about me

Born in Venezuela, from Ecuadorian parents, I grew up in New York City. 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.

Photo description: Maria Celleri at the Museo de la Ciudad. Monument of the Virgen del Panecillo behind her (2017).
Photo credit: Nathalie Cruz

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 GWSS and will be teaching Transnational Feminist Film and Feminist Methodologies in Spring 2020.

My current project, “From Shungoloma to La Virgen del Panecillo: Struggles Over Urban Space in Quito, Ecuador,” is an interdisciplinary analysis of the foundation of Quito as Ecuador’s capital city in the 16th century and its rapid growth in the mid-20th century through the lens of two related phenomena: the promotion of social and moral control and the accrual of monetary debt. Throughout, I focus on the area of El Panecillo, a hill once known as Shungoloma by the Incan empire, and later baptized as El Panecillo by the Spanish once incorporated in the Royal Audience of Quito in 1563.

Today, it holds a 41-meter tall aluminum statue of La Virgen de Legarda, constructed in 1976. I suggest that the ordering of the city limits, which were rapidly expanding by the mid-20th century, has always been shaped by political pressures to exert social control, manage ‘chaotic’ forms of expansion, and maintain moral respectability. I argue that urban growth and management has always aimed to control marginalized populations, especially poor communities, Indigenous populations, and women.

Furthermore, I consider the role contemporary cultural artists and activists have played in adapting the image of La Virgen del Panecillo in cultural production to address Ecuador’s lingering colonial past and the contemporary, hierarchical relationships between Ecuador and the United States. I specifically consider how feminist interpretations of La Virgen del Panecillo have been strategically used to challenge state laws around reproductive justice and other forms of racial and gender control.

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,” has been accepted for publication by Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies.