LCC Team Members
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Rosa Cabrera, PhD, Executive Director, she/her/hers
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Rosa M. Cabrera, Ph.D, is the Executive Director of the Rafael Cintrón Ortiz Latino Cultural
Center at UIC. Her research and praxis work focuses on understanding environmental and
climate change problems as a social issue within larger systems of power and privilege;
scrutinizing the role of social and environmental justice in museums and cultural centers; and
using methodologies for public engagement that are centered on the arts and humanities to
harness first voice stories and community knowledge to create culturally relevant and place-
Cabrera is an adjunct faculty in the Department of Anthropology, Graduate College, Latin
American and Latino Studies Program, and Museum and Exhibition Studies. She is also a Keller
Science Action Center Associate at the Field Museum and a Mellon Faculty Fellow with the
Humanities Action Lab.
Cabrera earned her Doctorate in Anthropology and Bachelors of Arts in Design from UIC and
has talked extensively on the role of ethnic museums and cultural centers in shaping
community identity–which was the topic of her dissertation. Prior to joining UIC, she was at the
Field Museum where she led the “Cultural Connections” program, a partnership of more than
25 ethnic museums and cultural centers in Chicago that formed the Chicago Cultural Alliance in
2006 under her leadership. Between 2009-2011, she was part of a research team in a project
with nine Chicago neighborhoods to better understand how diverse residents, including Latinxs
in Pilsen, could be engaged in the Chicago Climate Action Plan.
At UIC she has implemented projects such as the Heritage Garden to help the campus make
explicit connections between environmental sustainability, cultural diversity, and social justice.
She is currently working on the Humanities Action Lab “Climates of Inequality” project, which
includes a traveling exhibit that amplifies local stories of environmental justice. The local story
of La Villita, developed by students in her Environmental and Climate Justice course in
partnership with Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and Alianza Americas
reveals how environmental and social injustices intersect in this neighborhood. Cabrera is
currently co-PI in two projects: Climate and Environmental Justice Crossing Latinidades.
Crossing Latinidades Humanities Research Initiative based at the University of Illinois Chicago,
funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and Cultural Immersion in Monarchs and
Milkweeds Advancing Science Education (CIM 2 AS), funded by the National Science Foundation.
Jorge Mena Robles, MA, Assistant Director
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Jorge Mena Robles was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and immigrated to the United States when he was 8 years old. He learned English while first living in Dallas, Texas before settling in Chicago, Illinois where he has spent most of his years. He is a first-generation college student and attended community college before transferring to UIC. As an undergraduate student, Mena studied Anthropology and Latin American & Latino Studies. During this time, he was involved in the undocumented immigrant youth movement via the formation of the Immigrant Youth Justice League in 2009. This time was formative as it led him to continue supporting and working with youth. After working with high school students and alongside restaurant workers building power through workplace and policy organizing, Mena attended graduate school where his MA research focused on undocumented and queer youth activism and how the process of ‘coming out’ can lead to individual and collective identity formation.
Prior to joining the LCC in 2021, Mena served as Assistant Director at La Casa Cultural Latina at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. During this time, he was able to support students and teach courses on mass incarceration as well as mental health wellness & awareness – a salient but often overlooked component of Latinx student’s academic and personal development. Mena is dedicated to ensuring that students of color successfully enter, navigate, and graduate from higher education. He has a personal commitment to engaging youth, parents, and the larger community so as to make college more accessible to first-generation, immigrant, and low-income families. Outside of work, Mena enjoys biking around the city, being near the lake, meditating, and trying new coffee beans.
Nadia Sol Ireri Unzueta Carrasco
Ireri Unzueta Carrasco was born in Mexico DF and has lived and grown up in La Villita since the age of seven. Despite having lived in the US for 12 years, Ireri did not really start to feel at home until 2006, after joining a group of artisans and musicians who organized free art and music classes for the kids in Little Village. The group called itself Arte y Realidad, and the classes took place in a church garage, behind a cafe, and in public parks in Little Village, working with kids as young as two and as old as who ever showed up. It was a space that encouraged people to try to learn new skills, and held the central idea that everyone has something to teach and learn from one another. Ireri continues to hold this view as central to their work with young people, with immigrant communities, and with plants and ecosystems.
Ireri started out at UIC in 2005 through the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts, joining the Industrial Design program. Even though Ireri did not graduate with that degree, the Industrial Design program left them with an appreciation of how different peoples have practiced and still practice the cultivation of a relationship to the ecosystems around us of reciprocity, generosity, and community building, rather than the mainstream relationship of extraction, expendability, and individualism. And it was in the Gender and Women’s Studies Department that Ireri was able to delve deep into discussions of identity, class, gender, citizenship or lack of, migration, through a historical and cultural lense that helped them make sense of the injustices they saw in their daily life. These lenses continue to shape how Ireri analyses and sees the world. Ireri graduated from UIC with a Bachelor of Arts in Gender and Women’s Studies in 2009.
In 2009, tired of the frustrations and obstacles placed by a lack of immigration status, Ireri joined the Immigrant Youth Justice League, a group composed of young undocumented people working to diversify the narratives about being undocumented and creating spaces and resources for undocumented young people to navigate different aspects of life. Now, Ireri still collaborates with groups that uplift the organizing of undocumented immigrant communities, particularly working with Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), and collaborating with Chicago Community and Workers Rights (CCWR). Ireri is also a proud worker owner of the workers’ cooperative Catatumbo Cooperative Farm in Chicago.
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Lauren De Jesus joined the LCC as a Graduate Assistant from Fall 2017 to Spring 2019. She grew up volunteering in her community on the Northwest side and exploring Chicago’s museums. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016 and completed her Master’s in Museum and Exhibition Studies at UIC in 2019. Throughout these experiences, she developed a passion for cultures, museum work, social justice, and environmental justice. Her goal is to change the way the public views museums by demonstrating that museums can utilize their expertise to encourage visitors to think critically about the issues facing society today.
Sarita Hernández, MA, Program Coordinator
Sarita Hernández is a teaching artist, oral historian, and print/zine-maker from salvadoréxican Califas based in Chicago. Sarita is co-founder of marimacha monarca press, a queer and trans* people of color artist collective based in Chicago’s Southwest Side since 2017 invested in making art accessible across generations and languages. They first joined the Latino Cultural Center as a graduate assistant focused on an oral history project centering Mexican Chicago’s connections to the Monarch butterfly and conservation practices in 2016. Currently, Sarita is faculty for printmaking at the Hyde Park Art Center and working on the ARTivism’s workshop series at the Latino Cultural Center. They raise monarch butterflies and black swallowtails that land in the garden bed shared with their siblings in the McKinley Park Community Garden. Sarita also makes #queerveganpies via @pleasurepies which is a pleasure based and sex-positive pie shop. They have worked on several teaching artist and curatorial projects with the National Museum of Mexican Art, Marwen Arts, and the Chicago Park District. They are interested in artistic interventions with the historical archive and imagining alternative forms of social documentation, preservation, and activation of everyday histories, survivals, and resistances.
Alonzo Zamarrón, BD, Graphic Designer, he/him/his
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Alonzo Zamarrón started as a Graphic Designer for the UIC Latino Cultural Center from Spring 2014 to Spring 2017, while pursuing a BFA in Graphic Design from UIC, and he continues to contribute his artistic eye to LCC promotional materials and more. Born and raised in Rochelle, IL and transplanted to Chicago, Alonzo became involved with many social justice movements by designing and printing their promotional material. After graduating, Alonzo was hired full-time in a roll that currently supports several UIC diversity units including the Latino Cultural Center, Office of Diversity, and the Women’s Leadership and Resource Center.
Alonzo plays the trumpet, saxophone, and guitar, as a member of Banda San Guillermo, Fuerte Arranke, and UIC’s Mariachi Fuego. His musical performances have taken him to many cities across Illinois and the midwest which has exposed him to the many different ways the Latinx communities come together to celebrate.
Graduate Assistants Heading link
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Student Educators Heading link
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Ashley is a junior in the Urban Studies program. She is a first generation student from the Northwest suburbs. Besides being a student educator, Ashley is a Heritage Garden leader and an Urban Public Policy Fellow.
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Sheila is an undergraduate student majoring in Political Science and Public Policy at UIC. She is a Mexican-Guatemalan first-generation college student. Growing up on the northwest side of Chicago, she is interested in local nonprofit organizations and volunteering in her community. She is a member of Chicago Scholars, a Mikva Challenge alumni, and currently works in UIC Campus Housing. Sheila is passionate about social and environmental justice as well as policy reform. She looks forward to supporting Latinx voices and gaining expertise at the LCC.
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Ignacio Adán Cambray is a student at UIC in the CUPPA Department, majoring in Urban Studies. Born in Mexico City and relocated to Chicago at the age of 8, this dual upbringing has in part influenced his love for urbanism, namely cities, maps, and the systems that govern these. He is heavily invested in the urban landscape and how certain agents, primarily the built environment and public policy, shape the lives of its citizens, while finding ways to improve inequalities for those at the margin. He also has an affinity for all things art-related, including but not limited to, poetry, film, installation art, sculpture, and oral history.
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Melannie Crystal Agaton is an undergraduate student majoring in Political Science with a Pre-Law career path. She is Mexican and is a first-generation American with strong ties to her culture and roots. Her connection to her culture has resulted in her involvement with various Latino centered groups & organizations: UIC Latinx Heritage Month Planning Committee and the UIC Latina Leadership Institute. She has also been involved with her community through volunteering at her local food pantry and by serving as an interpreter for immigration attorneys. Melannie has experience in public speaking, protesting, rallying, and coordinating community events. Melannie’s identities and beliefs have pushed her to dedicate much of her time to activism and promoting justice for marginalized communities through her education and work.
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Abigail Hernandez is an undergraduate majoring in Disability and Human Development and minoring in Social Justice. Being brown, first-generation, and queer has shaped her passions. Having grown up in the Englewood – Back of The Yards neighborhood, she experienced firsthand the lack of accessible health care as well as the heavy policing that is present in her community. All of this motivated her to pursue an education focused on improving the experiences of intersectional identities within healthcare settings. She also serves as a peer mentor for Campus Housing’s Gender & Sexuality Minorities LLC. As a peer mentor, she works towards building a safe and welcoming space for students who identify as a gender/sexual minority.
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Isabela Jaimes is a 4th-year student in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA). She is pursuing a B.A. in Public Policy with a double minor in Political Science and Non-Profit Management. She is a Mexican American first-generation college student alongside her two older brothers and intends to continue her studies by obtaining a master’s in Urban Planning (MUP). She is an active member of Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority Inc. Beta Chapter on campus and currently holds the President, Co-Community Service, Co-Marketing, and Co-Stroll titles. Currently, she also works at the ID Center on campus. Her passion for helping people and wanting to create positive change in communities is rooted in the volunteer work experiences made during her teenage years. In the future, she hopes to work as a public servant or within the nonprofit sector. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her close friends and sisters, journaling, and trying new food spots around Chicago.
Heritage Garden project efforts are carried out through the activities of the internship program, which runs in Fall, Spring and Summer and adapts to the season. Interns sustain the planting of the satellite gardens and offer public programs, tours of the gardens, and volunteer days. The UIC Sustainability Fee has funded paid internships since its inception in the summer of 2013.
To see a list of current and past interns and leaders, visit the Heritage Garden website.