Academic Credentials: Ph.D. Florida International University (2011); B.A. New York University (2004)
What do you study? I mostly do modern U.S. and Latin American history with a focus on Caribbean-U.S. relations. My manuscript is a history of queer Miami from 1940 to 1990, and I look at how immigrant communities in the U.S. altered same-sex politics both in the U.S. and in their home countries with a focus on Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua. But I’m interested in ideas of how gender and sexuality intersect with categories of ethnicity and race. A big component of this is looking at migration patterns and immigration laws, and looking at that relationship, the sort of dynamics that occur when these different categories coalesce. I think too often that the gay movement and gender movements in-general have been very focused on looking at a white community and I want to look at ideas of intersectionality.
What drew you to that work? Part of it is my personal background. I come from a Cuban-American family. I’ve been fortunate growing up in Miami to have this conglomeration of different ethnic groups, so I’ve always been personally attached not just to Cuba, but also to Haiti and Venezuela and Nicaragua and Colombia. But also before I entered graduate school, I worked as a broadcast journalist and I became interested in looking at how some of these contemporary issues (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, for example) have been painted in whitewashed ways that are only just part of the story. Too often, I think that these other stories aren’t told, need to be told, and need to be put in a historical context.
When you were a kid and you thought about what you were going to be when you grew up, what did you say? I would have said a marine biologist. I have this sort-of embarrassing, well not so embarrassing anymore, fascination with manatees. I used to go down the west coast of Florida handing out pamphlets to boaters hoping that they would observe the wake zones.
What changed? Initially, I was drawn to journalism, but I felt that so many of these stories we had to write were detached from the historical context. It’s very hard to write about these issues without that context. So that’s really what drew me to go to graduate school and get a better understanding for myself.
What made you accept the position here? I was drawn to UMass from the very start. I’m really attracted to the idea of working both in the history department and Commonwealth Honors College, but the idea of having a lot of student attention is something that really appeals to me. I like that Honors students have the opportunity to have such independent research and really excel in their own interests, and hopefully challenge some of their own beliefs and perspectives. But I really enjoy the interdisciplinarity of it all and the opportunities it will provide.