In Focus: Theresa Alfaro-Velcamp

Latin American Studies Advisor

What is your research focus? and, what is it about this particular research focus that inspires you?

Through my government affairs work in the high-tech industry, I became interested in writing about history at intersections of power and culture. I have sought, for example, to understand the influence of Lebanese Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú. Through interviews and archival research in Mexico, the United States, Lebanon, and Syria, I authored So Far from Allah, So Close to Mexico: Middle Eastern Immigrants in Modern Mexico (2007). I have also conducted research on Muslim and Jewish populations in other Latin American countries. My work has appeared in scholarly books and journals in English, Spanish, and German, and was recently cited in Gustavo Arrellano's column "Just Ask a Mexican!" (April 2009).

My new work on migration and citizenship focuses comparatively on the United States and Mexico. I am interested in how the status of foreigners in these countries is determined, and have recently contributed to epidemiologic analyses of cancer incidence among Latinos/Hispanics in the San Francisco Bay Area.

What inspires me is the opportunity to translate my research into course offerings about topics of present concern: "Oil, Drugs and Human Rights" (Spring 2011), "Arabs in the Americas," "U.S. Immigration," and "the Borderlands."

How has the library helped you achieve your goals in this area?

At SSU, I am a constant beneficiary of library staff expertise. Paula Hammett, Rick Robison, John Muller, Jack Ritchie, and others apprise me of new databases, films, and texts. Rick Robison has developed "Virtual Research Days" on electronic databases and primary sources for History Senior Seminar students researching U.S. immigration, family histories, and U.S.-Mexican borderlands. Thanks to the SSU Library, I am able to develop state-of-the-art courses for students. In the picture, students from a History Senior Seminar "U.S. Immigration" and library staff went to Angel Island together for a tour of its Immigration Station.