Tropical Tongues: Language Ideologies, Endangerment, and Minority Languages in Belize

The Institute for the Study of the Americas is pleased to announce the inaugural publication of  its “Studies in Latin America” series: Tropical Tongues: Language Ideologies, Endangerment, and Minority Languages in Belize by Jennifer Carolina Gómez Menjívar and William Noel Salmon.  Tropical Tongues examines the precarious state of languages in coastal Belize in the years  following independence in 1981, offering new perspectives on language shifts and loss as a result of large-scale politico-economic restructuring.  More information on Tropical Tongues see:

Studies in Latin America is an initiative in open access publishing from the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (ISA), UNC Press, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library. This series will feature short works, approximately 20,000 to 35,000 words in length, published by ISA. A paperback edition of each work will be distributed by UNC Press and open access digital editions will be hosted by the library.

Studies in Latin America promotes new scholarship on Latin America and the Caribbean focusing on the social sciences-principally anthropology, geography, history, political science, and sociology-and featuring diverse methodological approaches and perspectives on vital issues concerning Latin America and the Caribbean, past and present. Studies in Latin America welcomes English-language manuscripts by senior scholars as well as by junior scholars. Submissions undergo a formal peer-review process as part of the publication decision. The Institute for the Study of the Americas and UNC Press anticipate a wide distribution of the scholarship included in Studies in Latin America by taking advantage of the digital publishing environment.

For more information and inquiries about submissions please visit the series page:

InHerit Awarded National Geographic Society Grant for Yucatec Cenotes Heritage and Conservation Project

InHerit and the Research Labs of Archaeology at UNC are excited to be partnering with the National Geographic Society who has awarded InHerit a grant for the Cultural Heritage, Ecology, and Conservation of Yucatec Cenotes. Cenotes are natural sinkholes formed when the porous limestone bedrock of the Yucatan Peninsula collapses, exposing the vast underground river system beneath and creating unique cavern-like habitats with deep, fresh water pools. Among the most distinctive and beautiful geological and cultural landscape features of the Maya world, these natural wells are of fundamental importance in the cultural and natural history of the region. Cenotes serves as the primary source of cool, fresh water for Maya communities well into the 20th century and as sacred pilgrimage sites for centuries. Today many cenotes are also important recreational sites that contribute to the tourist economy.

Through this initiative, InHerit will collaborate with students and faculty from the Universidad de Oriente in Valladolid, Mexico and secondary school teachers in Yucatec communities in proximity to cenotes. The goal is to develop innovative, sustainable, and interactive educational programs and community activities that explore the geomorphology, oral history, cultural and archaeological heritage of cenotes. Education is key to enhancing the already considerable cultural appreciation of cenotes and in developing strategies for effective conservation of the integrated system of sinkholes that make up Yucatan’s vulnerable, but critical subterranean aquifer. By working together with college students, teachers, and younger students in Yucatán, our objective is to develop a generation of highly knowledgeable cultural stewards who will advocate on behalf of the responsible and sustainable use of cenotes, conservation of their ecosystem, and promotion of continued education and research at the local level. As this program develops, we hope to include Chapel Hill undergraduate and graduate students to emphasize the transglobal importance of environmental sustainability and heritage initiatives.

ISA faculty member Bruno Estigarribia awarded NEH grant

Bruno Estigarribia

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced the awarding of $12.8 million to support 253 humanities projects across the nation.

ISA faculty member Bruno Estigarribia was the recipient of one of these grants for his project, “A Sociolinguistic Study of Guarani, the Indigenous Language of Paraguay.” The project is a book-length study of Paraguayan Guarani, the only indigenous language in the western hemisphere to be spoken by a majority of the nonindigenous population.

For a full list of winners, click here.

Congratulations, Bruno!


Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at:

11th Annual ISA Faculty Dinner

We would like to thank the students, faculty and staff who attended the Dec. 7, 2017 11th Annual Institute for the Study of the Americas Faculty Dinner. We were pleased to see everyone and celebrate the recipients of the 2017 Sharon S. Mújica Community Service Award and Shelley Clarke Award for Exemplary Service.

Emilio Vicente

Emilio Vicente received the 2017 Sharon S. Mújica Community Service Award, an award given annually to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to Latin American and Latino communities in North Carolina. Vicente is the Program Manager for Leadership and Civic Engagement with the Hispanic Liason/El Vínculo Hispano. As part of Siler City Building Integrated Communities, Vicente has been a key stakeholder to support Siler City’s immigrant and Hispanic residents.

Past recipients of the Sharon S. Mújica award include Rev. Erika Martínez Flores, Blanca Zendejas Neinhaus, Jerry Markatos, Florence Simán, Ilana Dubester, Cassandra Daniels and Alvena Heggins, Jane Stein, Gail Phares and Sarah Plastino.

Jessica White

Jessica White received the Shelley Clarke Award for Exemplary Service. White’s leadership as the Building Integrated Communities Research and Program Manager has been integral to the success of Building Integrated Communities, which includes receiving the keys to the City of Sanford and ensuring all publication materials be in both Spanish and English. The past recipient of the Shelley Clarke Award for Exemplary Service includes Dr. Hannah Gill.

We would also like to thank Prof. Juan Alamo, Department of Music, for his marimba performance and talk on the history of the instrument. It was such a pleasure and hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did!














As part of Sanford Building Integrated Communities,  helped lead the Planning Committee to support Lee County’s immigrant and Hispanic residents. After analyzing the data of over 300 immigrant and Hispanic county residents, the Planning Committee worked to streamline strategies that would advance communication, improve public transportation, and support Hispanic leadership and engagement in local government into a single, comprehensive plan. This action plan was unanimously endorsed by the City of Sanford City Council and the Lee County Board of Commissioners.



Building Integrated Communities (BIC) is a statewide initiative that helps North Carolina local governments successfully engage with immigrants and refugee populations in order to improve public safety, promote economic development, enhance communication, and improve relationships. As a result of working with BIC, local governments and diverse community stakeholders have the tools to generate locally-relevant strategies to strengthen immigrant civic engagement, linguistic achievement, and economic/educational advancement.

The program is supported by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Title VI International Research and Studies Grant Funded

Rita O’Sullivan, Associate Professor or Evaluation and Assessment, and Ph.D. students Fabiola Salas Villalobos and Wenyang Sun in collaboration with the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools were successful in competing for one of eight Title VI International Research and Studies (IRS) Program Grants from the U.S. Department of Education. The three-year project, funded for $250,000, is entitled “Investigation of How Teachers’ Use of Bridging in Dual Language Immersion Programs (Mandarin/English and Spanish/English) Can Help Strengthen Student Literacy in Grades 3-5.” It is designed to explore improved instructional practices for teachers in Spanish/English and Mandarin/English Dual Language immersion programs.

“Maestra” film screening

On Thursday, September 28, faculty, graduate students, educators and community members gathered in Wilson Library’s Pleasants Family Assembly Room for a screening of the 2011 documentary Maestra.  The film, which explores the 1961 Cuban literacy campaign through the testimonies of some of its youngest female teachers, was followed by a discussion with ISA director Lou Pérez, filmmaker Catherine Murphy, and Griselda Aguilera, a participant who was 7 when she volunteered to teach. Her story, alongside the accounts of the women included in the film, highlighted the courage, dedication, strength and ingenuity of the tens of thousands of teenage women who gave a year of their lives to the campaign that would enable over 700,000 Cubans to read.

Maestra is now available through the Latin American Film Library.  If you are interested in checking it out, please email

UNC receives grant to examine human health cost of economic development in Galápagos

See the original post here. 

Interview with Kia Caldwell, “Health Equity in Brazil: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Policy”

We are pleased to share the following interview with ISA faculty member Kia Caldwell. 

Erica L. Williams, an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Spelman College, interviews Kia Lilly Caldwell about her new book, “Health Equity in Brazil: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Policy,” recently published by the University of Illinois Press. Kia Lilly Caldwell is Associate Professor in the Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned her PhD in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. Her first book, “Negras in Brazil: Re-Envisioning Black Women, Citizenship,” and the “Politics of Identity in Brazil,” was published by Rutgers University Press in 2007. She is also the co-editor of “Gendered Citizenships: Transnational Perspectives on Knowledge Production, Political Activism, and Culture,” which was published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2009. Follow her on Twitter @KiaLCaldwell.

Click to read it now.

Spotlight: Discovery Through Iterative Learning Postdoctoral Fellow Alex Ripp

The Institute for the Study of the Americas (ISA) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge of the Latin American experience in the Western Hemisphere. We were pleased to sit down with DisTIL (Discovery Through Iterative Learning) postdoctoral fellow at Carolina Performing Arts Alex Ripp and learn more about her position, past accomplishments, and what she is looking forward to while at UNC Chapel Hill.

Q: Alex, thank you so much for joining us. Please first tell us about yourself.

“I have been involved in theater since I was a kid, and since living in Costa Rica for five months at age 18, I’ve merged my interests in Latin America and theater both practically and academically.” -Alex Ripp

A: I’m from New Jersey, and although I have in lived Costa Rica, Argentina, and Thailand, I have never lived anywhere in the U.S. but the Northeast — so my move to UNC is a new adventure. I have been involved in theater since I was a kid, and since living in Costa Rica for five months at age 18, I’ve merged my interests in Latin America and theater both practically and academically. In May 2017, I graduated from Yale School of Drama with my Doctorate in Fine Arts, where I wrote my dissertation on Chilean theater between 1998 and 2010 and its connection to post-dictatorship memory politics. I’ve also translated several Chilean plays for U.S. tour subtitles and recently published one.I hope to keep traveling to Chile so that I can continue to write about and translate work from there. I’m deeply interested in the country’s social and political history, and hope to share with U.S. audiences the exciting performing arts work I see going on in Santiago.

I also do non-academic work in the arts. As an MFA student at Yale I worked on theater productions with actors, directors, and designers. I also worked as a producer and programmer of public talks and panels at New Haven’s annual International Festival of Arts and Ideas. This has led me to a growing interest in the public humanities, and specifically how artists, universities, and community members can collaborate. I’m really interested to learn more about the local art scene in NC, both visual and performing.

Q: That sounds fascinating! Tell us about your role at UNC and previous work.

A: I’m the DisTIL postdoctoral fellow at Carolina Performing Arts, which means my primary task is to oversee the DisTIL Fellowship funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Artist Fellows come to campus for multiple semesters to collaborate with faculty in departments outside their own expertise. The Fellowship’s length allows for these artistic-academic collaborations to develop organically, so that artists and faculty members will learn from one another. No endproduct need result; the intention is bidirectional transformation across the arts and academy. So far, there are two Fellows, singer-songwriter-composer Toshi Reagon and artist-director-puppet maker Robin Frohardt; both will visit UNC. Two more Fellows will be announced later on. I’m also teaching a course in the spring that will integrate the work of the Fellows in some way.

This Fellowship, which builds on CPA’s previous Arts at the Core grant, is incredibly innovative, and I’m thrilled to be part of it. The arts and academy (including non-arts subjects) have much to give one another, but the bridges are not often easy to create. They take time, patience, and resources, and DisTIL allows for this. It’s exciting to think that these fellowships can palpably alter certain artists’ and academics’ process and output. I hope that this will spur other universities to start similar initiatives. Since I am a translator, I consider my role in part to translate between these two worlds and to negotiate their inevitable differences in productive ways.

Q: Wow, that is exciting to think about. What are you most looking forward to in your current role?

A: I’m excited that this work is breaking new ground. An uncharted course can be scary but it’s also exhilarating. I’m also just excited to be around artists and scholars with so much talent, vision, and guts. I feel lucky to learn from them and to help them create. I’m also really looking forward to teaching! It’s been a while since I’ve been in the classroom. I’m particularly excited because it will be a service learning course – I’ve never considered art separate from society and I’m really eager to show students how they intersect. It will also be great for me to get to know the community more.

Q: We really enjoy service learning courses and think you will too! Anything else that would be fun to know? 

A: I’ve set out on a mission to sample as many tacos in the Chapel Hill-Durham area as possible – recommendations welcome! I’m also looking forward to finding hikes in NC and celebrating the fact that I will not have to bear Northeastern winters by being outside as much as possible.

This is a great time of year to be outside! Alex, thank you so much for joining us. We look forward to the great work you will do!

Latin American in Translation Series: They Should Stay Here


In conjunction with the release of  They Should Stay There: The Story of Mexican Migration and Repatriation during the Great Depression by Fernando Saúl Alanís Enciso (UNC Press, 2017), the UNC-Duke Consortium in Latin American & Caribbean studies is announcing the 2017 Call For Proposals for the Latin American Literature in Translation Series.

The book, first printed in Mexico in Spanish in 2007, is an excellent example of the Translation Series project to translate and publish in English outstanding books in a wide range of fields by important Latin American writers and scholars.

The book explores when the Great Depression took hold and the United States stepped up its enforcement of immigration laws and forced more than 350,000 Mexicans, including their U.S.-born children, to return to their home country. While the Mexican government was fearful of the resulting economic implications, President Lázaro Cárdenas fostered the repatriation effort for mostly symbolic reasons relating to domestic politics. In clarifying the repatriation episode through the larger history of Mexican domestic and foreign policy, Alanís connects the dots between the aftermath of the Mexican revolution and the relentless political tumult surrounding today’s borderlands immigration issues.

The deadline for 2017 submissions is October 20, 2017. Please see website for guidelines and instructions on how to submit:

The Latin America in Translation Series is a joint initiative of the UNC and Duke Consortium, Duke University Press (DUP), and the University of North Carolina Press (UNCP) and is directed by an editorial committee of faculty members and editors from the three sponsoring institutions. Since 1993, more than 40 books have been published in the series with more forthcoming regularly.