by Isabelle Johnson, LACIS Communications/Social Media Assistant
This week, LACIS would like to congratulate our four 2021 LACIS Area Studies Undergraduate Paper Award recipients! Each year, the Institute for Regional and International Studies in partnership with various area and international studies centers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recognize the best paper/s and projects written by an undergraduate and focused on their respective world regions. This year, the following recipients each received awards for their research regarding Latin American, Caribbean, and/or Iberian themes and subjects. This year, we asked each recipient to elaborate on why they chose the topic they researched:
“I have a strong interest in feminist activism and when my project advisor introduced me to this topic I was fascinated. As a LACIS major, researching Chilean arpilleras was also very relevant to my studies. Additionally, my grandmother was a seamstress and I’m a seamstress in my free time, so studying textile arts as a form of political resistance was important to me on a personal level.
I am thankful for the support of my project advisor, Professor Ksenija Bilbija. She has been so dedicated and patient and I am thrilled to work with her. Thank you so much to LACIS for this honor, I am delighted to be a student in this department!”
Anticipating to graduate in the Spring of 2023, Madeline is pursuing degrees in Spanish and Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies with a certificate in Global Health. This year, Madeline’s award was granted for her paper “Inspired by the Past: Arpilleristas and Activism in Today’s Chile.”
“I chose to write about Mexican, U.S. immigration for a few reasons. First, the topic combines my interest in political science with my interest and connections to the Hispanic community. I also volunteer as a citizenship class instructor which has allowed me to develop relationships with immigrants in my own community and learn about their stories. Additionally, during the 2020 Presidential Election, anti-immigration sentiments were rampant in the news and I wanted to explore the reality of what was really happening in our country.
I am extremely grateful to the LACIS Program for providing this award! I am excited to continue studying immigration through various programs at UW Madison to achieve my ultimate goal in supporting immigrants as an attorney.”
Madison plans to graduate in the Spring of 2022 with degrees in Spanish and Political Science with the intention of going to law school post-graduation. This year, Madeline’s award was granted for her paper “Why Mexican Immigration is Decreasing in the United States.”
” I had several motivations to select the topic of my paper. I have been fascinated by history for much of my life and knew from the start of undergrad that I wanted to pursue a career in history, but I was unsure of what my specific focus would be. However, as a Spanish major as well I began to lean towards focusing on Latin American history which continued to crystallize into the path I wanted to follow in my career. Once I found this general direction, when determining the topic of my paper I accounted for several personal motivations. My younger sister was adopted from Guatemala when I was five years old, and from that moment on my family has had a special connection to Guatemala and Central America as a whole. Additionally, my mom is a former Spanish teacher and is fluent in Spanish, so for much of my life I have traveled to Guatemala and to Costa Rica to visit family I have there which inspired my focus on Central America and Guatemala specifically. I then narrowed this focus to the major events of nineteenth-century Guatemala based on my own intellectual curiosity. Central American history receives significant historiographical attention regarding its twentieth-century history because of its centrality in the Cold War agenda of the United States, but the nineteenth century has been somewhat neglected in historical research despite the foundational events that took place in Central America between their independence in 1821 and the beginning of the twentieth century. As such, I decided to follow my curiosity with my senior thesis (this paper) and have been nothing but fascinated by the stories and hidden narratives of the social, political, and intellectual transformations that took place during the nineteenth century in Central America as a whole and more specifically Guatemala. Ultimately, this choice to follow my personal interests and intellectual curiosity helped me arrive at my topic of Reforma Guatemala as it served as the crux of the societal transformations from the nineteenth century that I took interest in and tracked through my research.
I am both overjoyed and incredibly honored to receive this year’s award from LACIS in the Area and International Studies Undergraduate Paper Award Competition. Throughout my time at UW-Madison as a History, Spanish, and Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies major I have had the wonderful opportunity to follow my intellectual passion by refining my skills in Spanish, exploring the culture and society of different Latin American countries, and both learning and independently researching the history of Latin America. These experiences, supported and inspired by the fantastic faculty in both the History and Spanish & Portuguese Departments and in the LACIS Program, have opened the door for me to pursue a career in Latin American history, and I couldn’t be more grateful for their help in improving my skills as an interdisciplinary researcher and student of Latin American studies which I tried to exemplify with my senior thesis. In short, I’m very grateful to be receiving this award and to have been helped along the way by such outstanding faculty. I’d also like to give my specific thanks to my senior thesis advisor Professor Pablo Gómez whose class on the history of the Caribbean and its diasporas pulled me further in the direction of pursuing a career in Latin American history and whose expertise and guidance throughout the thesis writing process proved invaluable in producing this paper selected for the award.
Thomas recently graduated this spring with degrees in Spanish, History, and Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies. Thomas’ award was granted for his thesis “Liberal Revolution or Elitist Revision? Positivist Reform and HistoricalLiberalization in Reforma Guatemala, 1830–1885.”
“I chose to write about Francisco de Goya’s art depicting witches because art serves as an essential tool for understanding historical perspectives and offers such a different lens than other forms of primary sources. I found the way he used witchcraft iconography in his critiques of the church to be morbidly fascinating. Goya’s art captures the essence of the damage done by religious institutions in early modern Spain, and I absolutely had to write about it.
Overall, I am incredibly grateful and honored to have received this award, and I’m glad that I was able to apply something as obscure as art about witchcraft to the region’s history.”
Reilly intends to graduate in the Spring of 2023 with degrees in History and Political Science with certificates in Gender and Women’s Studies and African Studies. Reilly earned this award for her paper “Goya and His Witches: The Effects of Enlightenment on Depictions of Witchcraft.”