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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Julieanna Rueda '23

Chicago, Illinois

Major in Political science and Latin American studies

Julieanna traveled to Mexico City to research if militarization has had a negative effect on residents.

Julieanna Rueda '23

Tell us about your research project.

With funding from the Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies, I was able to travel to Mexico City for two weeks to study militarization. I am a McNair Scholar, so this project is for my McNair research.

In 2006, the then-president of Mexico declared a war on crime, trying to address the rising rates of violence and homicide that were a result of the cartels and organized crime groups. He essentially replaced the police force with the military, so the military was now in the streets, dealing with crimes. Every president after that has continued to enforce this, and it remained until recently when a new national guard was created with extra funding. The new national guard is composed of trained police officers and members of many different military branches. 

I conducted in-person interviews with people who resided in Mexico City—just random people that I could find that would be willing to talk. I studied how militarization, the change in public security, has impacted the people who reside in Mexico City. There have been reports about soldiers being very brutal towards people they arrested, resulting in kidnappings and sexual assault cases, and disappearings and murders. I wanted to know if people knew others in these situations or if they themselves had been in those situations.

Outside of Mexico City is dangerous. I interviewed two human rights activists who had been tortured and raped and kidnapped by members of the military. Every person I interviewed had a story about someone they knew that had been beaten or tortured, or they themselves had gone through it personally. They felt safer in Mexico City, but they still didn’t feel safe with the military in charge. 

I am a native Spanish speaker. My family is from a different part of Mexico that is really dangerous and crime-filled. I wasn’t able to conduct interviews there because it would be much more dangerous for me. 

My research resulted in a 30-page paper. I conducted eight in-person interviews in two weeks. My data didn't support nor reject my claim that Mexico City was militarized, but it did support my hypothesis that the people had more negative experiences with the military.

I presented this at the McNair conference at the University of Buffalo, which was held virtually at the end of July. More than 500 people attended. I am going to present this in October at Knox.

Why did you come to Knox?

My mentor in high school suggested Knox. I’m from Chicago and I didn’t want to go to Knox, I didn’t even know where it was. I thought it was in the middle of nowhere, but when I came to visit the school, I fell in love with it. I love everything about it. I got to sit in two classes: a Spanish class with Fernando Gomez, associate professor and chair of Spanish. I’m currently a teaching assistant in his class. I also sat in on an astronomy class with Nathalie Haurberg, associate professor of physics. I really enjoyed the classes. I walked around campus and I loved that everything was close by and that I got to see the dorms. I really loved it.

What do you like about Knox?

The opportunities that Knox provides, and Karen Kampwirth, who is my advisor. I chose her as my advisor at the end of my sophomore year because I had taken a lot of classes with her, and she decided to be my mentor for my McNair project. Now she’s my mentor for my capstone project. She gave me the idea to go to Mexico and told me I could get funding from the Richter Memorial Fund at Knox. She encouraged me to go out into the field. I thought it was a crazy idea, but she supported me and put me in contact with Marcus, who was a great help.

I’m going to study abroad in Argentina, Peru, and Chile for winter and spring terms. This is actually my last term at Knox. I’ll fulfill the rest of my credits and then come back to Knox two weeks before graduation. 

I’m a first-generation student—my mom’s a single parent, she didn’t graduate from high school. She was freaking out when I decided to leave the country. I’m really lucky to have the opportunity to do these things through my education, but it wouldn’t be possible if my family didn’t support me. 

What are your plans post-graduation?

I am applying to graduate school programs for my master's in legal studies and going to law school after. My end goal is to be an immigration attorney.

What advice would you give to students thinking about attending Knox?

Explore everything. I lived a lot of my Knox experience during the COVID pandemic. I would have liked to study abroad sooner and know more about the opportunities. A lot of my classes were online, so I wasn’t here on campus. I was an orientation leader this year and I told the first-year students you really need to explore and Knox does grow on you. There are a lot of opportunities, particularly for people of color. I love Knox and I love the ambiance and the support for the students, especially from my mentor.

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Printed on Monday, May 20, 2024