Indiana University and Indiana State University professors join CLACS for a panel on politics and economics in South America

Left to Right: Dr. Patricia Basile (IU), Marcelo Pastore (ISU), and Dr. Debra Israel (ISU)

The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies proudly hosted a panel in partnership with Indiana State University and the IU Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) on Thursday, February 22 titled “The Intersection of Politics and Economics in South America: Focus on Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia.” The panel featured three speakers: Dr. Patricia Basile, an Assistant Professor of Geography and Solidarity Economies at Indiana University, Dr. Debra Israel, Indiana State University Chairperson and Professor of Economics, and Marcelo Pastore, Visiting Fulbright Scholar and Director of Institutional Relations at Indiana State University.

Each speaker brought their own expertise to the conversation with presentations centering around their research areas within South American countries. Dr. Israel shared her work titled “Bolivia: Household Economics and the Broader Context,” pulling from her research and personal experiences from her time spent living in Bolivia. Marcelo Pastore then shared his presentation titled “Political Economy in Paraguay: A Historical Revision,” which focused on the history and evolution of his home country’s political and economic structures. Finally, Dr. Basile presented her work titled “Urban Insurgencies in Brazil: the making of alternative worlds,” which highlighted grassroots political and social movements toward making housing more available and inclusive, thereby reinstating agency of marginalized groups.

If you are interested in learning more or tuning in to the full conversation, a recording of the panel will be available on the IU CLACS YouTube channel soon.


Speakers’ webpages:

Dr. Patricia Basile, IU Department of Geography

Dr. Debra Israel, ISU Department of Economics

Marcelo Pastore, ISU Department of Economics

Meet the new CLACS Steering Committee!

The new CLACS Steering Committee for 2024-2026 has officially been selected! Following a survey sent out to all CLACS faculty and affiliate faculty members, 4 nominees were chosen to represent the department. Additionally, 4 members were nominated by the Director of CLACS, Professor Serafin Coronel-Molina.

The 8 new faculty members joining our Steering Committee hail from various departments around IU Bloomington: Eduardo S. Brondizio and  Shane Greene from the Anthropology Department, Rebecca Dirksen and Solimar Otero from the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Lucia Guerra-Reyes from the School of Public Health, Javier León from the Jacobs School of Music, Carmen Medina from the School of Education, and Olga Rodriguez-Ulloa from the Department of American Studies.

Our Ex-Officio Steering Committee members will remain the same for this term: Serafin Coronel-Molina (Director of CLACS),  Sonia Manriquez, (Associate Director of CLACS), Quetzil Castañeda (Senior Lecturer), César Félix-Brasdefer (Director of Mexico Gateway), and Luis González (CLACS Librarian).

We also have two new Student Representatives serving on the Steering Committee! Eddy Rafael Santiago Huamani will serve as the Graduate Student Representative, while Zoe Ellis will serve as the Undergraduate Student Representative.

To learn more about the 2024-2026 CLACS Steering Committee and their research interests, visit the brand new Steering Committee page on our website.


Lecturing Artist Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo shares work in documenting Indigenous fights to save the Earth

CLACS is thrilled to host Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo in sharing her selected collection with Indiana University and the surrounding community from January 25-March 1 at the Gayle Karch Cook Center in Maxwell Hall.

Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo gives a lecture on the Mura Indigenous community of Brazil. February 16, 2024. Photo by Emma Bonham

McNichols-Torroledo, a Colombian photographer and multimedia artist, has spent the last 13 years of her life documenting Indigenous communities in North and South America as they face monumental challenges imposed upon them by mega-projects and governmental decisions. In addition to photographing each community, Alexandra dedicates her time to standing alongside them in their fights for social justice and educating them in documentation methods that can be used to further aid their efforts.

Namely, Alexandra spent an extensive amount of time working with the Mura Indigenous community of the Brazilian Amazon, and remains in contact with them to date. While there, she documented the community’s cultural practices as well as the devastating scenes of deforestation which are quickly circling in on their ancestral lands. In an effort to help the Mura collect evidence of their struggle with illegal loggers and deforestation projects, she taught the community to use drones with cameras. Using these drones, the Mura have been able to capture images and videos of the areas they want to bring governmental and social attention to the most.

Handech Wakanã joins McNichols-Torroledo’s lecture on the Mura, alongside Marcela Lemos, who provided live translations between Portuguese and English. February 16, 2024. Photo by Emma Bonham

In her most recent lecture on February 16th, Alexandra was joined by Handech Wakanã, Indigenous Leader of the Mura, via Whatsapp video to share his message and plea for help with people outside his community. Wakanã traveled nearly 6 hours from the Itaparaná village to gain a strong enough WiFi signal for a video call to join the lecture. Following his talk, IU students and Bloomington community members were encouraged to ask Wakanã questions about his experience with Amazonian deforestation projects and what they could do to help.

McNichols-Torroledo thoughtfully uses her gallery exhibit to highlight other Indigenous groups (such as the Nasa of Colombia and the Lakota Sioux of Standing Rock) and asylum seekers who have immigrated to the United States as refugees from places around the world such as Ukraine, Iran, Palestine, Persia, and South Africa.

IU Students and Faculty view McNichols-Torroledo’s gallery exhibit following her opening lecture. January 25, 2024. Photo by Emma Bonham

McNichols-Torroledo features her time spent with the Nasa of Colombia through her ESX/COCA series, which focuses on the traditional usage and significance of the now-controversial coca plant. This series is “an ethno-educational photographic project that seeks to deconstruct colonial and postcolonial visual narrative of the coca plant through a series of portraits taken at the Wasak Kweswesx School in the Nasa indigenous reservation of Toribio, Cauca, Colombia,” says McNichols-Torroledo. “There, children are educated in the Yuwe language and in the rites of the coca plant. ESX, which means COCA in Yuwe, aims to educate the public on the sacred nature of the coca leaf and its uses through the experience of the school.” (Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo Biography)

Her Water Protectors series focuses on a similar Indigenous fight for recognition and a change of modern perspectives: the NoDAPL protests of Standing Rock Reservation. Throughout 2016-2017, Alexandra repeatedly traveled to Standing Rock in support of the protests and to lend her photography skills in documenting the historical event. These long-lasting protests, which fought against the Dakota Access Pipe Line which was proposed by lawmakers to cut through the Standing Rock Reservation of the Lakota Sioux, were a beacon for Indigenous water protectors from around the globe — many of whom traveled to the reservation to lend their voices to the uproar of grassroots protestors fighting for clean water and what it represents to Native communities. An underlying current throughout McNichols-Torroledo’s Water Protector series is the Lakota phrase Mni Wiconi, “water is life”, which was chanted by protestors of all backgrounds during the NoDAPL protests.

A view of the gallery exhibit in the Gayle Karch Cook Center. Pieces from the Water Protectors series (left) and ESX/COCA series (right) frame the gallery entrance. Photo by Emma Bonham

Alexandra’s Stone Faces series highlights another modern-day crisis faced by many: immigration & refuge. Using an interesting mix of photography and transfer processes, the artist brings stone steles to life with portraits of refugees and immigrants who have relocated to the United States with hope for a better future. According to McNichols-Torroledo, “they represent immigrants that have escaped political or religious repression, gender violence, racism, apartheid, antisemitism, fascism, and war. They symbolize current issues in Ukraine, Iran, Palestine, Korea, South Africa, Colombia, and in the past, the horrors of the Holocaust in World War II committed by the Nazis.” She goes on to explain, “as a Colombian woman who has personally experienced armed conflict in my own country, I created this body of artwork to express my solidarity with all women who have had to migrate to escape persecution and are living in exile, but that are still tied to their cultural roots. For this reason, many of these subjects are portrayed wearing clothing that is traditional to their country of origin. Together, these women are fighting to protect our rights and for world peace.” (Stone Faces)

On Friday, March 1st, McNichols-Torroledo will give her third and final lecture of her artist series at IU. She will be joined by refugees from Iran and Ukraine, both of whom are featured in her Stone Faces series. They will share their personal narratives of immigration and refuge and answer questions about their experiences before joining the group in a gallery walk to close the exhibit. More information available here.

McNichols-Torroledo’s work will be on display at the Gayle Karch Cook Center in Maxwell Hall until March 1st, 2024. Her collected works address issues of immigration, human rights, climate crisis, and the ongoing efforts of Indigenous communities in North and South America to protect the earth.

Alexandra and her vintage camera from the 1900s. Photo courtesy of Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo.

About the Artist
“I am a Colombian and American photographer. My work bridges the fields of artistic and documentary photography using a range of alternative photographic processes and digital photography.  Over time my focus has shifted from a personal exploration of my experiences as an immigrant in United States to global concerns of cultural diversity and human rights in my native country. Since 2011, I have been documenting indigenous people in South and North America, affected by mega-projects and violence that are imposed on their territories, changing their lives and cultural survival.” Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo

Alexandra’s work has been on display at various galleries around Bloomington, including the School of Education Library in October 2023. CLACS thanks IU Libraries and the School of Education for their generous sponsorship of the 2023 exhibit. CLACS would like to extend special thanks to the Arts and Humanities Council for making the current exhibit at the Gayle Karch Cook Center possible. We would also like to thank the Colombian Association at IU and La Casa/Latino Cultural Center for their continuous support of Alexandra’s events.

Faculty Travel: Mexico

In July, Micol Seigel (American Studies) attended the Tepoztlán Institute for the Transnational History of the Americas with a CLACS faculty travel grant.  This internationally-attended conference takes place annually in Morelos, Mexico, about an hour south of Mexico City.  About sixty participants hailing from Brazil to Canada spent a full week discussing pre-circulated papers and the year’s theme, “Fugitivity, Marronage, Abolition.”  The collective that organizes the Institute selects readings to guide discussion; this year featured work by Black feminists Angela Davis, Beatriz Nascimento, Sylvia Wynter and others.  The Institute functions in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and while most participants are bilingual and many are trilingual, translation is provided so that each participant may speak in the language most comfortable for them.  Childcare is provided, as is wonderful food at breakfasts and lunches cooked for everyone by two talented local families.  The Institute features a cabaret in which all attendees, including partners and children, participate, presenting skits, poems, songs, or other performance material, to the great amusement and often hilarity of the assembled throng.  Thanks to CLACS and the College of Arts and Sciences, IU Bloomington is an institutional member of the Tepoztlán Institute for 2023, 2024 and 2025, so IU faculty and advanced graduate students are encouraged to apply.  The theme for 2024 is “Indigeneities: Land, Labor, Desire”; the CFP will circulate in October and applications will be due in January.   

CLACS affiliate César Félix-Brasdefer (Dept. of Spanish & Portuguese) wins CAS 2023 James P. Holland Morley Award for Exemplary Teaching and Service

CLACS affiliate César Félix-Brasdefer (Dept. of Spanish & Portuguese) wins the College of Arts & Sciences’ 2023 James P. Holland Morley Award for Exemplary Teaching and Service, Tenure-Track Faculty
J. César Félix-Brasdefer joined the IU faculty in 2003, and during that time he has made his mark not only in our classrooms, but around the world. He is a worldwide leader in the teaching of pragmatics. His two websites on pragmatics and his publications on pragmatics and linguistics have become standard pedagogical resources around the world. The most oft-repeated adjective to describe his teaching used by his students, both graduate and undergraduate, is “passionate.” In all he does, he seems to not only care deeply about his subject, but about those he teaches. More than one student points to him as instrumental in shaping them not only as scholars and teachers, but as better human beings.

Challenging Perspectives: Balancing Environmental Concerns and Social Justice

Most of my life (and, I assume, others’) has consisted of long periods of regularity. Doing things like school or work at the same time every day for weeks with little tangible change. During these stretches, time moves fast, but life seems to move slow. People only change if the things around them are in flux, otherwise there is no need. That isn’t to say routine is bad, it just gets old sometimes.

It was only a few days ago, but I am sure that my first night in Costa Rica is something that will stick with me. I will remember sitting on a bus full of complete strangers, watching an unfamiliar land go by, and feeling completely at home. I will remember breathing in the hot, humid air as we walked through a dark jungle. I will remember walking into the bathroom and a gecko falling from the ceiling. Most of all I will remember the anticipation, lying in bed between restlessness and exhaustion failing to guess what the next few days and weeks would be like. I predicted fun, discovery, difficulties, learning, moments of joy, moments of sadness, and everything in between. So far, I have been right.

Luckily, between periods of stagnancy, there exist brief liminal spaces, which are always somehow more memorable. First days of school, moving out for the first time, a new job. They bring uncertainty, which is the foundation of personal growth.

Everyday has felt special and unique since I have arrived. Different meals every day, learning about my piers, studying Costa Rica’s conservational history, but mostly just experiencing the nature. Every step into the wilderness is full of discovery and joy. Seeing unfamiliar species of bird and insect and learning about them from extremely knowledgeable guides. It is amazing how quickly I feel like I made a connection to this place. Hearing the howler monkeys in the trees, seeing ants walk along side the paths. All the sounds and sights that started as unfamiliar are slowly becoming less so.

Personal growth, of course, being the ultimate human goal. Many define their goals externally, but really we all just want to be a certain type of person: maybe a smart person, a rich person, a good person.

The focus of this trip is sustainability and climate change. We have been learning about the science and politics behind the current state of climate change and what the future may hold. We have had a few lectures and readings but much of the education has been less formal. I’ve learned a lot from members of the community here at La Selva and the other places we have visited. So far we have visited an organic pineapple grower, and small scale banana and plantain farm. These visits have been a lot of fun and extremely informative (as well as delicious). Going from listening to lectures to walking through a farm is a remarkable and unique experience. Meeting people on the front lines of protecting natural resources while simultaneously providing for their communities was encouraging to me about the future of the world. However, I know that the other side exists as well. The people working in the Dole farm just across the road are people too, with their own beliefs and goals. I would love to learn about them and what they would think about everything we have learned.

The issue with creating a perfect world, is that each person has their own definition of good. What one person sees as feeding their family, a different person sees as destroying the earth and a heroic act to one, is criminal to another. Is helping the earth at the expense of the impoverished worth it? Are there ways to help everyone and the earth? If so, what is holding us back? I don’t think anybody knows the answers to these questions and I have no idea how someone would go about finding them.

I can’t help but think of what my own role is in and how I can align my actions with my beliefs regarding climate change. It is a problem of complexity, there is no right and wrong when things are on a global scale. Of course, my personal stance has changed over many years but this trip is giving me a change to reflect on that stance and revise it given knew information. My thought process is that for any solution I endorse, I must be willing to take on the negative consequences. Whether that is sacrificing my ambition to work on a farm or be one of the casualties in creating a better world. Is this a cause I would die for? If not, I can’t responsibly support a solution that would cause others to face these consequences.

So far this trip has satisfied my every expectation and the trip has barely begun. In the next weeks I am excited to learn even more about Costa Rica, the world, and the people around me. I don’t know if the answers to my question even exist, but if they do this experience will definitely guide me towards them.

Pura Vida!

Re-Post from Edwin Blog: See the Original at:

Winners of Photo Contests 2023

Exciting News! The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies has announced the winners of its highly anticipated photo contest. After a long and arduous judging process, the winners have finally been selected. The competition, which has become a long-standing tradition, recognizes the best photographs of Latin America and the Caribbean, showcasing the region’s beauty and culture.

We are thrilled to announce that the first prize goes to Kaitlin Scott for her outstanding photograph, “Mujer Como Torre.” The photograph captures the essence of Latin American and Caribbean culture, showcasing the strength and beauty of the women in the region. The photograph’s use of color and contrast is breathtaking, and it truly stands out as a unique representation of the region.

The second prize goes to Sam Arvin for his stunning photograph, “Punta Cana, The Dominican Republic.” The photograph captures the essence of the region, offering a local perspective instead of the typical tourist view. The photograph’s composition and use of light are exceptional, and it is evident that the photographer put a great deal of thought and care into capturing the perfect shot.

The judging process was rigorous, with multiple metrics used to ensure that the values of authenticity, connection with the current photos collection, and a local view were rewarded. The judges (Diego Barbosa-Vásquez – Head of the Jury, Gabriela Kolman, and Dora Ahearn-Wood) were impressed with the quality of the submissions, but ultimately, Kaitlin Scott and Sam Arvin’s photographs stood out as the clear winners.

The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies is proud to support and celebrate the region’s art and culture, and the photo contest is just one of the many ways in which they do so. We congratulate Kaitlin Scott and Sam Arvin on their well-deserved prizes, and we can’t wait to see what future artists and photographers will bring to the competition. Their work serves as a reminder of the richness and beauty of the Latin American and Caribbean region, and we are proud to be able to showcase it through this contest.

“Mujer Como Torre” by Kaitlin Scott

“Punta Cana, The Dominican Republic.” by Sam Arvin

CLACS 2023 Reception

Last Thursday, April 13th, the Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) department at Indiana University held its 2023 Reception. The event was filled with food, happiness, and friends as people from different areas of expertise and interests around IU gathered to share and celebrate Latin American and Caribbean topics.

The reception provided a great opportunity for individuals to come together and learn from each other’s experiences and knowledge. Whether it was discussing the history of a particular country or sharing stories about their travels to the region, the event created a space where everyone’s voices could be heard.

The Latin American and Caribbean Studies department at IU is dedicated to promoting interdisciplinary scholarship, teaching, and public engagement related to Latin America and the Caribbean. By hosting events like the CLACS Reception, they are able to bring together a diverse group of people to celebrate and learn about the region’s rich cultural heritage and history.

Overall, the 2023 Reception was a success and provided a glimpse into the vibrant and diverse community that CLACS has created at Indiana University. It is through events like this that we can learn from one another and continue to promote cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.


Faculty Travel: Costa Rica

Dr. Maurice Shirley, Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs in the IU School of Education, traveled to the cities of Tamarindo, San Jose, and San Ramon in Costa Rica during the Spring 2023 academic term to convene with scholars, administrators, and current students regarding the current state of higher education within Costa Rica. As part of a federally funded grant, Dr. Shirley is currently developing a study abroad opportunity for graduate students to explore the unique challenges and opportunities for Costa Rican higher education and collaborate with scholars and professionals to develop strategic solutions for the years to come. With support from CLACS, Dr. Shirley was able to broaden his capacity to explore multiple regions of the country to set a foundation for a robust international experience for IU students and scholars. In preparation for the study abroad trip planned for Spring 2024, Dr. Shirley stated, “I’m very excited and honored to be entrusted with planning and leading a study abroad trip for our students. This is an amazing opportunity to learn more about education within international contexts that will facilitate dynamic conversations between two countries that face similar challenges in their systems of higher education.”

 To learn more about the trip and the upcoming study abroad opportunity, you may contact Dr. Shirley at


CLACS at the HLS 2023 Day

On Saturday March 4th 2023, the Center of Latinamerican and Caribean Studies was pleased to share with prospective HLS students (both transfers and incoming freshmen).  We are sharing with the upcoming students and their parents our center programs, events, classes, languages, courses, and minors. Was an exciting experience to see many people interested in our region. Looking forward to see all of them soon at the center!

The event was organized by the Hamilton Lugar School of Global & International Studies