Undergraduate Research in Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies

Pomona is a community of daring minds. It is a place for students who are venturesome by choice, who have talent, passion, and independence of spirit, and who are prepared to dream big and work hard in order to make a difference in the world.

One way that Pomona College provides opportunities for students to excel is through research opportunities. Conducting research as an undergraduate not only gives students an advantage when applying for fellowships or graduate school; it also gives them a chance to tackle real-world problems and to find out what it’s like to be treated as colleagues by their professors, many of whom are the leading experts in their fields.


Debunking Myths: Ambos Nogales and a Border Crisis

Rene J. Valenzuela ’20; Advisor: Miguel Tinker Salas

This research challenges the alleged border crisis and complicates the duality of experiences of Ambos Nogales from the 1980’s to today. Ambos Nogales, a term fabricated by Mexican and U.S. business and political interests to foment trade and interaction, has been used to describe the interaction between Nogales, Sonora, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona, U.S.A since their founding in the 1880’s. This approach stands in sharp contrast to the fictional state of emergency that the current presidential administration has propagated about the border. Contemporary media outlets that speak on this region corroborate this supposed “warzone,” with much content focusing on the lurid issues of violence and crime. As a result, millions of border residents find that their home is commonly portrayed as a crime-infested territory. Employing a hybrid approach that includes traditional archival work, oral histories, and ethnographic methods, this project challenges this narrative, disentangles the myth of “Ambos” in Ambos Nogales, and looks at the border as an international instrument of institutional violence. This research confirms the distinctness between Ambos Nogales, as no other pair of border communities share the same level of dependency and polarity. Future endeavors of this investigation will identify how both cities have grown together, all while simultaneously growing further apart. Emphasis will be given to how globalization became (in)visible in all facets of the borderland.

Latinx Activism and the Struggle for Sanctuary

Carol Ambriz ’21 and Alejandra Valencia Medina ‘21; Advisor: Gilda Ochoa

After the 2016 presidential election, residents of La Puente in Southern California pushed for sanctuary in the city and in the Hacienda-La Puente school district. The effort was meant to offer support for the undocumented community as well as others threatened by the political climate. The residents’ efforts towards sanctuary were documented in more than 30 interviews that the research team transcribed. While transcribing, questions arose regarding Latinx activism and sanctuary including: What sustains people during their activist work? What does sanctuary mean in the community? What does belonging mean and how is it established? To begin exploring some of these questions, Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and bell hooks’ All About Love were essential in understanding possible motives for why community members engage in activism. Their reasons for engaging varied, but they were often tied to their priorities regarding community, resistance, and a concern for the nation’s political state. Freire and hooks’ texts then root these concerns in the feeling of love. This feeling of love was expressed through the sharing of memories about their experience of the movement, challenging structural concepts of what activism and belonging means outside of institutional structures. Through means like cultural citizenship, members of La Puente emphasized sharing narratives and carving out spaces physically, vocally, and culturally.

Central American Undocumented/DACAmented Students in Higher Education

Sara G. Reyes Noriega ’21; Advisor: Arely Zimmerman

Existing literature on the experiences of undocumented/ DACAmented students in higher education focuses on Latinx students. Undocumented students have a host of shared experiences, but different ethno-racial groups experience being undocumented in fundamentally different ways, and these differences are hardly acknowledged. Central Americans have been steadfastly migrating to the United States for over four decades, after civil wars forced many to flee. Through an expansive literature review, we looked at the different reasons for migration particular to Central Americans. These range from push to pull factors, such as higher homicide rates in home countries and more economic opportunities abroad. With the Trump administration announcing the end to Temporary Protected Status for national origin groups from El Salvador and Honduras, an estimated quarter of a million people stand to lose their status and be eligible for deportation, further affecting current experiences in the United States. These factors have shaped Central Americans’ experiences in the U.S., and despite their large presence, their experiences in higher education remain unaccounted for. In considering reasons for migration, existing literature on undocumented students in higher education and Central Americans in the U.S., and the current political climate, we have created an interview protocol particular to the undocumented, Central American, and student population get to the bottom of our questions.

Litigating a Life: Holistic Defense for Immigrants in Removal Proceedings

Grace Campos ’22; Advisor: Gilda Ochoa

It is often said that immigration court is death penalty cases litigated in a traffic court setting. The process is dehumanizing from the first hearing— detained immigrants are not brought to court, but instead displayed on a grainy monitor via video-conference.

Through applying the holistic defense model to deportation defense, The Bronx Defenders (BxD) has radically changed the power dynamic in the courtroom. Rather than face the State alone, the individual is given a team of advocates comprised of social workers, immigration civil legal advocates, and attorneys. Unlike criminal defense lawyers, who are tasked with arguing the facts of an isolated incident, immigration advocates are expected to defend a person’s entire life both within and outside of the United States— rendering a holistic approach to immigration defense especially important. Given the recent surge in immigrants facing deportation, I argue the urgency to expand the holistic immigration defense model to a national level. However, such an expansion would limit access to resources and makes referrals to other practice areas nearly impossible— a shortcoming that can be seen within BxD’s detained immigrant defense practice (NYIFUP), the only area of the organization that has funding to defend clients outside of The Bronx. To come to my conclusions, I drew upon field notes from client meetings, interviews of six advocates, and observations from hearings and community intake at the Varick Street immigration court

Latinos in the Vietnam War and Latinos in the Salinas Valley

Isabel Garcia (2014); Mentor(s): Tomas Summers Sandoval

Abstract: Historically, there exists a debate around the Vietnam War and the initiation of the selective service, and/or the military mandatory draft. These arguments arise from the large enlistment of minority populations into military service during the time of war. This research seeks to demonstrate the significant impact of the Latino population on the war and the impact of the war on the Latino community. More often than not the participation of Latinos is widely invisible and unknown because of the lack of significant statistical data on military participation. This research focuses on the participation of Spanish Surname (SSN) individuals in the Vietnam War. Using the 1970 U.S. Census and the U.S. Military Records of Vietnam Causalities, we calculated and analyzed the Spanish Surname (SSN) Vietnam Casualties. The focus is on the five Southwestern states, which include California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. We found that Latinos were overrepresented in their share of the deaths from the Vietnam War, when compared to their share of the total populations of those states. The data supports the work of others, but compliments it because it derives these results using official casualty data and a more expansive Spanish Surname list.
Funding Provided by: Henry Crown and Company - Crown Family Foundation