and Jewish heritage, I grew up in the Latinx majority cities of Miami and San Antonio, and I came to UConn last year from from Emerson College in Boston, where I taught for six years.  I’m fascinated to work in Connecticut, which is full of Latinx and Caribbean majority spaces, even if the University does not yet reflect that reality.

Core and affiliated faculty, staff, and students at El Instituto and our partners in La Comunidad Intelectual (LCI), and the Puerto Rican/ Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC) are dedicated to creating Latinx-centered intellectual and social spaces. But our impact seems to depend on visibility, and we are up against a major, ongoing obstacle to that visibility: the under-education of the U.S. populace about Latin America and the Caribbean. In particular, the country at large seems to ignore the role of United States intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean that connects to the history of immigration from Latin America and the Caribbean to the United States. These histories and ongoing circumstances shape Latinx and Caribbean diaspora communities throughout the country and right here in Connecticut. The massive neglect in knowledge about our communities becomes increasingly acute during times like these, when the damage experienced in the Caribbean by recent hurricanes massively impacts our communities but appears to go unnoticed by so many around us.

 I hope that this year brings greater visibility to Latina/o/x, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies at UConn. We newly offer the Latina/o studies minor at UConn Hartford, we have an incredible cohort of graduate and undergraduate students, and we have welcomed a new Visiting Assistant Professor of Latina/o Studies, Bethsaida Nieves. We have a new partnership with the Puerto Rican Studies Initiative for Community Engagement and Public Policy, led by core faculty member, Charles R. Venator-Santiago. We also have a new Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies research librarian, Jennifer Schaefer.  We also have an exciting events calendar this year. Please spread the word about our course offerings, and if you haven’t already, please be sure to sign up for our listserv.

Bienvenides a La Voz,

Katerina Gonzalez Seligmann

UConn Students Travel to the U.S./Mexico Border

October 13, 2022

Contributed by Anne Gebelein

Students Travel to the U.S./Mexico Border to Learn about Collective Action for Social and Immigrant Justice

From May 19-May 29th, 10 students joined Professor Anne Gebelein at the border to learn more about the network of activist groups that organize to support the rights of both immigrants and border residents. Tucson AZ is a special place in which to study organizing, as it hosts a wide, interconnected network of agencies and citizen advocacy groups that work collaboratively to promote the rights of all peoples in the region. The program was hosted by Borderlinks, an educational non-profit born in the 1980s to contextualize the sanctuary movement started by the First Presbyterian Church. Church members protected asylum seekers escaping U.S.-backed torture in Central America, and their movement became a nationwide phenomenon, as over 500 churches ultimately housed vulnerable migrants and paved the way for current sanctuary church practices.

Mexico Broder Trip_ArtStudents met with activists, traveled to 2 border towns in Mexico, spent time at the border wall, participated in workshops hosted by Borderlinks, and listened to UConn faculty experts lecture about border issues via webex. They hiked in the desert, placed water for people in danger of dehydration, attended a mariachi mass, and visited a migrant shelter. Students examined intersections of immigration, gender identity, asylum, collective action and art. They also had time to explore Tucson, a vibrant city with a rich artistic tradition influenced by Mexican muralism and tilework. Students earned 3 credits in LLAS or HRTS from participating in the program and course, which was designed by many hands: Anne Gebelein, Mark Overmyer-Velazquez, Kathryn Libal, Megan Berthold and Rodolfo Fernandez. Professor Fernandez will run the course from May 18th-28th in 2023.

Mexico Border Trip
UConn Students in U.S./Mexico Border


The Puerto Rican Studies Initiative for Community Engagement and Public Policy (PRSI)

October 12, 2022

Contributed by Charles R. Venator-Santiago

Professor Charles (Robert) Venator

The Puerto Rican Studies Initiative for Community Engagement and Public Policy (PRSI) is a research initiative that can help document and support the Puerto Ricans’ vital economic, intellectual, and cultural contributions to Connecticut and provide research-based support for the development of public policies addressing the needs of Puerto Ricans in the State of Connecticut. This initiative is part of a collaboration with El Instituto (CLAS, UConn Storrs) and the Puerto Rican and Latin@ Studies Project (School of Social Work, UConn Hartford).

Professor Charles R. Venator-Santiago was awarded a $500,000 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant from the Connecticut General Assembly for 2022 and 2023. Professor Venator-Santiago presently holds a joint appointment between the Department of Political Science and El Instituto.


This year, the PRSI will focus on the following areas of research:

  1. Data Analysis. Drawing on publicly available data, the PRSI will release a series of data sheets and reports designed to create a profile of Connecticut’s Puerto Rican residents.
  2. Research Reports. The PRSI will conduct several research studies and publish detailed reports on the findings. This year the PRSI will focus on a series of reports that focus on structural challenges for Puerto Rican electoral participation, small business access to capital (in collaboration with Professor Jorge Aguero), and climate driven emergency response (in collaboration with the Caribbean Preparedness and Response non-profit), Congressional opinions about the Puerto Rican political status (in collaboration with Professor José Javier Colón Morera – University of Puerto Rico)
  3. Oral Histories. Working in collaboration with Professor Fiona Vernal and the Engaged Public, Oral and Community Histories (EPOCH) program, the PRSI will begin to build a public repository of oral histories from Puerto Rican community leaders in Connecticut.
  4. Public Archives. The PRSI will build 3-4 public archives/repositories of primary documents including the Puerto Rico Citizenship Archives Project (revised), the Puerto Rico Federal Status Archives Project, and the 1909 Survey of Puerto Rican Elites. Accompanying publications for each archive will also be released.
  5. Civic Engagement. The PRSI will also promote a series of collaborations to promote civic engagement among Puerto Ricans in Connecticut. These collaborations include a civic education television series with El Show de Analeh (Univision), bringing programing to local community venues, and organizing a series of symposia and meetings.
  6. Academic Activities. We are also committed to developing a series of institutional projects including the creation of a Puerto Rican Studies peer-reviewed journal and an academic association tentatively titled Society for the Study of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans,

Please contact Charles R. Venator-Santiago for more information about the Puerto Rican Studies Initiative.


CT Humanities Grant for UConn/Yale Collaboration on the Black and Latino History Project

Contributed by Anne Gebelein 

Dr. Anne Gebelein of El Instituto, Dr. Fiona Vernal of Africana Studies Institute, and Dr. Jason Chang of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute are collaborating in an effort to help CT teachers better understand the role that Puerto Rican, West Indian, and African American migrants have played in the state’s historically most significant crop. They have teamed up with Tom Thurston of Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center and doctoral candidate at University of Michigan Elena Rosario to deliver workshops on Agricultural Labor in CT’s Shade Tobacco Industry. This fall series is part of a 3-part, yearlong program funded by the CT Humanities to assist teachers in developing new materials in the state-mandated course on African American, Latino, and Puerto Rican history. Gebelein and Vernal have been involved in conversations in the development of the course, and Chang has been instrumental in the development of a new high school course on Asian American and Pacific Islander history that will begin in 2025.

Black&LatinoHISTPROJLogoThis ongoing collaboration between UConn’s cultural institutes, Yale’s Lehrman Center, the Anti-Racist Teaching and Learning Collective is known as the Black and Latino History Project. Its aim is to support teachers in the teaching of the new high school course and in teaching more inclusive history. Gebelein is organizing the fall series on Agricultural Labor in Shade Tobacco; Dr Daniel Hosang Martinez of Yale is organizing an early spring series on Eugenics; and Vernal is organizing a late spring series on Black and Puerto Rican Migration.


If you know of any educators or graduate students interested in teaching these topics, it is not too late to register or view online materials. Contact anne.gebelein@uconn.edu or go to https://www.blhp.yale.edu/ for more information.


Anne, Fiona, & Jason

Suzanne Oboler Visits UConn

Contributed by Bethsaida Nieves

On September 14, 2022, esteemed professor, Suzanne Oboler, visited LLAS 1000-001 Introduction to Latina/o Studies. Welcomed by a curious group of about 50 undergraduate students, Professor Oboler opened her lecture with a boisterous greeting and invitation to critically think about the ethnic label, “Hispanic.” Drawing from her recently published book chapter, “Disposable Strangers: Mexican Americans, Latinxs, and the Ethnic Label ‘Hispanic’ in the Twenty-First Century,” Professor Oboler engaged students in a discussion about the intersectionalities of race, citizenship, and belonging by focusing on both the theoretical concepts within her research and the lived experiences of the students. She walked students through the creation of the term “Hispanic” in 1977 by the United States Office of Budget and Management, and the ensuing homogenization and racialization of Latinx communities; to the present day linguistic formation of a new label “Mexican,” which is being used beyond nationality to define Latinx individuals as “foreign” and “illegal.” Through her discussion of the socially constructed stranger, Professor Oboler masterfully explained the historical genealogy of labels that have transmogrified Latinx individuals from citizens to foreigners. Her final call to students was to engage, organize, and contest all dehumanizing labels and categories, and to be the ones that write and define their own histories and identities.


Suzanne Oboler, Guest speakerBio: Suzanne Oboler is currently a Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, New York where she teaches courses in Latin American and Latinx Studies. In 2011, the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro honored Professor Oboler with the title of Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Studies. Throughout her career, Professor Oboler has been at the forefront of innovative and groundbreaking scholarship in the areas of human rights, race, immigration, and citizenship. Among her numerous academic accomplishments, Professor Oboler was the founding editor for Latino Studies from 2002-2012, and has served in various editorial roles for seminal works in Latin American and Latinx Studies including, Latinos and Citizenship: The Dilemma of Belonging
(2006), the Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in Contemporary Politics, Law and Social Movements (2 Volumes; 2015), and Neither Enemies nor Friends: Latinos, Blacks, Afro-Latinos (2005), and many more noteworthy publications. One of her most famous and groundbreaking scholarly publications is, Ethnic Labels, Latino Lives: Identity and the Politics of (Re)Presentation in the United States (1995), which received high praise from several notable historians, including Professor Evelyn Hu-DeHart of Brown University, and Professor Emeritus Ramón A. Gutiérrez of the University of Chicago.


GLC Receives CT Humanities Award

August 8, 2022

By Yale’s newsletter

July 22, 2022
New Haven, Connecticut – The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at the MacMillan Center at Yale University has been award a $30,000 grant from Connecticut Humanities to enable them to develop a series of working groups for Connecticut teachers to study and develop curriculum and resources on Black and Latino History.

During the 2022-2023 school year, in collaboration with El Instituto (UCONN) and the Anti-Racist Teaching and Learning Collective, we will be holding three intensive two-month working groups: Agricultural Labor in Connecticut’s Shade Tobacco Industry, led by Dr. Anne Gebelein (UCONN); The Eugenics Movement and Its Place in US History, led by Dr. Daniel HoSang (Yale University); and Mid-20th Century Black and Puerto Rican Migrations to Connecticut, led by Dr. Stacey Close (SCSU). The project’s academic advisor is Dr. Fiona Vernal (UCONN) and Thomas Thurston (GLC) is the project organizer. During each module participating teachers will work closely with a historians familiar with the subject and will explore Connecticut places and people connected to each of these histories. Each working group will culminate in a public zoom webinar to introduce teachers, students, and interested members of the general public to the topics under consideration.

For more information contact Tom Thurston at thomas.thurston@yale.edu. 


Congratulations Dr. Anne Gebelein and Fiona Vernal!