The Reclaiming Memories Research Lab is an interdisciplinary team of graduate students, recent graduates, and professionals based out of The University of Texas at Austin working together to reclaim memories of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), and marginalized communities. Our research aspires to collectively restore missing and forgotten histories, as well as advocate for the historic preservation of communities, sacred spaces, and BIPOC sites of significance.
Diana M. Hernández
M.S. Candidate, Historic Preservation
Diana has taught in Texas for 10 years and has been an independent researcher on issues of language, diversity and preservation since 2014. Diana obtained an M.A. in Spanish Language, Literature and Culture from the University of Houston and a B.A. in Public Relations and Spanish Language, Literature and Culture from the University of Houston. In summer 2019, Diana conducted research with the National Institute for Anthropology and History in Mexico City. The initiative titled, “Sites of Memory of the Slave Route in Latin America,” focuses on the preservation of sites related to Afro-Mexican history and culture and is part of an overarching effort by UNESCO. Her work, locally and abroad, highlights the preservation of cultural landscapes related to the history of racial violence. She is currently documenting and researching the history of a Mexican/Mexican American cemetery in the Travis County area as well as additional sites in Houston as part of her master’s thesis.
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M.S. Candidate, Community and Regional Planning
A Baltimore native, Mitch Ford is a Community and Regional Planning graduate student at the University of Texas School of Architecture with an interest in historic preservation. He is interested in preserving historic sites and cultural landscapes that are particularly vulnerable to planning and development forces. The research surrounding Cementerio San José piqued his interest for its location in the Montopolis neighborhood of the East Riverside area of Southeast Austin, an area conflicted with gentrification and displacement. Mitch holds a B.A. in Geography and certification in Geographic Information Science from the University of Maryland.
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Doctoral Student, Ethnic Studies
Jesús Nazario is a writer, photographer, and communications specialist. He received his Bachelor’s in Journalism, and International Relations and Global Studies, from the University of Texas at Austin. This summer, he is graduating with an M.A. in Latin American Studies from the same institution. Along with serving in leadership roles in student organizations, Jesús has worked as a research assistant for both the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas as well as the Texas Policy Evaluation Project. His current project includes questions of biotechnology, communal land use, and indigenous political and food sovereignty. In the Fall, Jesús will begin his PhD program in Ethnic Studies at the University of California – Berkeley.
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M.A. Candidate, Latin American Art History
From San Juan Puerto Rico, Alexandra Mendez is a MA student in Latin American Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. She is interested in historical memory having worked with oral history projects and archival investigations with the Estonian Institute for Historical Memory and the Center for the Reclamation of Historical Memory in Spain. The research in San Jose ties into Alexandra’s interest in the overlap between social justice and historical reclamation. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and English from Williams College.
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B.S., Environmental Science
Hunter is a recent graduate from the University of Texas who enjoys graphic design and coding in his free time. As an undergraduate he worked on several research projects centered around the impacts of natural disasters and climate change, focusing on flooding and severe weather events in particular. Geographic stresses of the Colorado River on the Montopolis neighborhood and major floods in Austin during the 1930s sparked his interest in the San José research. He aims to pursue a Master’s degree in geospatial or atmospheric science after gaining more research and field experience.
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Isabelle is a third-year undergraduate student studying at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture. Her research interests revolve around the issues of equitable design and historic preservation. Moreover, she has experience in graphic design. Isabelle has worked on various studio projects ranging from designing communal farm stands to public memorials. Her current studio project involves research on the destructive effects that I-35 has had on East Austin. She will try to mitigate these problems by conducting an in-depth historical analysis of current gentrification and displacement trends in Austin. As an Undergraduate Researcher with (Re)claiming Memories, Isabelle will lead graphic design efforts for several program initiatives including the Artist Talk Series and the Spring Symposium, “Ciclos: Rebirth, Migration, and Placemaking.” Isabelle is a native from Laredo, Texas.
Alexandra Nichole Salazar
Doctoral Student, Latino Studies
Alexandra Nichole Salazar is a Queer Chicana from the Rio Grande Valley, a PhD student in the Mexican American and Latina/o Studies program at UT Austin. She is also the host of Jotxs y Recuerdos, a podcast dedicated to archiving queer stories, histories, pictures, and spaces from the borderlands.
M.S., Criminal Justice
Sol Thomas graduated from the University of Houston-Downtown with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. She completed a Masters in Science in Criminal Justice and is pursuing a doctoral degree in Public Policy with a focus on education from Liberty University’s Helm School of Government. Sol spent twelve years working as a patrol officer, sexual assault investigator, and instructor at the Houston Police Department. Sol is in her first year of teaching 5th grade bilingual English Language Arts and hopes to one day work creating public policy that creates a more equitable and democratic society. Sol is founder and director of The National Latina Agenda, a grassroots civics organization organizing around social justice issues affecting the Latinx community.
Micaela Johnson (Micky) is a proud Black and Mexican-American 19 year old female entrepreneur, Austin-based artivist, and nationally active advocate for youth voice. Since 2016, Micky has been involved with Creative Action and SAFE Alliance as an actor/activist. Stemming from her work as an artivist, Micky began working with The National Guild for Community Arts Education and helped plan the 2019 and 2020 National Young Artist Summits. She now works with the Guild partnering in Creative Youth Development. Micky has led workshops and spoken at multiple summit events, including Educators in Solidarity’s Unconferences, the Arts Education Partnership Virtual Gathering, and the LBJ Foundation’s Path to Racial Equity web series. During her return as a Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble Alum, she was inspired by the research happening in her ancestry’s home neighborhood and co-wrote a poem to raise awareness regarding the gentrification issues Montopolis’ San José Cementerio could face. Some of her current projects include The UpFront Gallery, #UnmuteMePlz, and a podcast. An artivist at heart, Micky plans to further her education in communications, art, and engineering.