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.

Research Team

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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Mitch Ford

M.S., 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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Jesús Nazario

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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Hunter Wilkes

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 Nance

B.S., Architecture

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. 

Sol Thomas

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

Community Artivist

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.

Anisha Kamat

B.S., Architecture

Anisha is a fourth-year Bachelors of Architecture student at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture. Her interests lie in human-centered design, equitable design, and sustainability. She has been able to explore these topics through the various studio projects/competition work she has done ranging from urban greenhouses to post pandemic middle school designs. This past semester, she had the opportunity to extensively research accessibility of public transit and green spaces within downtown and design public housing and a subterranean train station based on Project Connect in Austin. This experience sparked her interest in community centered design, accessibility, and historic preservation within city planning and architecture. Additionally, she has a deep passion for visual communication and has done graphic design/illustration work for various student publications and organizations on campus.

Margaret Gallagher

Master of Landscape Architecture

Margaret Gallagher is pursuing her Master of Landscape Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a former elementary school teacher with a B.A. in Environmental Science and Global Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her passion for the arts, science, community engagement, and early childhood education inspires her to create interactive work that draws attention to subtle evolutions present in the world around us and facilitate lasting connections between people and places. A California native who has lived in Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana, she is passionate about the power of design to create impactful change, specifically around issues of climate justice. This summer she is working with Marika Alvaredo, a Lipan Mescalero Medicine woman and Reclaiming Memories to create a botanical field guide for San Jose Cemetario 1.