Niria Garcia during her Study Abroad research trip to Brazil.
Niria Garcia during her Study Abroad research trip to Brazil.

May 2014—A UO senior and first generation Chicana born and raised in Oregon, Niria Garcia was working on a philosophy paper on the examined life when she hit a wall in her writing. She found herself daydreaming about a program she hoped to attend. As an environmental studies and Latin American studies major interested in social justice and sustainable development, she felt drawn to SIT Study Abroad’s Social Justice and Sustainable Development program, which would allow her to begin learning a third language, arrange homestays for her, and provide her the unique opportunity to do original field-based research in northeast Brazil.

But submitting an application cost $50, not an easy amount to come by for a student attending college on scholarships, grants, and loans. The deadline fell in three hours. Niria went for it. Knowing that the program she had set eyes on was priced at almost twice the amount her mother—a seasonal worker—makes in one year’s labor, it was clear to her that if she wanted to make it a reality she would have to work hard to find funding elsewhere.

Niria was assisted by CLLAS assistant director Eli Meyer, who helped her get accepted into the program in Brazil. Ultimately, Niria spent five months living in Brazil, studying and doing research with a group of activist women in a community in the city of Salvador, state of Bahia. After returning from Brazil in summer 2013, she looked for supportive funds to give her the free time she needs to write a complete report, but all she could find were funds for graduate students. She met with CLLAS associate director Gerardo Sandoval, an assistant professor in PPPM, who advised her. Ultimately she ended up enrolling in CLLAS director Lynn Stephen’s Spring 2014 class, LAS 399 Post Study Abroad: How to Do Original Research and Write a Paper.

Niria Garcia would like to go back to Brazil to continue her research. A CAS development proposal currently making the rounds of potential contributors would provide exactly the kind of support Niria needs to continue realizing her dream to do original research and go to graduate school. She is an excellent candidate for a proposed undergraduate research grant program for which CLLAS is currently fundraising.

Niria Garcia’s abstract: “This is a brief ethnographic account that explores the crucial role Afro-Brazilian women have played in the struggle for permanence and improvement of the historically marginalized community of Calabar in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. I focus specifically on the ways in which the social resources women control such as kin networks and the urban material resources such as land and markets women dominate have been crucial in their ability to hold their ground, organize others, and create improvements in their community. In addition I explore how the specific gender roles women occupy in relation to kin networks, land, and markets have been leveraged by women strategically in their organizing efforts. My analysis will be based on a series of interviews I conducted with six women and secondary sources. After I analyze their ability to organize successfully, and why, I will discuss the ways in which the coming of the World Cup competition to Brazil has impacted their continuing struggle for land titles, internal social and urban improvements.”