By Kelisha Abad
Violence, memory and history. That was the theme of the first ever Latin American and Iberian Studies graduate student conference, held this spring at UC Santa Barbara.
The conference gathered 24 graduate students from universities both in the United States and Europe. Each graduate student presented the topics they discussed in their thesis statements.
“One of the things that we get from these papers, is not only the importance of the issue but also the relationship between colonial and neo-colonialism,” said panelist France Winddance Twine, a sociology professor at UC Santa Barbara.
UCSB graduate students Ana Caroline Moreno and Allen Magaña were highlighted during the final discussion session, along with Cal State Los Angeles graduate student Raquel Rojas. Their panel’s theme was femicide and violence against those in LGBTQ communities.
The three speakers talked about femicide, murder and other discriminatory acts against women, and members of the LGBTQ community in both the United States and Latin countries such as Mexico and Brazil.
“Women are being murdered simply because they are women,” said Rojas, a graduate student in the Art Department at Cal State Los Angeles.
Rojas focused on different ways that artists create protest art in Mexico in her thesis paper titled “The Art of Femicide.”
“The activism that comes out of [femicide] usually has silence as a form of protest,” said Rojas. “Women go out into the streets and close their mouth, they tape their mouth or they use their bodies in protest.”
She said the words “silent,” “epidemic” and “pandemic” are often used in news articles regarding femicide, which reinforces the idea that there is a loss of control and that this violence should not be talked about in the public sphere.
Violence against women in Latin countries was featured in Moreno’s research for her thesis paper titled “Female Political Prominence in a Male Dominant Society—Resistance x Violent Conservatism in Brazil.” In it, Moreno focused on the deaths of four female activist leadership figures in Brazil.
Gender-based violence in the political realm was a main theme of Moreno’s research. She explored mental or physical violence that deters women from running for political office. These crimes are often committed by men who are intimidated by these powerful women.
The death—or killing—of Brazilian politician, feminist and human rights activist, Marielle Franco on March 14, 2018 inspired Moreno to research the deaths of female political figures in Brazil.
“It just hit me,” said Moreno. “There are patterns of violence against women involved in politics that are bothering the system. They happen to die—happen to be killed—in similar circumstances.”
Moreno went into detail on the deaths of Zuzu Angel, Dorothy Stang, Patricia Acioli and Marielle Franco. Each of these women were women’s rights activists. Three of these women—Angel, Acioli and Franco—were killed in their cars, either by “accident” or ambush. Moreno posited that these women were targeted for being different in their societies.
Allen Magaña took a bit of a different angle on the issue of violence against women by looking at the issue through eyes of the LGBTQ community in his thesis paper titled “Consuming the Other, Becoming the Self.”
In Portugal, Brazilian migrants are often discriminated against, he said. That includes being denied housing because the landlords feared such migrants would partake in sex work.
But transgender men and women in Portugal are discriminated against even more than Brazilian migrants are, he said.
“Trans women would end up being thrown out of their homes and cut off from their families,” said Magaña. “While trans men would be taken to doctors.”
In order to survive after being exiled from their families, trans women often have to turn to sex work Magaña explained. These women are typically associated with Brazilian sex workers.
After their presentations, the audience was encouraged to raise questions or to engage in a discussion with the graduate students.
There was an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience. “Thank you for bringing these issues to the conference,” said one attendee. “I found all of your presentations incredibly interesting.”
The three graduate students said they hope their work in their discipline will to help shed light on the injustices that women and members of the LGBT community are facing not only in Latin countries, but all over the world.
Kelisha Abad is a third-year UC Santa Barbara student, majoring in English.