Suyapa G. Portillo Villeda

Suyapa G. Portillo Villeda

Chicano/Latino/Transnational Studies; Pitzer College, United States


I am honored to be nominated to serve on the executive committee of LASA. Trained as a historian with a specialization in Latin America and Central America, I now teach in Chicana (o) Latina (o) and Transnational studies because I have found this field to be a wonderful space to be an interdisciplinary thinker and researcher. In my research, writing and teaching, often as a participant observer, I emphasize social responsibility in theory and praxis as an important value. I engage actively with the world beyond the academy as I theorize, write and teach, and I am as committed my efforts in the field, which I see as an important site of creation, as I am to my related intellectual work. I hope to position my work as a form of resistance to the traditional forms of scholarship that have often kept so many working-class queer people of color, and Central American scholars in general, locked out of the academy.

LASA is a vibrant organization with an immense diversity and capacity to engage and thrive by engaging the communities across the Americas. It is at LASA congresses where I have met and worked with most of my mentors, collaborators, co-authors and fellow concerned citizens who have organized conferences, speaking engagements, and even delegations to address conditions in Central America. LASA is also the intellectual space I go to when I want to make sense of what is happening in Latin America. It is a place where we come to think, confer, dialog and engage.

Working as a member of the executive committee, I would like to foster initiatives that bring our scholarship closer the communities most in danger of displacement, invisibility and destruction in the age of Trump. By looking at the intersections and interdisciplinary efforts across the Americas and connecting them to each other, we can begin to generate a true dialog among Latin American scholars and US scholars of Latin America. I believe we have a great opportunity and responsibility generate these truly and deeply transnational, and transformational, spaces and platforms, both in the LASA congress and throughout the year. I am eager to see our journals and the LASA Forum become the leading site to publish unexpected and under-nurtured voices: Transgender scholars and organizers working on current debates across the Americas, or Central American scholars in the US and Central America to challenge binary, and US-centric scholarship. I would like to see LASA engage throughout the year in supporting smaller events in often ignored regions of Central America on topics of indigenous and Afrodescendant rights. I would like to foster platforms that stimulate our membership to consider grassroots researchers, South-North dialogues, and decentering congresses from US cities.

The Central American Studies cohort of my generation, and the builders of the field of study of Central American studies, are precisely those of us displaced by the heavy hand of US foreign policy on our nations and our families in the 1980s. The Northern triangle remains mired in violence and widespread trauma due to unprocessed historical memory, extreme neoliberal policies, corrupt governments, extractive industries that displace the most marginalized communities--all challenges rooted in the history that Central American Studies has helped to excavate. I am a proud contributor in the emerging field of Central American Studies, and even more proud to have the chance to promote through my scholarship an inclusive and intersectional frame, as well as to occupy an interstitial space straddling both area studies (Latin American History and Studies) and ethnic studies (Chicano/a, Latino/a, Central Americans in the U.S.).  I hope to bring this approach and perspective to the table as an executive council member, to encourage LASA to explore uncharted territory in Latin American Studies.  I think LASA can lead with new ideas and initiatives, like providing greater mentorship and access to resources for Latin American Doctoral and Master students, particularly those in Central America, by providing opportunities to forge interdisciplinary partnerships among scholars, scholars and organizers, LASA and universities which lack resources in developing nations, we can generate much needed mentorship and opportunities to even out the platform for dialogue.