about me

Born in Venezuela, from Ecuadorian parents, and raised in New York City, I have forged a hemispheric connection throughout the Americas that is critical of bounded nation-state formations. My commitment to social justice has led me to pursue a doctorate in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego. I received a Master’s in Hispanic Languages and Literature from Stony Brook University and a Master’s in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies from The Ohio State University. My academia.edu website is here.

ABOUTME MARIA
Photo description: Maria Celleri
(Quito, Ecuador 2017)
Photo credit: Nathalie Cr
uz

Currently, I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the Department of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies. I teach Introduction to GWST, Feminist Methodologies, Transnational Feminist Film, and Gender, Human Rights + Political Violence in Latin America.

My current book project, Uncovering the Virgen del Panecillo: Quito’s (Neo)Colonial Urban Transformation & Decolonial Future Imaginaries examines the political and symbolic importance of the monument of the Virgen del Panecillo in a (post)colonial cultural research study of how public monuments come to represent and often reproduce national imaginations which are then mapped onto national territories. 

The Virgen del Panecillo is a 41-meter-tall statue of the Virgin of Immaculate Conception, which was constructed in 1976 in Quito, Ecuador’s historical city center. She stands on top of El Panecillo, a 200-meter-high hill in central Quito, where the Inkan sun temple Yavirak once stood tall and is one of Quito’s most popular tourist attractions.

In order to understand the discursive strategies used by government officials to justify accruing large sums of foreign debt for urban projects in the 1970s, I study the role of print media in shaping public and private opinion around municipal spending to control urban sprawl and heighten tourism. Focusing on Ecuador’s leading newspaper at the time, El Comercio, I expose how they influenced municipal officials to redistribute foreign investments into urban control and tourism—projects such as the construction of the monument of the Virgen del Panecillo.

In the second half of the book, I analyze various cultural forms that incorporate the figure of the Virgen del Panecillo, including film, protest, and photography and demonstrate how these local cultural forms have the capacity to reproduce violent and colonial discourses as well as challenge colonial representations of difference and marginalization. First, I focus on the increasingly important function of film in Ecuador since 2006 and how it has functioned to transmit colonial values around respectability and proper womanhood. At the same time, I feature instances in which feminist artists and activists across the Andean region have used the figure of the Virgen del Panecillo to expand women’s rights. 

I end in the speculative future of the Andean region and consider the (im)possibility of an Indigenous-led decolonial feminist future beyond the capital city and the nation-state. Centering the (failed) strategies of the leftist governments of the 21st century in combating the drastic effects of neoliberal reforms in the region, I analyze cultural forms of speculative dystopias to imagine what a decolonial feminist future would necessitate in the Andean-region in order to consider Pachakutik as a socio-political project of decolonization.

A chapter of this manuscript, “From La Virgen del Panecillo to La Virgen del Legrado: (Trans)national Feminist Struggles for Reproductive Rights in the Andes” was published in Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 41.2 (Fall 2020).