I have had two basic fascinations with cities, first in the structure of urban spaces, and currently in the social, political and economic tensions that shape the way individuals and/or groups use, produce, and reproduce the city. In other words, my interests bring together the study of the city as a thing and the city as a process. This double interest has intersected with professional work in a private design firm, municipal government, local nongovernment organizations, and an international development organization. It is this matrix of academic interests, professional experiences, and political passions that I try to bring to the classroom.
As a native of Puerto Rico, I have had the opportunity to live, study, work and/or simply travel throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and several countries in North Africa, East and South Asia, and Europe. While my courses focus on Latin America and my research in the Andean Region, my general interests are in the cities of the global south (aka, the Third World). In many ways the courses that I teach reflect these geographic interests coupled with a variety of disciplinary interests that integrate theory, policy and methods. At the 100 level, I co-teach an introductory course to the Cities Program with Gary McDonogh (City 185 – Urban Culture and Society). This course serves as one of two "gateway course" into the major. At the 200 level, I teach a course on Latin American cities (which will alternate with a course on "Cities of the Global South") and a "Research Design" course. Lastly, at the 300 level, I teach two seminars: one on "Urban Theory" and another on "Latin American Perspectives on Urban Social Movements."
My current research explores two intersecting trends: the role of national and municipal governments in promoting the urban informal economy as a pillar for economic growth and poverty eradication; and the role of those depending on the urban informal economy as political actors in the city of El Alto, Bolivia. Concomitantly, a new line of research that I am developing is the question of indigenous people in urban environments, and the ways in which historical memory and traditions shape the structure and political life of a city.