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Brenda Nicolas - Loyola Marymount University. Los Angeles, CA, US

Brenda Nicolas Brenda Nicolas

Assistant Professor of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies | Loyola Marymount University


Brenda Nicolas is an expert in Latin American Indigenous diasporas, transnationalism, communal participation/identity & settler colonialism.





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Professor Brenda Nicolas (Zapotec) received her PhD in Chicana/o and Central American Studies from UCLA. Her work looks at the transborder communal experiences of Zapotec diasporas in Los Angeles. Specifically, she looks at women’s and adult children of migrants’ participation in community sociocultural and political organizing to contest settler colonial logics of Indigenous erasure. Dr. Nicolas has an M.A. in Chicana/o Studies (UCLA) and an M.A. in Latin American Studies with a sociology concentration from UC San Diego where she completed two master theses. She received her B.A. in Sociology and Latin American Studies from UC Riverside. Dr. Nicolas is the recipient of several fellowships, including: the Ford Foundation Fellowship, the UC Office of the President Award, the UCLA Dissertation Year Fellowship, and a Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellowship. She is a former research assistant to UCLA’s Mapping Indigenous Los Angeles (MILA) project— a digital storymapping archive that collaborates with Indigenous communities to capture the many Indigenous histories of Los Angeles. She was born and raised in Los Angeles. Dr. Nicolas will continue her book project at LMU titled, Transborder Comunalidad: Gendering Practices of Belonging and Identity Across Settler Colonial Borders.

Education (5)

University of California, Los Angeles: PhD, Chicana/o and Central American Studies 2020

Dissertation Title: Zapotec Generations Across Settler Colonial Borders: Gendering Belonging and Identity

University of California, Los Angeles: M.A., Chicana/o Studies 2017

M.A. Thesis: "Soy de Zoochina: Zapotecs Across Generations in Diaspora: Re-creating Identity and Sense of Belonging."

University of California - San Diego: M.A., Latin American Studies 2012

M.A. Thesis: "'Reclamando lo que es nuestro’: Identity Formation among Zapoteco Youth in Oaxaca and Los Angeles."

University of California, Riverside: B.A., Sociology and Latin American Studies 2009

Field Research Abroad: National Autonomous University of Mexico; Field Research Program- Oaxaca. Senior thesis research paper.

Santa Monica College: Associate of Arts, Liberal Arts 2006


Areas of Expertise (25)

Critical Indigenous Studies

Latin American Indigenous Diaspora

Mexican Migration

Zapotec & Mixtec Indigeneity

Race & Ethnicity

Racialization & Racial Violence

Indigenous Identity and Belonging

Settler Colonialism



Children of Migrants

Comparative Studies



Chicana & Chicano Studies



Survey Design and Data Analysis

Oral Histories

Storytelling and Identity

Gender Studies

American Indian Studies

Cold War

Latin America and the Caribbean

Social Movements

Industry Expertise (10)

Writing and Editing


Media - Online




Graphic Design


Social Media


Accomplishments (22)

LASA/Oxfam Martin Diskin Dissertation Award (professional)


Outstanding junior scholar activism and research

Sawyer Seminar: Sanctuary Spaces Writing Group, UCLA (professional)

2020 (Spring)

Indiana University, Bloomington- Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society— Postdoctoral Fellowship (Declined) (professional)

2020-2022 (Declined)

Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship (professional)


University of California Office of the President Award (professional)


UCLA Graduate Division- Dissertation Year Fellowship (professional)


American Association of University Women (AAUW) - Fellowship Dissertation (Declined) (professional)

2019-2020 (Decline)

Institute of American Cultures (IAC) Research Grant (professional)


Eugene Cota Robles Fellowship Award (professional)


New York University, Steinhardt Faculty First-Look Scholars Program (professional)


Gold Shield Alumnae of UCLA Fellowship (professional)

2019 (Summer)

Summer Institute on Global Indigeneities (SIGI)- (Alternate) (professional)

2019 (Summer)

Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) Travel Conference Grant (professional)

2019 (Spring)

UCLA International Institute Dissertation Fieldwork Fellowship (professional)


UCLA Graduate Summer Research Mentorship Fellowship (professional)

2017 (Summer)

UCLA Graduate Research Mentorship Fellowship (professional)


UCLA Graduate Dean’s Scholar Award (professional)

2016 (Summer)

Together We Can/ Juntos Podemos (professional)

2015 (Summer)

UCLA Graduate Dean’s Scholar Awards (professional)

2015 (Summer)

UCLA Graduate Dean’s Scholar Awards (professional)

2014 (Summer)

Summer-Foreign Language Arts Scholarship (S-FLAS) (professional)


Tinker Travel Grant (professional)


Affiliations (6)

  • American Studies Association (ASA)
  • Native American Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA)
  • Latino Studies Association (LSA)
  • Critical Latinx Indigeneities Working Group (CLI)
  • Latin American Studies Association (LASA)
  • Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA)

Languages (2)

  • Spanish
  • Zapotec (Basic)

Media Appearances (1)

Senderos de Oaxaca: Co-host

Radio Pacifica- KPFK 90.7  radio


Community spanish programming on political, social, cultural, and educational issues pertaining to Indigenous Oaxacans in the U.S. and México.

Courses (2)

Introduction to Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies

2020-2021 2021-2022

Interdisciplinary & Intersectional Research Methods

Spring 2022

Articles (6)

“‘Soy de Zoochina:’ Transborder Comunalidad among the Children of Indigenous Migrants” vol. 19, no. 1

Latino Studies

Nicolas, Brenda


This study adds to the growing interdisciplinary field of Critical Latinx Indigeneities by examining comunalidad (communality or community collectiveness) in a transborder setting. Comunalidad, as Indigenous Oaxacan practices and beliefs, provides a collective understanding of how three Zapotec generations in the US diaspora shape and reinforce notions of Indigeneity and belonging to their lands in Zoochina. I refer to this idea of relational understanding among the US diaspora as transborder comunalidad, the Indigenous epistemology and practice of communal belonging and being across generations in diaspora. Based on oral histories and participant observation fieldwork in Los Angeles, this article looks at sociocultural practices that Zoochina Zapotecs use to challenge Latinidad and Mexicanidad. By organizing in traditional dances and playing in their Oaxacan brass band, generations in diaspora reinforce transborder communal ties to their homeland and identity as Indigenous peoples, specifically as young and adult children of Indigenous migrants.

“Mapping Indigenous Los Angeles Project”


Blackwell, Maylei, Allison Fisher-Olson, Brenda Nicolas, and Dean Olson; Eds. Wendy Teeter and Mishuana Goeman


A chapter of the Mapping Indigenous Los Angeles map projects. This chapter provides an analysis of the Tongva/Gabrielino, Fernandeño Tataviam, and Latin American Indigenous Diaspora using GIS mapping.

Latin American Indigenous Diaspora in the Mapping Indigenous Los Angeles Project, UCLA

2016 [Digital Humanities Publishing- ESRI]

Nicolas, Brenda (Research Assistant)

A digital storymap project that maps out American Indian, the Indigenous Latin American diaspora, and Pacific Islander peoples and community organizations in Los Angeles.

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Behind the mask: Gender hybridity in a Zapotec community: Alfredo Miranda (Book Review in Latino Studies Journal)

University of Arizona Press

Nicolas, Brenda

2017 Juchitán, a small city in the Isthmus of Oaxaca, Mexico, has often been writ-ten about as a matrifocal and sexual/gender heaven. Alfredo Mirandé’s Behind the Mask: Gender Hybridity in a Zapotec Community challenges previous romanticized views through an ethnographic study of indigenous gender and sexuality.

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“Discount Transnationalism: Recession and the Transformation of Cross-Border Ties.” In The Wall Between Us: Oaxacan Migration in an Era of Separatio


Andrews, Abigail, Brenda Nicolás, Lucia Goin, and Melissa Karakash.

2013. Edited by FitzGerald, David, Jorge Hernández-Díaz, and David Keyes. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Reclamando lo que es nuestro : identity formation among Zapoteco youth in Oaxaca and Los Angeles

MA Thesis, University of San Diego

Nicolas, Brenda


Almost no recent study has looked at the identity formation among indigenous college students in a transnational perspective. This present study looks at how Zapoteco college youth in Oaxaca, Mexico and Los Angeles, California reclaim and re-create their indigenous identity against stereotypical notions of what it means to be indigenous. As children these discriminatory remarks used by their peers in school have made them feel ashamed of being indigenous. -Cited more than a dozen times.

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