By Peggy McInerny
UCLA International Institute, May 16, 2013 — It’s not every day that an event spans topics from the sex trade in Costa Rica to Chinese investment in Bolivia and Chile to a successful freedman merchant in 17th-century Mexico, but the annual Faucett Fellowship Student Panel and luncheon is nothing if not unexpected.
For over ten years, the Faucett Catalyst Fund has provided competitive grants to UCLA graduate students to travel to Latin America in the summer to conduct doctoral or preliminary doctoral research. The Fund is administered by the UCLA Latin American Institute (LAI) and supports between eight and nine scholars a year.
LAI Director Kevin Terraciano, a professor of history at UCLA, began by remarking, “This annual luncheon is one of my favorite events of the year because we hear from our students.” Terraciano was not alone in his enthusiasm, Faucett Catalyst Fund director Russell Faucett comes to UCLA every year to learn about scholarship students’ research, noting that he learns something new every time.
At this year’s panel, six Faucett Scholars spoke about their recent research in such diverse fields as political science, history, ecology, and urban planning.
Mzilikazi Kone, a Ph.D. student in political science, presented research on La Sala, an association of sex workers in Costa Rica established 18 years ago that has only recently become managed by the sex workers themselves.
Originally formed to promote HIV protection, La Sala soon expanded its scope of work to focus on empowering sex workers by educating them about their civil and political rights. State organizations have been able to work with it to provide its members occasional optometry, HIV testing and health services. The association is now trying to expand and form additional chapters in Costa Rica, but faces funding challenges.
Tom Narins, a Ph.D. student in geography, looked at China’s investments in Bolivia and Chile.
Narins found that in both countries, foreign direct investment by China is negligible. Nor has it been successful in making investments in raw materials extraction in either country. In Bolivia, it has extended a loan to the government to purchase a state communications satellite from China and has made certain high-profile investments in other cities. In Chile, it is more a customer of than an investor in the country’s copper mines, and its trade with Chile lags behind that of the European Union, the United States, and the Brazil.
Narins concluded that at present, China is most active in helping its companies find additional markets in Latin America, especially in Bolivia, where small enterpreneurs are actively seeking a market for their goods in China, as well as to resell Chinese goods at home.
Noted Narins, “I am now able to separate the real impacts of China’s economic expansion into Latin America versus those impacts which are exaggerated or still unknown. The Faucett Catalyst scholarship has given my graduate school experience the real-world connectivity that I hope to incorporate into my career moving forward.”
Angela Yu, a Ph.D. student in political science, conducted six months of fieldwork in São Paulo, Brazil, to investigate how ethnic identity in third-generation Brazilians affects their voting patterns. Yu concentrated on female Brazilians of Japanese and Jewish origin because in the sociological literature, women are considered the family members who transmit culture.
Yu found that ethnic voting remained strong among both groups of women. However, they differed in their support for a recent law that instituted ethnic quotas at the University of Brazil, with women of Japanese origin preferring the quotas to a greater degree than Jewish women.
Yu later described the impact the Faucett Scholarship by noting, “[It] allowed me to deal with the difficulties of field research without having to worry about incurring credit card debt. It also allowed me to purchase Portuguese -language sources on the histories of Japanese and Jewish immigration to Brazil that cannot be found in the U.S., [which] I have referenced constantly in writing my dissertation.”
After spending three years in the anales (indigenous peoples’ archives) of Puebla de los Ángeles, a Spanish colonial town built in the 17th century located about 80 miles southeast of present-day Mexico City, recent history Ph.D. Pablo Sierra found convincing evidence that an African slave had been freed by a payment of his indigenous wife. Felipe Monsón y Mojica and his wife subsequently became part of the urban elite and highly successful merchants of indigenous food, especially chiles, to the town’s multiethnic population.
Far from the ethnic discord he anticipated that such a union would create in the countryside, Sierra found that in an urban scenario, freedman had no problems with indigenous peoples in Mexico in that century. In fact, marriage to indigenous women — whose children were considered free — was an exit out of slavery pursued by many African slaves in the 1660s.
Carlos de la Rosa, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, presented a feasibility study of researching the invasive feral dog population of Isla Cedros, Mexico. Located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California, Cedros is about twice the size of Catalina, another island on which de la Rosa previously worked.
Because resident fisherman are tightly tied to the island’s ecology in order to survive, de la Rosa found — to his surprise — that they intuitively understood that the feral dog population was not good for Isla Cedros. The researcher explained that because there was no scientific research presence on the island (i.e., no field posts), he had initially befriended the fishermen in order to determine whether he could access some of the remote fishing outposts they use in the summer to conduct mapping exercises and future research.
Not only did he benefit from the friendly help of many generous islanders, including many fishermen, de la Rosa was able to conduct several long trips at either end of the island last summer and do some initial mapping. He concluded that due to the presence of watersheds and the availability of bird and other carcasses on the shoreline, feral dogs were able to survive on their own in packs without resorting to entering human habitations.
He is now very positive about being able to move forward with his doctoral research, which will involve camera trapping, the trapping of feral dogs, disease testing of the dogs, and use of GPS collars to monitor their movements.
A presentation by Lisa Glancy, a Ph.D. student in urban and regional planning, concluded the afternoon. Glancy spoke about research that she had conducted in Tulum, Mexico, with the help of local high school student volunteers, most of which live in Mayan towns adjacent to Tulum. Together, they created a database of the assets and deficits of the small coastal town, which is located about three hours south of Cancun and growing at a supersonic rate of over 15 percent a year.
Glancy’s street-level infrastructure inventory study documented every street of every neighborhood of Tulum (a rapidly changing target, given that roads were built and completed during the study) with GPS cameras, concentrating in particular on transit and pedestrian ways. The second phase of the project, now underway, is a web-based portal and interactive mapping system that will promote dialogue between citizens and government about priorities for infrastructure, city services and repairs.