Alicia Gaspar de Alba


Contact Information

Email     agdealba@chavez.ucla.edu
Office  Bunche 7367
Phone  (310) 206-3491
Professor Alicia Gaspar de Alba is a celebrated writer and scholar.

A founding faculty member and former chair of the UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies (2007-2010), Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s work explores gender and sexuality, Chicana/o art, popular culture, and border studies. Known to her students as La Profe or Gaspar, she teaches courses on border consciousness, bilingual creative writing, Chicana lesbian literature, and barrio popular culture, as well as graduate courses on Chicana feminist theory, aesthetics of place, and Latin@ noir. In addition to her work in Chicana/o Studies, since 2013, Gaspar has served as Chair of the LGBT Studies Program. Under her leadership, LGBT Studies is in the process of developing a graduate program. 

Gaspar's doctoral dissertation “Mi Casa [No] Es Su Casa: The Cultural Politics of the Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation Exhibit” won the 1994 Ralph Henry Gabriel American Studies Association Award for Best Dissertation, and is the basis for her 1998 book, Chicano Art Inside/Outside the Master’s House. She also received a 1993 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship and a 1992 Chicana Dissertation Fellowship from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 1999, she was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship for Latino/a Cultural Study at the Smithsonian. In 2008, she was awarded the UCLA Gold Shield Faculty Award for Academic Excellence.

She has published 11 books. Most recently, her 2014 book, [Un]Framing the "Bad Woman": Sor Juana, Malinche, Coyolxauhqui and Other Rebels With a Cause, is a collection of twenty years of scholarly essays that examine the "bad woman" stereotype and its several manifestations  in Chicana/o and Mexicana/o culture --the bad mother, the bad daughter, the bad sister, etc. Her 2011 book, Our Lady of Controversy: Alma López’s “Irreverent Apparition,” co-edited with Alma López herself, serves as a Chicana feminist response to the religious opposition against Lopez’s digital collage, “Our Lady,” and offers diverse perspectives on art, censorship, first-amendment rights, the alignment of Church and State, and Chicano nationalism.  Her 2010 anthology (co-edited with her graduate student, Georgina Guzmán) Making a Killing: Femicide, Free Trade, and La Frontera examines the unresolved murders of over five hundred Mexican women and girls that have taken place on the border between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico since 1993. 

She has also published three novels, two collections of poetry, and an award-winning short story collection. Her creative writing has been translated into Spanish, German Italian, and French. Her fiction has been adapted to play, opera, and screenplay. Check out her website to learn more about the forthcoming Mexican independent film based on one of her novels.

In 2001, Gaspar de Alba won First Place in Historical Fiction in the Latino Literary Hall of Fame for her debut historical novel Sor Juana’s Second Dream (1999), a Chicana lesbian interpretation of the life of Latin America’s “tenth muse,” the 17th-century nun/poet/scholar Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.  Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders (2005) was awarded both a Lambda Literary Foundation Award for Best Lesbian Mystery and a Latino Book Award for Best Mystery in English. Mystery of Survival, her short story collection, was awarded the 1994 Premio Aztlán, a Rudolfo Anaya-endowed literary award for a first book of fiction by an emerging Chicana/o writer. Her third novel, also a historical work set at the time of the New England witchcraft trials, Calligraphy of the Witch, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2007, and the paperback edition was published in 2012 by Arte Publico Press.

Along with her writing, teaching and research, Gaspar de Alba has also organized three important conferences at UCLA. As part of the 2010 quinceañera celebration of the UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies, Gaspar de Alba organized an all-day Valentine’s symposium, “Sex y Corazón: Queer and Feminist Theory at the Vanguard of the New Chicana/o Studies,” which examined how Chicana/o queer and feminist scholars have changed Chicana/o Studies over the past 15 years. In 2003, she organized “The Maquiladora Murders, Or, Who Is Killing the Women of Juárez?” a three-day international conference about the epidemic of femicides that have been occurring on the U.S.-Mexico border since 1993, and in 2001 she organized “Otro Corazón: Queering the Art of Aztlán,” a Valentine’s day tribute to the creative spirit of queer Chicana/o visual artist, performance artists, writers, and critics.

Gaspar de Alba holds joint appointments in the departments of English and Gender Studies, and has been member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies Faculty Advisory Committee since 1997. From 2002-2004, she served as Associate Director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center and co-editor of Aztlán: A Chicano Studies Journal, and from 2000-2001, she was appointed Interim Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Studies Program. 

Before completing her PhD and joining the faculty at UCLA, she worked as a Braille transcriber at the National Braille Press in Massachusetts and taught English Composition and ESL courses at the University of Massachusetts Boston (1986-1990).

A native of the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border, Gaspar de Alba now resides in Los Angeles, California with her wife, digital artist and muralist Alma López, and their two cats.  Together, Alma and Gaspar have started a new transnational writers & artists collective called Codex Nepantla, whose mission is to translate Chicana feminist and Chicana lesbian theory into Spanish and visual art, and help facilitate access to Chicana critical thought for lesbian and feminist activists and academics in Mexico, Latin-America, and the Spanish-speaking world.

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Ph.D., American Studies, University of New Mexico, 1994.
M.A., English-Creative Writing Concentration, University of Texas at El Paso, 1983.
B.A., English, University of Texas at El Paso, 1980, Magna cum Laude.

Selected Publications


[Un]Framing the "Bad Woman": Sor Juana, Malinche, Coyolxauhqui and Other Rebels with a Cause 

Edited by Alicia Gaspar de Alba 
University of Texas Press (Chicana Matters Series) 

One of America’s leading interpreters of the Chicana experience dismantles the discourses that “frame” women who rebel against patriarchal strictures as “bad women” and offers empowering models of struggle, resistance, and rebirth. 

Our Lady of Controversy: Alma López's "Irreverent Apparition"
Edited by Alicia Gaspar de Alba and Alma López
University of Texas Press (Chicana Matters Series), Spring 2011

Months before Alma López's digital collage Our Lady was shown at the Museum of International Folk Art in 2001, the museum began receiving angry phone calls from community activists and Catholic leaders who demanded that the image not be displayed. Protest rallies, prayer vigils, and death threats ensued, but the provocative image of la Virgen de Guadalupe (hands on hips, clad only in roses, and exalted by a bare-breasted butterfly angel) remained on exhibition.

Making a Killing: Femicide, Free Trade, and La Frontera
Edited by Alicia Gaspar de Alba, with Georgina Guzmán
University of Texas Press

Since 1993, over five hundred women have been murdered and mutilated in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and at least a third have been sexually violated as well. Such violence has gone by uninvestigated, unpunished, and unresolved by Mexican authorities, thus creating an institutionalized and sanctioned violence against poor Mexican women and girls on an increasingly globalized U.S.-Mexico border.

Making a Killing book review by Margaret Randall

Click here for more on Professor Gaspar de Alba's Books.


Chicano/a art; Popular culture; Border studies; Gender and sexuality; The Maquiladora murders; Femicide; Creative Writing