Brenda Nicolas

Brenda Nicole

Brenda Nicolas

Assistant Professor

Cohort 2014-15

Office: 7349 Bunche Hall



Brenda Nicolas is a Zapotec scholar and member of her community, San Jerónimo Zoochina. She was born and raised in Mid-City Los Angeles, one of the main hearts of the Oaxacan diaspora. Since she was a child, she has participated in Oaxacan folkloric (La Guelaguetza) and sacred dances back in Zoochina and in the California Indigenous Oaxacan diaspora.

As a PhD Candidate in Chicana/o Studies at UCLA, her dissertation, Zapotec Generations Across Settler Colonial Borders: Gendering Politics of Belonging and Identity, investigates how the experiences of U.S.-raised generations, and women’s participation in particular, are central to sustaining transnational migrant Indigenous communities, while challenging their racial categorization as Latina/o and/or Hispanic. She considers how the U.S. and Mexico have shaped, maintained, and/or reconfigured Indigenous racialization into a national imaginary that attempts to assimilate, silence, and eliminate Indigenous peoples. She uses oral histories of men and women among the first, 1.5, and second migrant generations. Brenda is a Ford Foundation Fellow and a University of California Office of the President (UCOP) awardee for her continued dedication to diversity, inclusivity, and mentorship for future scholars in higher education. She is also a UCLA Dissertation Year Fellow, a Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellow, and a two-time Graduate Dean’s Scholar awardee at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Brenda holds an MA thesis (2012) in Latin American Studies from UCSD, “‘Reclamando lo que es nuestro’: Identity Formation among Zapoteco Youth in Oaxaca and Los Angeles,” which examines how Indigenous youth identity among community-engaged Native college students in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico and in Los Angeles, California is constructed. Her Chicana/o Studies (2017) MA thesis from UCLA, “‘Soy de Zoochina’: Zapotecs Across Generations in Diaspora Re-creating Identity and Sense of Belonging” (UCLA), examines how politically and culturally involved Zapotec generations in LA (re)create their Indigenous identity and belonging through transborder communal practices. Brenda 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.

Dissertation Committee Members: Maylei Blackwell (Chair), Leisy J. Abrego, Shannon Speed, Mishuana Goeman.


Brenda received her Ph.D. from the Department of Chicana/o Studies in 2020. She is now an Assistant Professor of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University.



  • 2020 – Ph.D. César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
  • 2017 – Gender Studies Certificate, Department of Gender Studies University of California, Los Angeles
  • 2017 – M.A. César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies University of California, Los Angeles
  • 2012 – M.A. Latin American Studies (Sociology Concentration) University of California, San Diego
  • 2009 – B.A. Sociology and Latin American Studies University of California, Riverside
  • 2006 – A.A. Liberal Arts Santa Monica College


  • Critical Indigenous Studies, Race, Ethnicity
  • Racial Violence
  • Children of Migrants
  • Settler Colonialism
  • Identity & Belonging
  • Migration
  • Transborder/Transnationalism
  • Land
  • Comparative/Relational Studies
  • Oral Histories; Qualitative Research

Selected Publications

(Selected) Peer-Reviewed

  • Nicolas, Brenda. (Accepted). “‘Soy de Zoochina:’ Political Practices of Belonging in Diaspora.” Latino Studies.
  • Nicolas, Brenda. (Manuscript in preparation). “Indigenous Protocols in Transborder Methodologies: A Diasporic Perspective.” Native American Indigenous Studies journal.

Book Chapters

  • Nicolas, Brenda. (Under Review) “Settler Colonialism in 20th Century Mexico: Indigenismo & Mestizaje.” In Critical Latinx Indigeneities, edited by Maylei Blackwell, Lourdes Alberto, Floridalma Boj López, and Luis Urrieta.
  • Blackwell, Maylei, Allison Fisher-Olson, Brenda Nicolas, and Dean Olson. Forthcoming. “Mapping Indigenous Los Angeles Project.” In ESRI, edited by Wendy Teeter and Mishuana Goeman. Redlands, CA: Environmental Systems Research Institute.
  • Andrews, Abigail, Brenda Nicolás, Lucia Goin, and Melissa Karakash. 2013. “Discount Transnationalism: Recession and the Transformation of Cross-Border Ties.” In The Wall Between Us: Oaxacan Migration in an Era of Separation, edited by FitzGerald, David, Jorge Hernández-Díaz, and David Keyes. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Book Reviews

  • Nicolas, Brenda. 2018. “Indigenous Women and Laws in Latin America.” Review of Demanding Justice and Security: Indigenous Women and Legal Pluralities in Latin America, edited by Rachel Sieder. American Indian Culture and Research Journal. Vol. 41, no. 4.
  • Nicolas, Brenda. 2018. “Ethnographic Accounts of Romanticized Juchitán.” Review of Behind the Mask: Gender Hybridity in a Zapotec Community, by Alfredo Mirandé. Latino Studies Journal. Vol. 16, no. 2.

Digital Humanities

  • Nicolas, Brenda. 2015, 2016, 2017. Latin American Indigenous Diaspora. A Mapping Indigenous Los Angeles (MILA) UCLA Digital Project. Available at:

Honors & Awards

  • (Selected) 2019-2020 New York University, Steinhardt Faculty First-Look Scholars Program
  • 2019 (Summer) Gold Shield Alumnae of UCLA Fellowship
  • 2019-2020 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship
  • 2019-2020 University of California Office of the President Award
  • 2019-2020 UCLA Graduate Division- Dissertation Year Fellowship
  • 2019-2020 American Association of University Women (AAUW) – Fellowship Dissertation (Declined)
  • 2014-2019 Cota Robles Fellowship Award 2019-2020 Institute of American Cultures (IAC) Research Grant
  • 2019 (Summer) Summer Institute on Global Indigeneities (SIGI)- (Alternate)
  • 2019 (Spring) Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) Travel Conference Grant
  • 2019 (Spring) UCLA American Indian Studies Center Travel Grant
  • 2019 (Spring) UCLA Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies Travel Grant
  • 2018-2019 UCLA International Institute Dissertation Fieldwork Fellowship
  • 2018 (Summer) UCLA Teaching Fellowship Award (Department of Chicana/o Studies)
  • 2018 (Spring) UCLA Teaching Fellowship Award (Department of Sociology)
  • 2018 (Winter) UCLA Graduate Division Fellowship
  • 2017 (Summer) UCLA Graduate Summer Research Mentorship Fellowship
  • 2016-2017 UCLA Graduate Research Mentorship Fellowship
  • 2016 (Summer) UCLA Graduate Dean’s Scholar Award
  • 2016 (Spring) UCLA Center for the Study of Women Travel Grant
  • 2016 (Spring) UCLA American Indian Studies Center Travel Grant
  • 2016 (Spring) UCLA Chicana/o Studies Departmental Travel Grant
  • 2016 Predoctoral Ford Foundation Fellowship (Honorable Mention)
  • 2015 Together We Can/ Juntos Podemos
  • 2015 (Summer) UCLA Graduate Dean’s Scholar Awards
  • 2014 (Summer) UCLA Graduate Dean’s Scholar Award
  • 2010 Summer-Foreign Language Arts Scholarship (S-FLAS)
  • 2010 Tinker Travel Grant
  • 2006 Hilding A. Tegner L Carl E. Tegner Memorial: Outstanding Award
  • 2006 Santa Monica Community College Foundation Award
  • 2005 A.W.A.R.E. Santa Monica College Foundation
  • 2005 Santa Monica Community College Foundation Award
  • 2005 Santa Monica Community College Latino Center/Adelante Program Scholarship Leadership Awards:
  • 2006 Dean of Student Life and Judicial Affairs Recognition Award. Santa Monica College
  • 2006 Chair and Vice-Chair Inter-Club Council. Santa Monica College Associated Students Leadership Award


Teaching Fellow

  • 2018 (Summer) Department of Chicana/o Studies, Experiences of Indigenous Migrants and the Second Generation, University of California, Los Angeles
  • 2018 (Spring) Interracial Dynamics Cluster Program, Indigenous Racialization: Diasporic Indigenous Perspectives, University of California, Los Angeles
  • 2011 (Winter) Department of Linguistics, Spanish Beginners Writing, University of California, San Diego
  • 2010 Department of Linguistics, Advanced Spanish Conversation, University of California, San Diego

Teaching Assistant

  • 2018 Department Chicana/o Studies, Social Structures and Contemporary Conditions (Winter); Spanish and English Sections, University of California Los Angeles
  • 2017 Department Chicana/o Studies, Introduction to Chicana/o Studies (Fall); Spanish & English Sections; University of California, Los Angeles
  • 2016 Department Chicana/o Studies, Mexican Americans and the Schools (Summer); University of California Los Angeles
  • 2015-2016 Chicana/o Studies, Introduction and Theoretical Concepts; Spanish and English Sections; University of California Los Angeles Reader
  • 2009-2010 Department of Sociology, Sociology of Immigration; The Sixties; Sociology of the Family; Social Movements and Social Protest University of California, San Diego