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Rachel De La Cruz

What kind of seminars at UC Irvine have been most interesting and useful to you?

I have found the thematic graduate seminars to be the most interesting and useful (e.g. political violence; movement and displacement). In thematic courses, grad students have a common investment in the topic, regardless of the time period or region of our individual study. In my experience, this garnered the most fruitful discussions.

Have you acquired experience as a teaching assistant? What are your favorite courses and topics?

Yes. I have TA-ed for quite an array of history courses: U.S. surveys, the Holocaust, immigration, food, and even soccer. Currently, I am a Teaching Associate in Humanities Core—a year long interdisciplinary program that satisfies many general education requirements including writing, arts and humanities, multicultural issues, and international global issues. I enjoy this because I am instructing my own seminar of 19 students. Also, I am excited to say that I'll be instructing my own lower division history course called Memories of Migration: American Families on the Move during the 2019 summer session.

What is your dissertation at UC Irvine about? What kind of sources and materials do you use?

My dissertation examines how Central American governments (Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize, and Costa Rica) responded to the substantial influx of Salvadoran refugees in the 1980s, following the Salvadoran civil war. Additionally, why did each government enact their respective policies—whether military surveillance or resettlement programs? Through a close examination of state responses, I argue that beyond viewing them as a problem to solve, the governments of Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize, and Costa Rica utilized the Salvadoran civil war and its refugees as opportunities to exploit domestically and on the world stage.

In order to reconstruct a narrative that encompasses the exceptionally transnational, regional, and comparative nature of this history, I conducted research at multiple institutions in all seven countries of Central America including national archives, national libraries, university libraries, and museum archives. I mainly use government documents and international organizational records. However, when possible, I bring refugee voices to the forefront using refugee-produced documents such as bulletins, petitions, letters, community histories, and art.

You wrote a M.A. thesis in 2014, with Professor Elizabeth Zanoni, called "Bracero Families: Mexican Women and Children in the United States, 1942-1964." Has this work served you well as you've developed your dissertation?

Absolutely yes. The process of writing my MA thesis was invaluable. First, it was essential practice in researching and writing—particularly regarding forming arguments and supporting them with evidence. Furthermore, the reading I did on migration history for this project was foundational for both my comprehensive exams and dissertation. I also learned first-hand what a slog writing can be. It's a long, sometimes painful, oft-rewarding, process.

Your topic is frequently in the news today. Can you recommend any books and films that would help the rest of us learn more about it?


Seeking Refuge, Maria Cristina Garcia

Sacrificing Families, Leisy Abrego

Fragmented Ties, Cecilia Menjivar

Exiled Home, Susan Coutin

Adiós Niño, Deborah Levenson

The Massacre at El Mozote, Mark Danner


La Bestia (documentary)

El Norte (dramatic)

Sin Nombre (dramatic)

What areas do you enjoy exploring in southern California?

My favorite part of southern California is probably the San Diego area. I just find it a fun and beautiful city. It's always a good time to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. But it's honestly difficult to go anywhere in California and not be impressed by the landscape. California has everything--mountains, beaches, forests, even the deserts are stunning here!


*I'd like to add how grateful I am for the support I received from Professors John Weber, Brett Bebber, and especially Liz Zanoni (my advisor and mentor) while I attended ODU. I'm still very much appreciate of the ways you each helped me further my career.

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