Central American Studies Showcase in Los Angeles

Jonathan Peraza Campos and advisors at the Central American Studies Showcase in Los Angeles, CA. 2024.

On May 4, Teaching Central America program specialist Jonathan Peraza Campos presented at the Central American Studies Showcase: Celebration, Education y Comunidad in Los Angeles. The showcase featured powerful lessons about Central America for a Central American studies curriculum focused on Los Angeles, home to the largest Central American community in the United States. 

The program was led by University of California, Irvine (UCI) History Project and supported by the California Subject Matter Project; University Cal State Northridge Writing Project; University of California, Los Angeles; and Camino Nuevo Academy. UCI History Project director and Teaching Central America advisor Cindy Mata-Villalta worked with Los Angeles educators and institutions to create the curriculum. 

Jonathan was invited to speak about the Teaching Central America program on a panel alongside Dr. Steven Osuna (CSU Long Beach), Maricela Lopez Samayoa (King Drew High School), Bill Flores (Garifuna Museum of Los Angeles), and Sonia Dolmo-Arriola (Garifuna Museum of Los Angeles). 

Throughout the day, Jonathan connected with Los Angeles teachers and organizations, such as CARECEN–Los Angeles. Jonathan also had the opportunity to meet a number of our advisors in person for the first time. In addition to Mata-Villalta, he met Dr. Floridalma Boj Lopez and Claudia Portillo. 

Many of the presenters from the Central American Studies Curriculum Project expressed gratitude for Teaching Central America. They said our lessons and resources helped them create their own Los Angeles-specific curriculum. Lessons presented at the curriculum fair included Indigenous Mayan social movements and leaders, Palestinian-Salvadoran connections, Central American literature, and more. 

For Jonathan, as an Atlanta-based Central American educator, this event was “magical” and “inspiring.” On the panel, he shared how this was his first time ever in a room full of Latinx and Central American teachers. For once, he was not a minority. Jonathan also shared how his journey of coming to Latinx and Central American studies began when he did not learn much about his heritage and history at home. His schools in Arkansas, Georgia, and New York were not invested in introducing this content in his formal education. “Not having access to an empowering curriculum about my people turned into a passion for ethnic studies education. It led me to become a teacher and the program specialist for Teaching Central America,” Jonathan said.  

He was proud to represent Teaching Central America in Los Angeles where great strides are being made by UCI History Project and California educators, who are building ethnic studies lessons encouraged by recent legislation in support of ethnic studies education in the state. With initiatives like UCI History Project and Teaching Central America, Jonathan hopes that Central American studies will spread to schools across the country. 

Read more about the event at L.A. educators celebrate the unveiling of the Central American Studies curriculum for K-12 students by Ricky Rodas.