Ph.D. in Spanish, Stanford University
M.A. in Spanish, Arizona State University
B.S. in Psychology, Georgetown University
Biographical Information and Teaching Interests
Growing up in Puerto Rico in a bilingual-bicultural home has marked my academic trajectory in many ways, from my chosen field of study, Latin American literatures and cultures, to how I study these literatures and cultures comparatively, as part and parcel of global flows of ideas, values, and styles.
I teach a wide range of courses using a variety of approaches, yet regardless of the course, my goal in the classroom is to better understand ourselves and one other through the vicarious experiences afforded by the narratives we study.
My research focuses on Latin American cinema, and my contributions to the field include a book on Cuba's foremost film director (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea: The Dialectics of a Filmmaker. New York: Routledge, 2002), and the first comprehensive history of Latin American narrative cinema (Latin American Cinema: A Comparative History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016), which the Modern Language Association's Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize committee for an outstanding book in the field of Latin American and Spanish literatures and cultures recently honored as "a tour de force that explores the cultural, economic, and artistic evolution of Latin American cinema," and "a timely and excellent contribution to the field, demonstrating breadth and a deep knowledge of the medium’s social and cultural contexts."
I began to research Latin American cinema as a graduate student, and what has sustained my interest over the years is cinema’s unique ability to engage us emotionally and intellectually, and its versatility as a tool to better understand a region as culturally and geographically diverse as Latin America.
I am now in the beginning stages of two new research projects. One is a history of documentary cinema in Latin America to complement my book on narrative film in the region. The other is an exploration of the Baroque roots of Latin American culture, and more specifically, the emergence in the eighteenth century of an alternative, non-Eurocentric discourse of modernity that combines Baroque ideals of reciprocity and faith with Enlightenment ideals of individual freedom and scientific knowledge, all in highly original ways. For this project I am focusing on the work of three artists: the Mexican criollo poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the Afro-Brazilian architect and sculptor Aleijadinho, and the Quechua architect José Kondori. What attracts me to these artists is their extraordinary achievements, to be sure, but also the many parallels that exist between their work and our best aspirations today for a diverse, inclusive, and egalitarian society.