UCSB Latin American and Iberian Studies Program

Interview with LAIS Undergraduate Major Lee Leal-Ramirez

LAIS undergraduate major, Lee Leal-Ramirez, join us to talk about what motivates her to study Latin America and her work with Neogranadina. Read on to learn more! 

What motivated you to study Latin America? 

Growing up here, I felt that there was a perception that Latin America is a place people emigrate from out of need, not a place that makes important global contributions or has its own successes. Majoring in LAIS has allowed me to better understand the realities of Latin America, so that I can develop and share my own informed opinion.   

Why do you believe it’s important to study Latin America? 

Studying Latin American helps to improve the perception the region has. Additionally, knowledge surrounding Latin America is culturally relevant in the US given the significant Latinx population. Latin America is often described as a homogenous mass despite the fact that it’s a huge region with many different countries and cultures.   

Please tell us a little about your work with Professor Juan Cobo and the non-profit Neogranadina? For example, what motivated you to get involved in this project, how did you get involved, what are you doing with it, and what have you gained/learned? 

Neogranadina is a Colombian non-profit that works to digitize archives that would otherwise be hard to get. Normally someone would have to pay money or give personal info to access this information. This non-profit is making it available to everyone for free. I wanted to get involved with a non-profit that works in Latin America, and Professor Méndez pointed me towards this opportunity. My job is to correct spelling errors and sort out minor inconsistencies. It’s nothing too major, which helps me stay calm and not stressed. I enjoy the little summaries that come to light in the process, they’re like little bits of gossip and I can always ask questions if I feel unsure. I’ve truly learned that you can connect with people from all over the world if you ask questions.  

How is LAIS influencing your career trajectory and what are your current career goals? 

Before majoring in LAIS and thinking critically about my future, I wanted to be an intellectual property lawyer. I think my options are more open now. I’d like to work for Imagen, a non-profit that works to reward people who make the image of Latinx better in the media. Law is still roaming around, but rather as a lawyer for Imagen.   

What has been the most valuable part of your experience as a LAIS student so far? I’ve been able to connect with and learn from LAIS alumni and the greater LAIS community who have established their careers. It seems that a lot of people have majored in LAIS and gone onto to make something of themselves quite impressively.   

What advice do you have for other LAIS undergraduate students?

 Be excited. Approach every class with the idea that it is a wealth of knowledge you are super lucky to get. Make connections and ask questions.  For other first generation students like me, you may feel pressured to go into a specific career that your parents chose, but you shouldn’t  worry about that. If you are confident that this is what you want to leave, then go for it.  

 Any interests beyond academia that you would like others to know about? I enjoy listening to podcasts in Spanish, which helps me with my language skills, in particular I like the podcast Mujer Vestida. I also enjoy riding on my brother’s motorcycle and hiking. One of my favorite hikes is Monserate Mountain in my home town of San Diego. 

 Any other exciting news you would like to share with us?

 I really love attending LAIS’ tertulias. I highly recommend that everyone attend those events.