I am a scholar-activist, author, consultant and Little Havana tour guide who is currently finishing my Ph.D. in Global & Sociocultural Studies (specializing in Cultural Anthropology and Cultural Geography) at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Florida, with research interests in race and landscape; the politics of public space; critical heritage and tourism studies; immigration and diaspora; Cuba and the Cuban Diaspora; Afro-Latin America and Afro-Caribbean religious arts. I am also a Teaching Assistant in the department.
I co-authored a book called “A History of Little Havana” (The History Press, 2015), and as an independent guide lead highly rated walking tours of the neighborhood. I have been featured in new media worldwide for my work in and about Little Havana.
I also lead workshops, classes & trainings on various topics such as arts and civic engagement, Community GIS, racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace, and asset-based community development. I am a trained meeting facilitator as well. For more than a decade I have consulted clients ranging from government agencies to nonprofits to corporations and small businesses. I have also worked in management roles within the nonprofit sector and private industry.
I am also a connector and collaborator with a long history of bringing together people and organizations from diverse sectors, places and backgrounds. My career has been purposefully eclectic and interdisciplinary: I am always crossing borders.
At FIU I am also earning graduate certificates in African & African Diaspora Studies, Latin American & Caribbean Studies, and Afro-Latin American Studies. In 2014, I was also a Graduate Fellow with the Smithsonian’s Latino Museum Studies Program, where I did my Practicum at the first federally funded community museum in the U.S.: the Anacostia Community Museum. I was engaged in research related to an exhibit on immigrants of African descent (including Afro-Latinos) to Washington, DC.
Below is a four-minute PBS documentary about me, part of the series “Women & Girls Lead,” in which I talk about my life and work in Little Havana (but emphasizing my blogging on Little Havana, which is currently on hold as I work on my second book: a memoir based on my years living in the neighborhood).
In 2006, I served as Executive Director of Viernes Culturales/Cultural Fridays, Little Havana’s popular monthly arts and culture festival; I acted as Interim Director in late 2010. From 2007 to the beginning of 2010, I directed a countywide civic engagement initiative, Imagine Miami, of the Miami nonprofit Catalyst Miami. I founded and directed a popular series of Imagine Miami Changemaker Conferences and also spearheaded a Summit on Arts, Culture & Civic Engagement.
Before moving to Miami in 2006, I ran a consulting business in Washington, DC (and earlier Los Angeles) specializing in developing and implementing marketing, public outreach, public education and public participation strategies, with clients including the DC Office of Planning and the DC Department of Transportation.
I served as a consultant for a number of city and neighborhood planning projects in Washington, DC, most significantly the 2006 revision of Washington, DC’s Comprehensive Plan. I played a key role in developing the public outreach and participation strategy for the Plan, aimed at reaching and engaging diverse stakeholders in the process.
For one of my nonprofit clients, I developed and helped manage a national youth civic engagement program (Youth Visions for Stronger Neighborhoods) implemented for youth from low-income families in after school programs nationwide.
While living in DC, I also directed the Adams Morgan Day Festival, taught classes and workshops, and served as an active volunteer for the Adams Morgan Main Street and the Latin American Folk Institute. I also worked as Director of Communications for a DotCom focused on women in business and as Director of Interactive Media for a youth journalism organization.
I hold an M.A. in Speech Communication (now called Communication Studies), with Distinction, from California State University, Northridge (1996); I earned my undergraduate degree (Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration) in Communications & Anthropology (minor in Geography) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
As a student, I was also a researcher and cartographer for the Historical Atlas of Massachusetts.