Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

"...my goal is to include affected community members in the documenting process. Their voices and perspectives are central to understanding this tragedy and how people are coping with it."

Camila Ruiz Segovia '18

Student Spotlight: Camila Ruiz Segovia '18

Name: Camila Ruiz Segovia '18

Hometown: Mexico city, Mexico

Concentration: Political Science and Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACA)

What are the topics of and inspirations for your research?

A month into my freshman year at Brown, in 2014, Ayotzinapa happened, [wherein 43 students at a teachers college in Mexico's southern state of Guerrero were disappeared by government authorities]. Through hosting a teach-in with Professor Richard Snyder and fellow student Paula Martinez —an incredible, intense experience in and of itself— I met professor Janice Gallagher, whose research is all about how political activism impacts the Mexican court system. Following that event, Paula and I began working as research assistants for Professor Gallagher. We went to southern Mexico together the summer after my freshman year; the main product of our research was a website, ayotzinapatimeline.com, which informs and updates what happened and how the Mexican government and civil society reacted to the events. We were passionate about creating an educational product that was accessible to both Mexican and US audiences. The experience inspired my thesis, which explores the effect of militarization has been in Guerrero, one of the most affected state by the Drug War and where the Ayotzinapa disappearances took place.

What is your approach to this field of study?

I'm interested in documenting the trauma of the Drug War in Mexico. Instead of just putting together homicide numbers, I believe it is also important to document what the experience of violence looks like on the ground. You have to show what fear looks like and the ways it has reshaped Mexican society.  In doing so, my goal is to include affected community members in the documenting process. Their voices and perspectives are central to understanding this tragedy and how people are coping with it. I don’t think you should only use statistics or only use ethnographic evidence; the most powerful outcomes use both. I'm making an active effort to learn statistical programs even though it isn't my passion, because it complements my qualitative research. It is also a selling point for the Mexican government; if you want to make a case for your product in order to have an impact on policy, you have to have some sort of statistical evidence. In the future, I want to go back to Mexico and operate in public policy spheres there. I want to help create peace building processes that don't rely on the army as the only way to solve conflicts in the region.