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Cumbre 2013

Confirmed Presenters

The 5th Cumbre of the Great Plains will feature an award-winning keynote speaker and panels (conversatorios) which will include renowned academics, community organizers and policy-makers as well as critical voices from engaged students. Panelists and audiences will engage in lively dialogues about issues critical to Latinos/as and migrants and outline the Latino/a agenda for social change in the 21st Century.


Pedro Noguera, award-winning educator, author and activist

Pedro Noguera is the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University. He holds tenured faculty appointments in the departments of Teaching and Learning and Humanities and Social Sciences at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Development at NYU.  He is also the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education and the co-Director of the Institute for the Study of Globalization and Education in Metropolitan Settings (IGEMS). Dr. Noguera is the author of seven books and over 150 articles and monographs.  His most recent books are “Creating the Opportunity to Learn” with A. Wade Boykin (ASCD, 2011) and “Invisible No More: Understanding and Responding to the Disenfranchisement of Latino Males” with A. Hurtado and E. Fergus (Routledge, 2011).  Dr. Noguera appears as a regular commentator on educational issues on CNN, National Public Radio, and other national news outlets.  From 2009 - 2012 he served as a Trustee for the State University of New York (SUNY) as an appointee of the Governor. He serves on the boards of numerous national and local organizations including the Economic Policy Institute, the Young Women’s Leadership Institute, The After School Corporation and The Nation Magazine. Register for the Keynote Luncheon now! Click the image to view the flyer.



Please click on panelists' names to expand their brief biographies and summaries of their presentations.

Leisy J. Abrego is Assistant Professor in the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at UCLA. Trained as a sociologist, she is interested in the study of families, Central American migration, and Latino immigrants’ lived experiences of U.S. immigration laws. Her first book, Sacrificing Families: Navigating Laws, Labor, and Love Across Borders will be published by Stanford University Press in Spring 2014. It examines the well-being of immigrants and their families—both in the United States and in the home country—as these are shaped by immigration policies and gendered expectations.

U.S. Immigration Policies and Family Well-Being in the Americas
Immigration policies and their consequences are rarely explored beyond national territory. In this talk, I will discuss the direct and indirect ways that U.S. immigration policies and the legal statuses they confer on migrants shape the life chances and experiences of both migrants and their families in the home countries. Restrictions and rights determined by policies in the United States translate into opportunities or blocked mobility, hope or despair for many families across the Americas.


Dr. Lissette Aliaga-Linares is a research associate/post-doctoral fellow at the Office of Latino/Latin American Studies (OLLAS), at the University of Nebraska Omaha. A recent Ph.D. graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Aliaga-Linares’ scholarly background and interests focus on informal economies in the USA and Latin America. In her role as a social demographer, she is responsible for working closely with scholarly and local communities to conduct and publish research on the socio-demographic changes and conditions of Latinos and immigrants in the Midwest and Nebraska in particular.

Latinos and the Future of Nebraska
After two decades of high immigration, Latinos have become the main engine of population growth in Nebraska. By 2030, it is projected than one in six Nebraskans will be Latino. This presentation provides a brief summary of the socio-demographic trends characterizing the Latino population in the last decade. In addition, it outlines the many contributions that Latinos have made to the State as well as the current challenges they face. By comparing changes in the socioeconomic status of immigrants and U.S. born Latinos, this analysis identifies key issues to motivate a discussion about what needs to be done for their successful incorporation into the State.


Juan Artola, Uruguayan, is a sociologist with postgraduate studies in International Relations. He has worked as consultant for UNDP and UNHCHR in Central America. In  1988 he joined the International Organization for Migration, serving as Representative in Nicaragua, Peru, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Mexico and becoming IOM Regional Director for South America from Buenos Aires in 2009. He retired in 2012 to join the Institute for International Migration Policies at the Tres de Febrero University in Argentina, where he is a researcher and teacher. He also teaches in postgraduate courses on Brazil and Uruguay.

Migration Policies in South America
In the last decade, the majority of South American countries have gradually developed a new approach to migration and migration policies. This approach has some key common aspects:
- A positive view of migration flows, instead of considering them as a problema or a threat;
- A willingness to facilitate movements within the región, with less concern about control;
- A consideration of migrant persons as people with rights which must be protected by the state;
- A linkage between regional mobility, `particularly of workers, and ongoing trade and economic integration processes.


Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, OLLAS Associate Director for Engagement and Professor of Political Science, UNO

Dr. Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado is the OLLAS associate director for engagement and a professor of Political Science. Area interests include: Comparative Politics/Sustainable Development in Latin America, Inter-American Politics, and Latino Politics. Dr. Benjamin-Alvarado reveived an Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award for the Social Sciences in 2003. Active in Omaha's Hispanic community, he was the president of the board of directors of the Chicano Awareness Center (today called the Latino Center of the Midlands). He teaches classes for OLLAS such as Latino, Latin American and Inter-American Politics.


Horacio Castellanos Moya is a writer from El Salvador. For two decades he worked as editor of news agencies, magazines and newspapers in Mexico, Guatemala and his own country. He has published eleven novels, five short story collections and two books of essays. His novels have been translated into twelve languages; four of them (Senselessness, The She-Devil in the mirror, Dance with Snakes and Tyrant memory) are available in English. Currently he teaches at the University of Iowa.

Digital journalism and politics in Central America
Gangs (maras), political corruption, migration and narco-trafficking are key issues in current Central America’s political agenda. Traditional media, owned by old big business families, reports on these issues mainly through breaking news and from a very conservative perspective. But this situation has been challenged in the last decade by the emergence of on-line newspapers, created by a new generation of journalists who are modernizing the way journalism has been done in Central America. El Faro in El Salvador, Confidencial in Nicaragua, and Plaza Pública in Guatemala are leading digital media in the region. How much do they influence public opinion and the political life?


President of the International Network on Migration and Development, co-Director of the Critical Development Studies Network, professor and former director (2002-2012) of the Doctoral Program in Development Studies at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, and general coordinator of the UNESCO Chair on Migration, Development and Human Rights. Dr. Delgado Wise has been guest lecturer in more than 30 countries in the 5 continents and is author/editor of 22 books and more than 150 essays, including book chapters and refereed articles.

Mexican high skilled migration: ¿brain circulation or a new modality of dependency?
Highly-skilled migration from Mexico to the US has grown significantly in the last two decades. In academic and political discussions the concept of “brain drain” has been abandoned and replaced by the notion of “brain circulation”. None of the assumptions held by the advocates of “brain circulation” have a basis in the reality of contemporary capitalism. Through an analysis of the characteristics and role of Mexican highly-skilled migration in the dynamics of the restructuring of innovation systems at a global scale, with the leadership of the US, this presentation attempts to describe the emergence of a new modality of dependency in the context of the Mexico-US asymmetric regional integration process.


Eugenio Di Stefano, OLLAS Faculty and Assistant Professor of Spanish

Dr. Di Stefano joined the faculty of the University of Nebraska at Omaha in August of 2012 as an Assistant Professor of Spanish. His research is concerned with literary and visual cultures and their intersection with politics. More specifically, his work examines representations of torture, violence and pain in contemporary literature and film in countries such as Chile, Mexico and Uruguay. He has also worked extensively on representations of disability in fiction as well as the emergence of human rights as a political discourse in Latin America. His most recent article “From Revolution to Human Rights in Mario Benedetti's Pedro y el Capitán”appears in the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies. Before coming to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, he was an Assistant Professor at the University of West Georgia.


Francisco “Paco” Fuentes, Unit Director, South Omaha, Boys and Girls Club of the Midlands

Francisco “Paco” Fuentes has been the South Omaha Boys & Girls Club unit director since February of 2000. Prior to this appointment he enjoyed a 20 year career with the U.S. Air Force. He retired from the Air Force in 1998 (with honors) after serving as a military intelligence non-commissioned officer.

Paco has been active in the community and has served on various boards and committees: Saint Agnes School Board, Greater Omaha Mexican American Club, and the Latino Academic Achievement Committee, just to name a few.

Paco has garnered many awards and accolades during his 30 plus years of service to the military, work, and community. His most prized military award is the National Defense Meritorious Service medal, awarded at Offutt Air Force Base in 1994, where he served as superintendent of Intel Graphics. In 2006 Paco was named Omaha’s Latino of the Year by the Barrientos Scholarship Committee. In 2009 Paco received the National Herman S. Prescott award – Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s highest training award.

Paco is a proud graduate of South High School and was inducted in its Hall of Fame in 2008. He and his wife of 33 years (Dorothy) have a daughter Kristina, a granddaughter Bella and son-in-law, Daniel Ybarr


Yanira García is an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, working on a double degree in Journalism Public Relations & Advertising and in Latino/Latin American Studies. Yanira is the oldest of five children,with two sisters and two brothers. In 2007, Yanira graduated from South High School and became the first generation in her family to enroll in college. Although Yanira has been in the U.S for fifteen years, she still recalls the struggles and limitations that brought her and her family to this country. Those very same struggles are the motivations that have encouraged Yanira to be persistent in her goals and work hard at fulfilling her dreams. Aside from being a full-time student, Yanira also volunteers in the community through organizations like The Heartland Worker Center and the Midlands Latino Community Development Corporation (MLCDC).


Luin Goldring is an Associate Professor of Sociology at York University (Toronto). She is currently involved in research examining immigrants and precarious work, poverty and employment precarity, and institutional negotiations of status in school settings. Recent publications address the intersections of precarious legal status and precarious work, the institutional production of precarious migratory status, Latin American community organizing in Toronto, and methodological challenges in transnational studies. She is the co-editor, with Patricia Landolt, of Producing and Negotiating Non-Citizen Precarious Legal Status in Canada (University of Toronto Press).


Julie Greene is Professor of History at the University of Maryland at College Park. She specializes in United States labor and immigration history. She is the author most recently of The Canal Builders: Making America's Empire at the Panama Canal (Penguin Press, 2009). A native Nebraskan, Greene is also the author of “Corn and Country: Nebraska, Mexico, and the Global Economy,” published in Dissent in Fall 2010. With Ira Berlin, she is co-founder and co-director of the Center for the History of the New America at the University of Maryland, a center dedicated to generating knowledge of the history and politics of global migrations.


Ramon Guerra, OLLAS Faculty and Assistant Professor of Spanish

Dr. Ramon Guerra is a member of the OLLAS faculty with teaching and research interests including Chicano/a Literature
Latino/a Literature, Twentieth and Twenty-first Century American Literature, Postmodernism, Testimonio Literature. He teaches classes for OLLAS such as Introduction to Chicano/Latino Studies and Latino Literature.


Emiliano Lerda, Executive Director of Justice for our Neighbors - Nebraska and OLLAS Adjunct Professor

Emiliano Lerda, an Argentine native, is the executive director of Justice for our Neighbors-Nebraska, an agency which welcomes immigrants into our communities by providing free, high-quality immigration legal services, education, and advocacy. He also teaches "Immigration Law and Latinos" as part of the OLLAS curriculum.


Dr. Melissa R. Michelson (Ph.D. Yale University, 1994) is Professor of Political Science at Menlo College. She is coauthor of Mobilizing Inclusion: Redefining Citizenship through Get-Out-the-Vote Campaigns (2012), which received the 2013 Ralph Bunche Award from the American Political Science Association. She has published thirty articles in peer-reviewed academic journals and a dozen chapters in edited volumes, including recent pieces in Politics, Groups, and Identities, International Migration Review, and the Quarterly Journal of Political Science.

Mobilizing Inclusion: Getting Out the Latino Vote
Which get-out-the-vote efforts actually succeed in Latino communities—and why? In this presentation, Dr. Michelson will share the analysis and results from her recently co-authored book Mobilizing Inclusion. The book includes hundreds of field experiments conducted in cooperation with community organizations and puts forward a new theoretical frame—the Social Cognition Model of voting, based on an individual’s sense of civic identity—for understanding get-out-the-vote effectiveness.


Emanuel Pleitez is a first-generation Angeleno, born in South Los Angeles and raised in the Eastside neighborhood of El Sereno. He is the son of Mexican and Salvadoran immigrants, but was brought up by a single mother. He is a graduate of Stanford University in Urban Studies. 

Beginning in 2007, Pleitez worked as a Financial Analyst at Goldman Sachs. He left Goldman Sachs when President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, after being selected to serve as a member of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team. Following the presidential transition, Pleitez ran for Congressional Representative of the 32nd District of California against Gil Cedillo and Judy Chu.
Subsequently, Pleitez was appointed to the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) as Special Assistant to Chairman Paul Volcker. There, he "delivered recommendations to President Obama on workforce development, tax reform, financial regulatory reform, infrastructure financing, and residential retrofitting."

In 2013, he was a candidate for Mayor of Los Angeles, running a creative grassroots campaign where dozens of youth were recruited to and trained to all positions of the campaign, he will speak more to this point this at this year’s Cumbre. He was recently appointed to serve on the City of Los Angeles Board of Pensions.

Pleitez has been involved in many charitable and non-profit projects. He currently serves as the Chair of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation's Latinos On Fast Track (LOFT) Institute. In 2008 he became the Board of Directors Chair for the Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund (SALEF), a position he still retains.

Running to serve the public, addressing the needs of our country
Although Latinos are the fastest growing population in the ongoing U.S. demographic shift, Latinos are currently the least represented by elected officials. We are in need of Latinos who can more adequately represent the electorate. This presentation will profile Emanuel Pleitez’s campaign for Mayor of Los Angeles from the motivation and purpose of the campaign to the recruitment and training of the team. The content will inform a larger discussion around increased civic engagement and political participation of Latinos, and the historic opportunity for Latinos to redefine what it means to run for office and serve the publ


After completing a degree in History at Balliol College, Oxford, Bryan Roberts took a Doctorate in Sociology in Chicago in 1964. Returning to Britain, Roberts taught at the University of Manchester from 1964 to 1986, ending with a Chair in Sociology. During this period, he did field research in Guatemala, Peru and Mexico. In 1986, he came to Austin as C.B. Smith Sr. Chair # 1 in US-Mexico Relations, focusing his research interests on urban poverty and employment in Mexico and Latin America and, more recently, on migration, spatial differentiation,  citizenship and social policy and on urban crime and violence..  Among his books are Organizing Strangers (1973), Cities of Peasants (1978), The Making of Citizens (1995), the coauthored with Norman Long, Migrants,Peasants and Entrepreneurs (1984) and various edited collections, including Rethinking Latin American Development (2005) with Charles Wood and Ciudades latinoamericanas: un análisis comparative en el umbral del Nuevo siglo, (2008) with Alejandro Portes and Alejandro Grimson, and Urban Segregation and Governance in the Americas (2009) with Robert Wilson. He has been Director of the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and of its Mexican Center.

Social Policy Challenges and Opportunities in Latin America
The challenges facing Latin American countries are as much social and political as they are economic.  Population growth has declined. Rates of economic growth in the last decade have averaged 4.5%.  Latin America is predominantly urban with policy challenges increasingly those associated with large cities: concentrated residential poverty and high levels of crime and violence. Population mobility is high, internally and internationally.  Migration is a key element in family strategies of social mobility.  This talk reviews what has been done to meet these challenges and what remains to be done.  


Rogelio Sáenz is Dean of the College of Public Policy and Peter Flawn Professor of Demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio.  Sáenz has written extensively in the areas of demography, Latina/os, race and ethnic relations, inequality, and immigration.  He is co-editor of Latina/os in the United States: Changing the Face of América, co-author of Latino Issues: A Reference Handbook, and author of the Population Reference Bureau’s Population Bulletin Update titled Latinos in the United States 2010.  He is currently President-Elect of the Southwestern Social Science Association and is also Chair of the Council of the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan.

Latinos en las Americas: Opportunities and Challenges in the 21st Century
The Americas are undergoing dramatic demographic, social, economic, and political changes.  While we tend to view issues facing Latinos with a U.S. perspective, the reality is that concerns confronting this population do not respect international borders and will increasingly need to be addressed from an international perspective throughout the 21st century.  This talk will outline the opportunities and challenges that Latinos in the Americas face in the United States and Latin America and will discuss manners in which transnational dialogue can be enhanced to more effectively meet these opportunities and challenges in the 21st century.


Deibi Sibrian moved to the U.S. from El Salvador when he was 11 years-old. Ever since then, he has been living with a Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In May, 2013, he graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He earned double majors in Latino/Latin American Studies and Sociology; he also earned double minors in Anthropology and Spanish. Currently, he is pursuing a dual master’s degree in social work and public health.


Sergio Sosa was born in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. He has been organizing for the last 33 years and currently is the full-time Executive Director of the Heartland Workers Center, an organization that works with Latino/a immigrant workers, educating them on their rights as workers and how to become leaders in the workplace and their communities.  It also aims at increasing the civic participation of the Latino/a community to address issues affecting it, such as immigration and the Latino vote. In his 17 years in the United States, Sergio has worked as an Organizer for Omaha Together One Community and for the Industrial Areas Foundation where he was responsible for identifying and training leaders. Sergio was responsible for organizing unions in meatpacking plants, along with the United Food and Commercial Workers. He developed the Latino Soccer League for the purpose of organizing workers’ committees. He is one of the founders of the transnational organization, IXIM: Spirit of Solidarity. IXIM serves Guatemalans living in Omaha, most of them from the Huehuetenango Department, members of the Huehuetenango Dioceses, and non-Latino (Anglo) members from a number of Catholic Churches under Omaha’s Archdiocese.  He also served as the Director of the Social Pastoral Ministry for Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

The Cry of the Excluded: Assessing a Decade of Resistance, Community Organizing, Power Building and Civic Engagement among Latino/a Immigrants in Omaha, Nebraska
Although confronted by systemic methods of exclusion, the Latino/a immigrant community has begun to create social and political spaces, where they are learning to act and become protagonists within their own lives and the community. This presentation will examine the struggles and successes of the Latino/a community in Omaha, Nebraska, over the last 10 years to fully develop alternative and popular organizing models that will help to transform their social, political and economic situations and be recognized as public actors in the State of Nebraska. It will also explore how these “lessons learned” lead us into the next 10 years, where we look to promote civic engagement, develop institutional leaders, and build collective power.



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