Interests: Latin America, peasantry, migrations, social movements, human rights, political conflict.
I was born in rural southern Chile. My training in anthropology and my Latin American roots have shaped much of my framework and have aided my research in gaining trust and in understanding rural communities.
I began my teaching career at Wayne State University in Detroit, a very fortunate and different setting for me: urban, industrial, and a student-body primarily composed of African-Americans and Vietnam war veterans. My second teaching position, at Wellesley College, was fundamentally different from my first and one of my most rewarding teacher-student experiences. From there I came to Berkeleyan exciting place I had heard so much about in distant Chile that I had to visit it as a tourist because of the campus's extraordinary history.
The focus of my research has been Mayan communities in Guatemala. My book Refugees of a Hidden War: the Aftermath of Counterinsurgency in Guatemala examined the displacement and human rights abuses committed by the military against indigenous rural communities. My latest book, Paradise in Ashes: A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror and Hope (University of California Press 2004) details the experiences of a village deep in the northern rainforest of Guatemala next to Mexicos Chiapas Lacandón region. (http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/10121.html)
This village, settled in the early 1970s was destroyed by the military in 1982. A grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation allowed me to take a year off to write the book. My research interests have broadened to examine issues of memory, grief, and trust. The increasing numbers of Guatemalan undocumented immigrants to the United States induced me to explore cross-border issues and to develop an undergraduate course called The Southern Border. Together with graduate students, we published a report on undocumented Guatemalans residing in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Given my concerns for human rights and justice, I have been involved with several international, governmental and non-governmental institutions, such as the UNHCR, UNDP, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Oxfam. I have testified before the U.S. Congress and have written opinion pieces for the New York Times and other newspapers. I am also involved in California court asylum cases and in advising Immigration and Naturalization Service agents.
I was the Chair of Berkeley's Center for Latin American Studies from 1993-1998, where I remain active. I have organized several colloquium, among them "Environment, Political Ecology and Development," and most recently, "Memory, Conflict and Transitions."
Recent publications include:
Paradise In Ashes: A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror, and Hope. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.
"Reflections on Remembrance: Voices of an Ixcán village," In What Justice? Whose Justice? Fighting for Fairness in Latin America. Susan Eckstein and Timothy Wickham-Crowley, editors. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
"Mexicanization: A Survival Strategy for Guatemalan Mayans in the San Francisco Bay Area," with Xochitl Castañeda and Allison Davenport. Migraciones Internacionales, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Tijuana, Baja California. Vol 1, Number 3, July-December, 2002.
"Terror, Grief, and Recovery: Genocidal Trauma In a Mayan Village in Guatemala," In, Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide, Alex Hinton, Editor. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.
"Gendered Work: Female Labour in Pipfruit Production in New Zealand and Chile," (with Paul Spoonley). New Zealand Geographer, Vol. 57, 1, 2001.
Guatemalan Immigration to the Bay Area, (with Xochitl Castañeda, Allison Davenport, Ingrid Perry-Houts, Cecile Mazzacurati) Berkeley: Center for Latino Policy Research, 2000.
"La Importancia del Contexto en la Memoria" in De la Memoria a la Construcción Histórica. Beatriz Manz, Elizabeth Oglesby, José Gracía Noval, Guatemala: Asociación para el Avance de las Ciencias Sociales, (AVANCSO): vol. 3, 1-22. 1999.
"The United Nation's Peace-Building in Guatemala," (with Amy Ross) Peace Review Vol. 8, Number 4 , 1996.