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Latin America

Latin American History at UCSB

The University of California, Santa Barbara, has a strong trajectory in Latin American History. Our PhD program welcomes students interested in all time periods and regions of Latin America. Our faculty’s research and teaching cover a very broad range of regions, periods, and subjects: from Mexico to the Caribbean and the Andes and from the sixteenth century to the twentieth, considering key questions in social, political, and cultural history and the history of science. As a result, our students are not only able to pursue research in a wide variety of topics, but also obtain a firm grounding in Latin American history more broadly, with its different historiographies, methodologies, and theoretical perspectives.

Students in Latin American History complete a sequence of reading seminars covering the key issues, themes, and literature of the colonial period and the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (HIST 250A, 250B, and 250C). Beyond this, they have great flexibility to design—working closely with their advisors—individual programs of study combining more specialized seminars courses on particular themes and regions with independent reading courses to suit their interests. They also obtain the skills—such as palaeography, or digital research skills—necessary to conduct their research.

Our students also work in tandem with faculty in other subfields within the department—such as the larger program of history of science, environmental history, medieval studies, African history, U.S., or European History—as well as with faculty from all over campus. Every major department at UCSB has distinguished faculty specializing in Latin America: Anthropology and Archaeology, Film and Media Studies, Geography, Global Studies, Political Science, Sociology, and —of course—the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Our graduate students are also in constant interaction with the students of the Master’s program in Latin American and Iberian Studies (LAIS), many of whom have subsequently joined our PhD program.

Recently completed or ongoing dissertation projects reflect the diverse interests of students and faculty. They include public health in rural Colombia and post-revolutionary Bolivia, nineteenth-century Mexican military history, the student movement in Argentina, civil wars and the wars of independence in Peru, and historiography of Portugal and Brazil, among others. We have also trained students whose research has focused on regions as diverse as the territories of modern-day Guatemala, Argentina, Jamaica, Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay.

The PhD program in Latin American History at UCSB has an excellent job placement record. Former students hold tenured or tenure-track professorships, or have held visiting professorships at the following institutions: University of Maryland University College, Virginia Tech, UC Riverside, Central Washington University, Furman University, West Point, American River College, Whitworth College, University of Alabama, Quest University (Canada), and ICESI University (Colombia) among others. Other recent PhDs have sought and obtained jobs as directors of historical archives, and analysts for think tanks such as the New America Foundation.

Before you apply to our graduate program, make sure to contact the faculty member whose research field is closest to your scholarly interests.


  • Veronica Castillo-Muñoz, who is a historian of the Mexico-U.S. borderlands, studying how gender, migration, and race intersect in northern Mexico and the U.S. Southwest,
  • Juan Cobo-Betancourt, who focuses on questions of religion, law, and language in the colonial period, and on developing public and digital history initiatives in the region.
  • Evelyne Laurent-Perraultwho focuses on the history of the African Diaspora in colonial Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Cecilia Méndez Gastelumendi, who focuses on the social and political history of the Andean region, primarily during the transition from colonial to republican rule.

Affiliated Faculty

Graduate Students

  • Christopher McQuilkin, who focuses on environmental and agrarian history in the Southern Cone during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
  • María del Pilar Ramírez Restrepo, who focuses on the history of religious missions and linguistic knowledge in the early modern period, and works with projects that digitally preserve and promote archival materials in Latin America.
  • Andreína Soto, who studies African diaspora, religion and law in the early modern period, and works with digital humanities initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Recent alumni/ae

  • Dr. Rafaela Acevedo-Field (2012)
    “Denunciation of Faith and Family: Crypto-Jews and the Inquisition in Seventeenth-Century Mexico.” Visiting Assistant Professor, Montana Western University. Chair: Cline.
  • Dr Scarlett Aldebot-Green (2014)
    “The Politics of Youth Citizenship in Costa Rica, 1940s – 1980s.” Chair: Soto Laveaga.
  • Dr Jill Briggs (2013)
    “The Making of the Jamaican National Body: Colonialism and Public Health, 1918–1944”. Chair: Soto Laveaga.
  • Dr Ricardo Caton (2012)
    “Defensores de la Patria: Mexico’s Army and the Nineteenth-Century Creation of the Mexican Nation.” Professor, American River College. Chair: Soto Laveaga.
  • Dr Hanni Jalil (2015)
    Curing the Sick Nation: Public Health in 20th Century Latin America.” Assistant Professor of History, CSU Channel Islands. Chair: Soto Laveaga. 
  • Dr. Cheryl Jimenez Frei (2018)
    “Shaping and Contesting the Past: Monuments, Memory, and Identity in Buenos Aires, 1811-present”. Assistant Professor, Public History and modern Latin American history, University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Chair: Cline
  • Dr Damian Nemirovsky (2015)
    Laica o Libre: The 1958 University Reforms and the Fight over the Identity of the Argentine Nation.” Chair: Rock.