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3 student papers awarded by Latin American and Caribbean Studies program

Published on July 26, 2022

3 student papers awarded by Latin American and Caribbean Studies program

Papers investigate immigration and sexual diversity

The Latin American and Caribbean Studies program recognized three students in its 2022 annual Student Paper Awards. History major Max Turner ’22 won the top prize, whereas Sociology major Vania Perez Gordillo ’22 and English and Women's and Gender Studies double-major Aspen Ben Azulay ’23 received honorable mentions.

Turner’s paper is titled “E Pluribus, Unum and De Muitos, Um: Economic Solidarity and Brazilian Identity in 21st Century New England.” Gordillo’s paper is titled “Salud Sin Fronteras: Immigration's Effect on the Mental Health of First-Generation Immigrants.” Azulay’s paper is titled “Sexual Diversity in Indigenous Brazil.”


Max Turner
Max Turner '22

Turner’s research focused on the unprecedented number of people leaving Brazil for the United States, forming immigrant communities in large East Coast metropolitan areas like New York City and Boston. He noted a lack of solidarity and cooperation among Brazilian immigrants in employment and the wider economy in these large cities, citing a competitive employment market among new arrivals and social stratification among Brazilian immigrants.

Turner’s research tracked and analyzed the formation of more cohesive and interconnected Brazilian diaspora communities in the Greater Boston area, as well as in suburbs of New York like Danbury, CT, using Brazilian immigrant publications such as the magazine “Bate Papo”(Chat) and the newspaper “The Brazilian Voice,” which have documented the development of a more robust labor solidarity and intra-community throughout the 2000s.

“This was my first time working on an extensive research project,” said Turner. “This really helped me focus on how I was managing my time and organizing the tasks involved to complete the paper. I believe my research skills greatly benefited as well, and I really found myself enjoying the hunt through the stacks in the library for the perfect source. Additionally, it was my first time writing a full-length research paper based on my own translation of Portuguese language primary sources. The research also introduced me to the quirks and difficulties of translating for academic purposes, especially when bringing direct quotations into my paper.”

Turner credited History Professor Anna Kirchmann for keeping him on task. “Her clever constructive criticism had a special way of challenging me to put out better work than I ever believed myself capable of,” adding that her reviews shaped his critical thinking as a citizen as well as a historian.

Of Turner’s winning submission, Ricardo Perez, sociology professor and coordinator of Latin American and Caribbean Studies program, said, “The selection committee was impressed with the extensive research that you conducted and the clarity of the arguments and analysis about Brazilian immigration to New England since the mid-20th century.”


Aspen Ben Azulay
Aspen Ben Azulay '23

Azulay explored Indigenous identity of the LGBTQ+ community in Brazil, hoping to gain a better understanding of sexual diversity within a historical context, as well as shine light on the identity erasure plaguing many native communities.

“My focus on Brazil largely had to do with my personal connection to Brazil and its people,” said Azulay. “This paper was inspired by a global human rights assignment for a class I took called “LGBTQ Lives” with Sociology Professor Kimberly Dugan. She helped me in gathering many of the materials I needed for this research. It was an interesting experience, as many of the materials required some sort of translation, making this research one of the more complicated topics I have ever looked into, but also one of the most engaging and exciting.”

Azulay said her research helped her understand the different ways sexuality and gender identity form in social circles. “If I have taken one thing from this process, other than the content itself, it is the importance of taking that extra time to understand material in its original form. Language usage is the foundation for social functions and reflects a community's understanding of their society. To truly grasp the perspectives of societies unlike our own requires us to take the time not only to listen to what is being said but understand the word usage as is and not in relation to our own language.”

Azulay continued, “In doing so we gain a deeper understanding of global perspectives, as well as the ability to distance ourselves from the limitations of our own language. Gender and sexuality are perfect examples of this. Observing languages makes obvious how these ideas reflect in our language and limit our ways of thinking. Writing this paper helped me understand the implications of what this means.”


Vania Perez Gordillo
Vania Perez Gordillo '22

“As a first-generation immigrant myself, the impact of immigration on mental health is very near and dear to my heart,” said Gordillo. “Apart from all the hardships and trauma (immigrants) deal with their whole lives — social and systemic racism, discrimination, and prejudice — they deal with micro-aggressions and attacks on a daily basis.”

Gordillo selected and interviewed three participants, all first-generation immigrants under the age of 30, as her sample and interviewed them for 30 minutes to obtain data on their upbringing, living situation, among other things. Through extensive research of existing literature, five main topics emerged as the most prominent: 1) political factors and their effect; 2) impact of age; 3) bicultural stress; 4) effects of trauma; and 5) and effects on family dynamics.

The results of the interviews and research demonstrated that each of the participants underwent significant short and long-term stressors that have been affecting their daily lives. Each participant attributed these stressors directly to being an immigrant in the United States.

“This project confirms that there needs to be a serious conversation about the mental health of immigrants and that resources need to be implemented on a national level for them to get the aid they need and deserve,” said Gordillo.

“(This process) gave me a newfound respect for researchers. I would like to give the biggest thank you to Sociology Professor Cara Bergstrom-Lynch for this opportunity and always keeping me in mind and seeing the potential in my work. It means a lot knowing that someone recognizes the passion I carry into my work.”

To honorable mentions Gordillo and Azulay, Perez said, “The selection committee noted the relevance of these timely subjects and your keen observations and criticism of the historical practices and policies that perpetuate discrimination of Mexican immigrants in the United States and indigenous peoples in Brazil.”

Written by Dwight Bachman