Edward F. Fischer, Director (email)

Edward F. Fischer is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University. His work focuses on issues of political economy, identity politics, and globalization; he has conducted long-term field work with the Maya of Guatemala and in Germany.  His publications include Maya Cultural Activism in Guatemala (1996), Cultural Logics and Global Economies: Maya Identity in Thought and Practice (2001), Tecpán Guatemala: A Modern Maya Town in Local and Global Context (2002, with Carol Hendrickson), Broccoli and Desire: Global Connections and Maya Struggles in Postwar Guatemala (2006, with Peter Benson).  Most recently he has edited Indigenous Peoples, Civil Society, and the Neoliberal State in Latin America (2008).  His current research focuses on the interplay of moral values and economic rationalities.

Avery Dickins de Girón, Executive Director (email)

Avery is the Executive Director of the Center for Latin American Studies and a Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology. She received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Vanderbilt in 2008; her research examines international development programs in Q’eqchi’ Maya communities in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Her duties at CLAS include operational and staff oversight, grant writing and reporting, budget oversight, faculty relations, and institutional partnerships.  Avery co-teaches MHS 218 (VISAGE Guatemala), and lead student groups to Guatemala through VISAGE and Project Pyramid. She currently chairs the Language Committee for the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP), which supports the teaching and learning of indigenous Latin American languages and Portuguese at U.S. universities.  She also serves as the Treasurer of the Guatemala Scholars Network, and is the faculty advisor for the Inter-American Health Alliance student chapter at Vanderbilt. Her publications include “The Security Guard Industry in Neoliberal Guatemala and the Relationship between Rural Communities and Urban Violence” (2010) and “El Otro Lado: Local Ends and Development in a Q’eqchi’ Maya Community” (2007).


Alma Paz-Sanmiguel, Adminstrative Assistant II (email)

Alma Paz-Sanmiguel joined CLAS in July 2011 as Administrative Assistant II. She comes to us with a background in graphic arts and small business management. Most recently Alma worked as Executive Assistant  of  Las Paletas  Gourmet Ice Pops.  Alma’s  duties include providing administrative support for CLAS faculty and staff, coordinating logistics of visiting speakers, and helping to strengthen the Center’s relationships both on and off campus.  Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Alma has been involved in cultural outreach for the Latin American community in Nashville.

Jamie Lee Marks, Outreach Coordinator (email)

Jamie Lee Marks joined CLAS in January 2015 as Outreach Coordinator. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s Studies and Political Science, and Master of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Florida. Additionally, she holds a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults from the University of Cambridge.  She worked previously as a writing and English language instructor in Mallorca, Spain and Gainesville, Florida.  In her research, she has explored gender and rural to urban migration, as well as transportation infrastructure reform policy in Lima, Peru. She enjoys hiking, creative writing,  and SEC football rivalries.

Helena Simonett, Associate Director (email)

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Assistant Professor of Latin American Studies and Adjunct at the Blair School of Music, Helena Simonett has taken on an appointment as Associate Director of CLAS. Helena will oversee our FLAS, Graduate Certificate, language evaluation, and summer grants programs. Originally from Switzerland, Helena received her PhD in Ethnomusicology from UCLA. Her research on Mexican popular music and its transnational diffusion resulted in the publication of a number of articles and two books, Banda: Mexican Musical Life across Borders and En Sinaloa nací: Historia de la música de banda. She is currently doing research on the musical life of an indigenous community in Sinaloa, northwestern Mexico.

Frank Robinson, Associate Director for Graduate and Undergraduate Studies (email)

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Frank Robinson is a historian of Latin America and the Caribbean with interests in twentieth century political and social movements, nationalism and populism, and Caribbean Diaspora communities. He completed his undergraduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University, with a primary focus on the history of the Caribbean. At the graduate level at the University of Florida (M.A.) and at Auburn University (Ph.D.), he specialized in African Area Studies and Latin American history. Professor Robinson teaches courses in the Atlantic World and Latin American and Caribbean history that cover both the colonial and national periods including the history of the Iberian Atlantic empires, modern Latin America, Central America, and the contemporary Caribbean.

Paula Covington, Bibliographer (email)

Paula Covington is Latin American and Iberian Bibliographer at the Vanderbilt University Libraries and a Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies.  She has taught Latin American Research Methods for more than three decades, and is the author of an award-winning work, Latin America and the Caribbean: A Research Guide, a research project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Paula is past president of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM), an international organization focused on the development of research services and library collections of Latin Americana. She has twice received the José Toribio Medina award for a distinguished monograph in Latin American Studies. Paula received her degrees from Syracuse University and Vanderbilt University in Latin American history and studied at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia.  She is a participant in an NEH-funded project to preserve and digitize colonial Latin American slave society records (Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Societies). Her principal research interest is 19th-century women travelers to Latin America.

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