Nicaragua Performance Art in the Crossfire

April 15, 2021

Contributed by Samuel Martínez


El Instituto, together with the Human Rights Institute and the IIE Artist Protection Fund (APF) co-sponsored a live-streaming art event on the evening of Thursday, 8 April 2021, “Nicaragua: Performance Art in the Crossfire (Power, Relational Aesthetics, and Activisms). The event featured the Nicaraguan artists (and APF Fellows) Alejandro de la Guerra and Elyla. After a welcome by Instituto Director, Samuel Martínez, the event opened with a live performance, in which the two artists appeared on split screens in front of blank walls (Elyla from Nicaragua and Guerra in Connecticut). Seated with only their faces and hands visible to the cameras, each artist daubed each side of their face with paint of one primary color, and then executed a series of slow movements with their upper bodies and hands. The piece as a whole unfolded at a mesmerically slow pace, drawing attention to perspective and the frame as mediators of our perception of the human, and serving notice that this would be an event like none other. Afterward, as the artists wiped their faces clean, event moderator, UConn Professor of Art History, Robin Greeley, placed the event in historical perspective. She noted that both artists use symbols, slogans and images that were first generated by the Sandinista Revolution itself, to express widely-felt disappointment with the Ortega-Murillo regime’s betrayal of popular aspirations. In a double irony, Greeley observed that Ortega’s deployment of the Sandinista Revolution’s symbology for his own power stands alongside a younger generation’s creative use of that revolutionary rhetoric and imagery in protest. Elyla and Guerra then took turns sharing slides and videos of their earlier works, including Guerra’s La caída and Elyla’s Solo fantasía. A look at each artist’s work in progress was followed by question-and-answer. Among the topics discussed in Q&A were the liberatory reappropriation of public monuments, the perspective on their home country opened by their time as APF Fellows in the United States, the artistic institutional landscape in Nicaragua, and “artivist” collaboration. The artists gratefully recognize the support of the Artist Protection Fund.




Two Instituto affiliate faculty win AAUP teaching and service awards

March 26, 2021

Neag Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership, Milagros Castillo-Montoya, will be honored with a 2021 AAUP Service Excellence award, and Assistant Professor-in-Residence Jesús Ramos-Kittrell will receive a 2021 AAUP Teaching Innovation award.

A virtual ZOOM ceremony is planned on Wednesday, April 28th, at 1:00 pm.  Any and all who wish to attend are welcome.

Please RSVP to to receive the ZOOM link.

Felicidades, Milagros y Jesús!


Milagros Castillo-Montoya

Jesus Ramos-Kittrell

UndocuPeer: Dismantling Barriers within Higher Ed

February 12, 2021

The UndocuPeer training is a two-hour virtual interactive program facilitated by currently and formerly undocumented students that focuses on increasing educators, counselors, and administrators’ knowledge and skills for supporting undocumented students and advocating for institutional changes to ensure access, safety, and belonging for all students regardless of immigration status. Developed by undocumented students, trainers provide the necessary tools to begin or continue conversations on how to better support and work alongside undocumented students. Connecticut Students for a Dream will be offering five trainings during the Spring 2021 semester.

Friday, February 26th @ 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Wednesday, March 3rd @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm  (Session limited to NEAG students only)
Friday, March 26th @ 10:30 am  – 12:30 pm

Wednesday, April 14th @ 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm

Wednesday, May 19th @ 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Link to register: 


For more information, contact: Kiara Ruesta at

La Colectiva Virtual Conversation

January 8, 2021

Contributed by Alonso Velásquez

El Instituto graduate students Nina Vásquez and Génesis Carela, together with UConn Political Science doctoral student Luis Beltrán-Alvarez and University of Oregon Philosophy doctoral student Rosa O’Connor-Acevedo, organized a virtual event on December 15, 2020, “Whose Heritage? What Heritage? Caribbean Black and Decolonial Feminist Confrontations against White and Heteropatriarchal Supremacies.” This event featured talks by Zoán Dávila-Roldán and Shariana Ferrer Núñez, two leaders of Puerto Rico’s pathbreaking Colectiva Feminista en Construcción. La Colectiva is a grassroots organization founded on Afro-feminist liberation, which advances struggles against heteropatriarchy and anti-Blackness on the island. Dávila and Ferrer were initially scheduled to visit UCONN for an extensive set of community-facing events in late March but these plans were abandoned in the early days of the pandemic shutdown. The Black Lives Matter justice mobilizations of 2020 gave added urgency to la Colectiva’s agenda. The presenters spoke from the island, focusing on black feminism, LGBTQIA rights, Women’s rights and the intersections of race, capitalism, and patriarchy.

In talking about the history of Puerto Rico, Dávila explored the theme of “Hispanidad,” forwarding an argument that the Spanish language and culture are colonial impositions, and that identitary constructs such as Hispanic, Latino or Latinx are all products of political violence. Race and patriarchy are the central axes of the colonial capitalist power structure. “Mestizaje” (racial mixture) functions similarly as a concept through which Puerto Ricans can ignore the racism behind anti-Black state policies, such as “Mano Dura” policing during the 1990s. Mano Dura exemplifies as well the use of Puerto Rico as a testing ground for policies later implemented on the mainland. Puerto Rico also has become the second largest housing authority in the US after New York City, with poor Black mothers among the most impacted. Dávila said that Black Puerto Rican lives only matter to island elites when and insofar as this helps elites sustain a neoliberal economic order imposed by the United States.

Ferrer Núñez said that Puerto Ricans should reexamine and question their culture, like their language, flag, and anthem. She said that Puerto Ricans must connect again with the heritages of their ancestors. Seeing how much of culture has been formed by colonization, she talked about how individuals could try to form their own identity.  She pointed to reggaetón as a symbol of music produced by and for the people.

The speakers view the pandemic as an issue manipulated by island politicians to inspire fear among the public and further isolate ordinary citizens from each other. Sensible limits on physical proximity only heighten the need to reach out and stay connected with others.

La Colectiva Virtual Event

El Instituto MA Student Researches Indigenous Language Survival in Colombian Amazon

GA Oxana

Contributed by Oxana Sidorova

As a fulfilment for my master’s thesis requirement in Latina/o and Latin American Studies, I am doing a research on indigenous language maintenance and the importance of language for cultural identity among the Coreguaje people of Colombia’s Amazonas region.[1] Additionally, I am collaborating with Coreguaje people in examining access to higher education in the United States for indigenous students from Colombia.

My original plan for the research included traveling to el resguardo Agua Negra, Caquetá, Colombia, and exploring educational practices and socio-cultural spaces in schools of the Coreguaje community. I imagined myself living in the community and doing field work, which was supposed to include general daily observations in el resguardo and interviews with community members about the Coreguaje linguistic and cultural environment. I was also planning to conduct daily community school and classroom observations, and analyze course and classroom materials and the general school environment. I proposed to do the interviews in person, with teachers, administrators, students, and parents, as well as with other community members, indigenous administrators, and community leaders.

Then came the COVID pandemic, which has made it impossible to meet my participants in person and do fieldwork in el resguardo.

Was there a way to conduct my research from Connecticut, adapting my research to a fully online mode? As I grapple with this challenge, my idea of fieldwork has been transformed: I have been collecting data through recorded video and audio interviews with Coreguaje community members via GoogleMeet, Skype, and WebEx, as well as through messages on WhatsApp. The conversations have involved, among others, Coreguaje community members living in Agua Negra and Florencia, towns located in Caquetá. Moreover, as a participant observer, I have taken part in online meetings of the group Memoria Ancestral, whose goals are addressing deculturation, detachment from indigenous ancestry, cultural and language loss, and the historical context of linguistic and cultural knowledge transmission. I have also watched recordings of indigenous online workshops and conferences. In order to triangulate interview data, I am using the recordings of online conferences organized by indigenous communities with Coreguaje participants, which allows me to see a broader contexts and issues related to the ones of my research that I have not considered myself. Similarly, the transcriptions of online group conversations with members of Coreguaje community about language and its role in both the everyday life and cultural maintenance of Coreguaje community help me find connections between the community’s perceptions of the language and identity and their implications and reflections in the personal lives of individuals. Additionally, documentary films about Coreguajes reflect the image of the community in the broader Colombian context as well as highlight what Coreguajes themselves find important to discuss about their culture. Finally, official documents and academic documents created in collaboration with the Coreguaje themselves reveal indigenous people’s own interpretations of the issues discussed, plus support decolonial approaches to doing research.

So far, I have interviewed three male members of the Coreguaje community, and I am hoping to get in touch with one or two Coreguaje women. Profesora Dennis Dussan from the Universidad de la Amazonía and her Coreguaje student, Elklin Piranga have introduced me to Coreguaje community members. I conducted interviews in Spanish and transcribed them for data analysis. Semi-structured interviews have lasted between one and two hours. My interviews are being shared with the Coreguaje community for future use in the form of relatoría (a collection of texts) on the topics of the research.

It is unfortunate that I could not travel to Colombian Amazon and do my research in person. I would have been able to learn so much more from my participants by being present in el resguardo. On the other hand, I feel lucky to have access to internet technology that makes it possible to get in touch with people remotely even in the Colombian Amazon. In spite of communication difficulties and technical challenges (power outages and bad internet connectivity), I have built good enough rapport with my participants to conduct good interviews. This gives me hope I can continue doing my research in person further at a doctorate level, when the COVID pandemic loses its power.

[1] Coreguaje is a Spanish term for Korébajü.

Mark Healey Wins SCHARP Award

January 7, 2021

Mark Healey

Contributed by Alonso Velásquez

Professor Mark Healey, Faculty Affiliate of El Instituto and the History Department’s Head, has been awarded a $50,000 Scholarship and Collaboration in Humanities and Arts Research (SCHARP) Breakthrough Award. The co-PI on the award is Tom Scheinfeldt, Professor of Digital Media and Design. According to the submitted proposal, the goal is to develop GLAMGear, a low cost, open source digitalization tool kit for underserved areas in the United States and the Global South. The project is a collaboration between UConn’s Greenhouse Studios, Department of History and the Connecticut Digital Archive.

In past decades, there has been extensive digitalization of archival collections, but Healey and Scheinfeldt saw a large obstacle to access for poor and remote communities: the cost of large scale digitalization, with large format scanners costing over $10,000.

GLAMGear plans to expand on a system developed by project partner “Bibliohack Plus,” which uses low cost, low cost, easily obtained materials. The expectation is that this technology will help preserve the cultural heritage of underserved communities and expand the resources available for scholarship.

Having spent part of his childhood in Argentina, Healey has become a specialist in its national history. He is currently working on the politics of water in the province of Mendoza. As part of this project, he came to appreciate the extensive records of the Irrigation Authority, key sources for the history of the area. After trying without success for around a year to get access to the archives in Mendoza, he finally got access a few days before he was scheduled to return to the United States. His teaming up with Argentine scholar Facundo Martín, to explore and digitize these sources, marked the beginning of GLAMGear.

Matías Butelman and Juan Pablo Suárez founded Bibliohack to make information more accessible to outsiders. Butelman and Martín traveled to UConn in March to plan GLAMGear, just before the COVID-19 pandemic restricted travel. Having experience building DIY plywood scanners for libraries and museums in Buenos Aires and elsewhere, they worked with Healey and Martín to build a scanner for Mendoza.

At UConn, PI Tom Scheinfeldt, a co-designer of the bibliography program Zotero and other digital tools, brings extensive experience leading projects and seeking external funding, beyond the UConn grant. The Connecticut Digital Archive, housed at UConn, has extensive experience digitizing material. It can be of great use for digitizing materials in Argentina.

Healey said in Global North countries, like the United States, there is a good record of recording material considered valuable; Argentina lags in digitization of historical resources, but Healey notes that neighboring Chile has gone some distance toward digital archiving through its “Memoria Chilena” initiative.

Through their SCHARP grant, Healey and Scheinfeldt hope to develop prototypes to develop open access tools for community institutions. The grant will enable the team to build another scanner in Connecticut, and permit them to develop a standard workflow for digitizing materials using the scanner and open access software.  Graduate students will be key players in the process, paid out of grant funds.

The project timeline goes from September 2021 to August 2023, with this year’s awards having been delayed due to pandemic-related disruptions.


Instituto MA Student Researches Takeover Program in Providence Schools

Contributed by Genesis Carela

My research explores the Providence Public School District (PPSD) takeover in Rhode Island. Takeovers are an extreme version of accountability policies which impose a new governance structure with the aim of remedying financial mismanagement of school districts and improving academic outcomes for students. Takeovers occur when the mayor or governor strips local education agencies of their power and places struggling schools or districts under the authority of the mayor or state. The PPSD takeover officially commenced on November 1, 2019 as a result of an evaluation released by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy in June of 2019. The report pointed to an antiquated governance structure and inefficient bureaucracy that stifled change. In addition, the report found low levels of academic instruction throughout the district, including the lack of an aligned curriculum, broken school culture, unsupported teachers, and parents that felt excluded from their children’s education. To reverse decades of inaction, the governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo and the education commissioner, Angélica Infante-Green have assumed responsibility of the district in an effort to enact transformational change which includes closing equity gaps, increasing academic proficiency for all students, and recruiting and retaining competent educators.

More specifically, my research will examine the effects of PPSD takeover on racially minoritized students and parents who have been denied a formal role in the takeover. Literature on mayoral and gubernatorial takeovers indicate that takeovers are implemented in a way that systematically targets minority school districts. Although the intention of implementing this policy is to improve chronically low-performing schools and districts and to promote financial stability, the outcomes often disenfranchise minority school districts and disrupt the existing local organization of school districts as well as relationships between educators, district administrators, and families.

The kind of in-person interviews I would have preferred to conduct have been made impossible because of COVID-related restrictions. Online interviews with underage research subjects also posed thorny ethics and informed consent challenges. Faced with those obstacles and the need to gather data for my thesis paper on a limited timeline, I have revised my plan of research to rely on secondary data. Luckily, there is abundant information available publicly. I am gathering interviews of student organizations conducted by local media outlets as well as transcripts of community hearings, documents from the Rhode Island Department of Education, popular press coverage, and Rhode Island Board of Education meeting minutes. Through a content analysis of this qualitative secondary data, I will gain a deeper understanding of the context and implications of district takeover in PPSD.

While the data may not be able to answer all of my research questions, it should give me a strong basis for future research based on open and semi-open interviews to get more, richer information from students and parents.