Update on my research stay at Tulane: what have I been doing?

Since April 1, I’ve been a Richard E. Greenleaf fellow at the Latin American Library (LAL) at Tulane University. What have I been doing? This fellowship allows me to do library research on Honduran migration and gender-based violence. It’s been a great month checking out the collections at LAL and speaking to people who work with Latino communities in New Orleans.

I realized that New Orleans is home to a large Honduran community that has been here for many decades. Honduran migrants and Honduran-Americans talk about before and after Mitch waves of migration arriving to New Orleans. This coincides on what I’ve been reading on Honduran migration at the library. Hondurans have been migrating to the U.S. for decades, but patterns of migration changed considerably in the 1990s because of lack of job opportunities and Hurricane Mitch, which destroyed around 80 percent of the country’s infrastructure. Many Honduras had no other choice but to leave and the U.S. form of aid was giving Hondurans the Temporary Protection Status visa (TPS) to work in the U.S.

By the late 1990s, many Hondurans had a family member in the U.S., New Orleans was not an exception. I’m hoping I can meet and speak with more members of the Honduran community to get an idea of their experience in the U.S.

Aside from reading and downloading articles and reports that I do not access to back home (as well as getting to know this beautiful city), I also gave a talk at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Lirio's Talk Flyer

(Flyer of my talk at University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana)

The wonderful Ellen Moodie -professor Dept. of Anthropology- invited me to talk about Honduran migration and so I flew up there to present some rough ideas based on what I have been reading at LAL and previous research done on Honduran migration.



(Foto by Ellen Moodie; me left).

I spoke about the global processes involved in the migration of Hondurans principally to the U.S. (many Hondurans are migration to Spain). Hondurans leave because of violence ad crime, yes, but this needs to be understood within larger global processes. Poverty, inequality, violence, crime are not essential to Honduras or Central America.

This year, the idea is to develop these ideas into a book on Honduran migration.


Research Fellow at the Latin American Library @ Tulane

This is the first post this year on my website. I have been so busy at my work at the UNAL that I haven’t been able to update my website, my blog on gender and city, nothing. From September 2018 to January 2019 public universities in Colombia were on strike. The main student movements in Colombia were able to reach a deal with central government and in late January we all headed back to class. Since then, I have been focused on finishing the second term of 2018 in 2019.

The good news is that I got a fellowship to do library research. In April and May I will -I am- a research fellow at the Latin American Library @ Tulane. I will be researching gender-based violence and Honduran migration. I’ll give a talk in May based on what I have research. Will be posting soon about my work here.

Research, blogging, achievements, and failures in 2018 -and looking at 2019

I know my last post was in September (gasp!)… I’m not going to say what I ‘should’ have done to keep this blog up-to-date. What I have learned is that I need to schedule my blog entries now that I have less time as head of the department. I will summarize what I have done since that last post:

Gender and City Research in Medellin

I have continued to do my research on Gender and the City in Medellin. Right now I’m focusing on analyzing the data I’ve collected. I’m doing slowly…yes. My funding stopped in October and so now I’m on my own (that is, no student assistant). It’s ok but it’s going slow because I’ve had to do other activities as department head. I’ll continue this analysis and have a rough draft of a manuscript, which I presented at APSA at Boston and that I want to revise. That manuscript is about preliminary findings from the first set of analysis of interviews to activists of women’s grassroots organizations in Medellin. My research shows that women are also urban planners in this city. This seems obvious yet it isn’t in the literature. Most of the studies on Medellin focus on crime, violence, Social Urbanism, participatory planning; women, however, are either absent or invisible. What I bring to the table is their visibility as urban planners in a city with a history of violence, crime, and armed actors.

I want to continue this research yet comparing it with another city in Central America. Why? Because Central American cities, especially in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, have similarities with Medellin -such as, the presence of armed actors, different forms of violence (gangs, criminal groups); despite these similarities, there are of course differences not only in the armed actors, but also state institutions on the sub-national level. So, I hope to write a research project in 2019 involving Colombian and Central American cities.

I’m starting to write manuscripts based on this study. I just mentioned that I want to revise a draft manuscript. And right now, there’s a manuscript about gender and housing under review. I’ll keep you updated.

Gender and City Research in Central America

I started a new research on Central American migration and I obtained funding to carry out library research at Tulane University in New Orleans. The research aims to understand how the global agenda of crime and migration control produces gendered forms of violence in the Central American region; specifically, I look at the case of Honduran asylum seekers.

This research stems from my work as an expert witness for Honduran asylum seekers in the U.S. and I plan to work on this research for around 18 months.

Other work

Aside from these two researches, I have been working on other manuscripts. One got published: “Transnational and local entanglements in the ‘cycle of violence’ of Central American migration” in Global Crime. But two manuscripts were rejected. Rejection is normal, yet it is not easy. We have all had a manuscript rejected and we will continue have this experience. It doesn’t happen once. It’s part of the job. Still, it’s not easy. But I’ve learned to deal with it. The reviewers gave me great comments to improve the paper and will certainly use them to revise my manuscript and submit to another journal. I still believe I have something to say and well the paper needs a bit more work. I’m almost there… I know.

And so, I write this last blog of the year describing my achievements and also failures. In 2019, I want to write regular blogs entries and continue my research in Colombia and Central America.

I wish my readers happy holidays and the best in the New Year!

First day of class: Continued training project for female entrepreneurs in Envigado, Colombia

Since the first week of September, I have been coordinating a project on continued training for female entrepreneurs in Envigado, a municipality right next to Medellín. The project is financed by the Secretary of Gender Equality at Envigado and aims at offering two continued training programs for female entrepreneurs. Our team is made up of five excellent teachers. The project also includes visits to small business in Envigado to carry out surveys to learn more about the business’s gender equality practices.

Today was the first day. The teachers introduced themselves to the 35 women registered in this program. The female students will take five modules on gender equality,  empowerment, and entrepreneurship until December 2018.  I’ll be posting about this project, so stay tuned.



Teachers of the continued education program from female entrepreneurs introducing themselves in Envigado, Colombia. (Photo: Angélica Tobon)

Send your manuscripts! CFP: “Migration: Old and new patterns, old and new discourses”

Since I started my administrative post as head of the Department of Political Science, I’ve had less time to write for this blog and to write in general. Despite these time constraints, there is good news: Manuela Boatcă from Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg and I are coediting a Special Issue for FORUM, a journal published at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

Here’s the call and send your manuscripts in English or Spanish.

“Migration: Old and new patterns, old and new discourses”

Deadline for articles: 3 June 2019

Invited Editors: Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera (Universidad Nacional de Colombia) y Manuela Boatcă (Albert- Ludwigs- Universität Freiburg)

Currently, there are more than 65 million persons who do not live in their country of origin. Most of them have had to move because of conflict, violence, persecution, economic collapse and political crisis, climate change and natural disasters. This high number of migrants and/or displaced persons have led some understand this situation as a global migration crisis. At the same time, this moment of largest displacement and migration on the planet has led to global policies that aim at restricting the movement of persons –for instance, South-North and South-South movement, creating obstacles in obtaining asylum, or penalizing the movement of persons with the emergence of detention centers and the massive deportation of men, women, and minors. Moreover, the massive movement of persons on the planet has led to the emergence of xenophobic attitudes, racist politics and discourses as well as attitudes against migration and immigrants. In many countries, migration has become a platform for many right and far-right groups and political parties (e.g. political campaigns in the USA, Great Britain, West and Eastern Europe as well as Latin America) which advocate for more movement restriction.

In this special edition, we invite original contributions in the social sciences that explore the long duration of migrations in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the colonial legacy of the patterns and the discourses and politics of intraregional and transregional migration. Possible areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Long duration of migration patterns since the colonial period.
  • Anti-migration sentiments, racism, and geopolitics from a historical and global perspective.
  • Long duration of discourses of exclusion towards migrants in Latin American and the Caribbean migrating towards Europe, U.S.A. or within Latin America.
  • Gender and race in global migration.
  • The use of migration in political campaigns and right and far-right political parties and groups.
  • Reasons for displacement or movement from the country of origin.


 Se publican contenidos inéditos en español e inglés. Los autores deberán seguir las normas editoriales de la revista https://revistas.unal.edu.co/index.php/forum/about/submissions#authorGuidelines

Enviar los artículos por la plataforma de la revista https://revistas.unal.edu.co/index.php/forum/about/submissions#onlineSubmissions

Más información: forum_med@unal.edu.co




ICA Conference and some unexpected news…

In my last post I said I was heading to ICA and that I would post about the ICA conference in Salamanca, Spain. The conference ended a month ago today. I wanted to write post right after the conference, yet I got unexpected news…

ICA went really well. I presented on the two topics I’m researching in two different panels: one on Central American migration and the other on Gender and Urban Planning in Medellin, Colombia in a panel I co-organized.


(University of Salamanca, Photo: Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera)

While I was in Salamanca, I received news that the dean had been appointed me head of the department where I work (Political Science). Everyone at the department is head at one point. I started on July 23, 2018, ever since I have had meetings (two to three) almost everyday.

One of the struggles is scheduling my writing. It’s tough when you have so many meetings a day. Some days I’m able to squeeze in 15 minute writing sessions. But there are days where it hasn’t been possible to write. I’m still figuring out how to schedule writing (and have the concentration to do that) when I have so many meetings a day.

I will keep doing my research on gender and urban planning in Medellin. I have another conference coming up -APSA (American Political Science Association) next week. Also, I’ll be heading a project on women’s empowerment in a municipality near Medellin. I’ll be posting about that project once it has started.

My “summer” plans

It’s been a while since my last post in May. In Colombia, there is no “summer” as in the U.S or in Europe -in Germany where I used to work, the semester or term stopped in mid-July and then Semesterferien until October. In many Colombian universities, professors work straight through these ‘summer’ months and, depending on the university, get some days off. We get fifteen days, but many universities do not give any days.

So what have I been doing? I wrapped up teaching in late May and have been catching up on my research on gender and the city in Medellin. I finished doing some interviews and analyzed the data I have been collecting since late 2016. I have also been busy writing conference papers. I have two conferences these coming months: next week’s ICA (International Conference of Americanists) in Salamanca, Spain, and the APSA conference (American Political Science Conference) in Boston in early September. In both of these conferences, I’ll be presenting results of research on gender and urban planning in Medellín.

In April and May, I worked on a grant proposal for a research fellowship in the U.S. In June, I got a phone call that my research proposal had been selected (Yay!!). The research is about the Central American migration crisis and it will focus on Honduran migration. My grant covers library research. Really, really happy! 🙂

In these busy months, I took some days prior to the conference to sightsee Madrid.


Street, Madrid. (Photo: Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera)

I’ll be posting about the ICA conference next week. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer.

Bridging the gap between academics and policy makers: Academic Roundtable with the Secretary for Women

I love researching, but I also want my research to contribute to policy.  I’ve struggled with this, wondering how to do it. The blog post by Sarah Morton, “Bridging the gap between research and policy” from LSE Blogs is helpful. I admit that I’ve yet to work with policy makers. I’ve always wanted to do it. Sarah Morton writes that it’s is important to develop trust with stakeholders, and this may take time.

I think this is where I’m at: developing steps with one of the stakeholders involved in the topic of gender. Since 2017, I have been conducting interviews to staff working at the Secretary for Women in Medellín. They have been really open and helpful, talking about their work, their programs, and connecting me with women’s organizations and activists in Medellin.

One tireless, hardworking staff member, Gloria Montoya, has been invaluable for my research and in helping me understand the work of the Secretary for Women. She’s come to my International Relations class to give talks on gender and helped set up the  recent fieldwork to San Antonio el Prado so that my students could visit the Secretary’s programs aimed at rural women empowerment.

Yesterday (May 17), Gloria invited me (and other universities) take part of an academic roundtable to update the Policy for Urban and Rural Women in Medellin organized by the Secretary for Women.


(At EAFIT University with the Secretary for Women. Photo: Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera)

The policy focuses on Security, Health, Peace, and Education, Participation. I worked at the Security roundtable. Two civil servants from the Secretary for Women, a student from EAFIT and UNAL, and me discussed the situation of (in)security of women in Medellin and what changes were needed in the current strategies to protect women. We noticed that most of the strategies were aimed at intervening when women had already suffered some form of violence (e.g. domestic violence), yet the current strategies did not seem to tackle the prevention of gender-based violence. We discussed that a possible strategy could be including information of gender-based violence in schools.

Another issue we found important was sexual harassment in academic spaces. It has become epidemic and only recently visible in the media in Colombia. Unfortunately, it is very common professors (mostly male) harassing female students (and male students). I’ve had female students come up to me to tell me how uncomfortable they have felt with some male professors. At the roundtable, we realized that sexual harassment in academic settings do not appear in policy strategies.

This roundtable was the first of various meetings that will take place between various universities and the Secretary for Women. This experience was new to mee and I’m learning. I definitely look forward to more discussions with policy makers to improve the lives of many women.



Gender and International Relations in the classroom and in the field: Female farmers at San Antonio del Prado

One of the courses I teach at the Dept. of Political Science at the National University of Colombia in Medellin is International Relations. I’ve structured the course as an Introduction to International Relations since students are enrolled in the Political Science program. In this introductory course, I make sure that my students read some topics on gender.

This semester (in Colombia, the semester usually runs from February to late May), aside from the main theories in IR, I included a workshop on gender and international relations. The purpose of the workshop was to look at a program for women carried out by the Secretary for Women in Medellin. Some of the programs carried out by the Secretary for Women adhere to international agreements signed by the Colombian national government for gender equality. Because Colombia is decentralized, local governments are relatively autonomous regarding how they implement gender equality programs. I thought it would be interesting that my students -and future political scientists- explored these municipal programs for gender equality. What is working? What isn’t and why? What is the impact?

On April 20, 2018, we visited a program aimed at empowering female farmers in the municipality of Medellin. Interestingly, 70 percent of Medellin’s land use is rural (30 percent is urban). Along with civil servants from the Secretary for Women, we visited two greenhouses headed by female farmers in San Antonio del Prado, which is part of Medellin’s municipality and considered rural. At the ‘finca’ (or farm), we heard the staff of the Secretary for Women and then we heard two female community leaders and farmers, who also ran the greenhouses. They shared their experiences with the program of female empowerment.


(Political Science students of the UNAL listening to rural community leader and farmer “Carmen” from San Antonio del Prado -far left-, Medellin Municipality. Photo: Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera).

The program from the municipality had certainly improved their lives economically. In the sense that they had become economically independent, or had learned to administer their income (which was new to them). However, they faced various obstacles.

One obstacle was the difficulty to sell their products in the city. Doing this required obtaining very expensive registers which they could not pay. What they did was sell in alternative markets known as “mercados campesinos” (farmers markets), in the city.

Another obstacle was buying seeds to grow in their greenhouses. Many peasants in Colombia are forced to buy seeds sold by multinationals such as Monsanto or Bayer in order to grow their crops. As anthropologist Laura Escobar Gutiérrez explains in her article “Seeds of Struggle“, this is because of the Colombia’s Free Trade Agreement with United States which requires Colombia to “join the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) of 1991, a system that restricts farmers’ rights to use the seeds they grow”. As “Carmen”, one of the rural farmers at San Antonio del Prado explained, the seeds are very expensive and are impossible to buy.

Despite these restrictions, “Carmen” and the other female farmers do not give up.  Female farmers and their families continue working on the greenhouse project.

IMG_0957 2

(“Carmen” -below left- and Political Science students of the UNAL, showing us one of the greenhouses at San Antonio del Prado. Photo: Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera).

Rapid urbanization was another problem that worried both the Secretary for Women and the rural communities. Despite being predominantly rural, San Antonio del Prado has been undergoing urbanization. Rural land is now being destined for urban purposes. Furthermore, these urban projects (for instance, multifamily housing projects) are impacting the rural communities in negative ways. One problem is the access to water. Farmers need water to grow their crops. Yet, as “Carmen” explained, San Antonio del Prado’s water is being redirected to provide water to the housing projects.

Even though female farmers at San Antonio del Prado felt they had benefited from the Secretary for Women’s programs aimed at empowering female rural farmers, free trade agreements and rapid urbanization are limiting the empowerment of female farmers and, in general, rural communities in Colombia.