Alicia Gaspar de Alba

Professor of Chicana/o Studies, English, and Women's Studies
Chair 2007-2010


7367 Bunche
(310) 206-3491
Curriculum Vitae


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.

Research Interests

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

Biography and Interests

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), her work explores gender and sexuality, Chicana/o art, popular culture, and border studies. Known to her students as La Profe, she teaches courses on border consciousness, bilingual creative writing, Chicana lesbian literature, and barrio popular culture.

With novels that have been translated into Spanish, German and Italian, Gaspar de Alba has published numerous books, articles, short stories, and poetry. 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 and her 2005 mystery novel, Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders examine 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.

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 (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 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.

Gaspar de Alba is currently working on two book-length projects: “Drag King Debutant,” a young adult novel about gay teen suicide and homophobia in the Mexican immigrant community, and “She Was Framed: The Bad Woman Stereotype from New Spain to the Post-NAFTA Border,” an examination of five different “frames” used to categorize, interpret, and patrol the female body across time and place, all variations of the “bad woman” stereotype as applied to Chicana feminists, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and the poor brown female victims of the Juárez femicides. With Alma Lopez, she is also starting 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 Spanish-speaking lesbofeminist activists.

Along with her teaching and scholarly work, 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 Women’s Studies, and is a longstanding member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies Faculty Advisory Committee. 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 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.

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.

Research Grants

Institute of American Cultures Grant, 2005-2006
Small Grant, 2003-2004
Institute of American Cultures (IAC) Grant, 2003-2004
Rockefeller Fellowship for Latino/a Cultural Study at the Smithsonian, 1999
Research Grant, 1998-99
Institute of American Cultures Grant, 1998-99
Minority Scholar-in-Residence Postdoctoral Fellowship, Pomona College, 1994-5


International Latino Book Award for Best Spanish-Language Mystery for Sangre en el Desierto: las Muertas de Juárez, 2009
Gold Shield Alumnae Faculty Prize for Academic Excellence, UCLA, 2008
Lambda Literary Foundation Award for Best Lesbian Mystery of 2005
International Latino Book Award for Best English-Language Mystery of 2005

Best Historical Fiction for Sor Juana's Second Dream in the Latino Literary Hall of Fame, 2000.
Roderick Endowed Chair in English, Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Texas at El Paso, Fall 1999.
Border-Ford/Pellicer-Frost Award for Poetry, 1998.
Shirley Collier Prize for Literature (UCLA English Department award), 1998.
Dean's Marshal for the Social Sciences Division, UCLA, 1998.
Aztlán for Mystery of Survival, 1994.
Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fellowship, Award in Poetry, 1989.


OurLady of Controversy CoverOur 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.

BC Making a KillingMaking a Killing: Femicide, Free Trade, and La Frontera
Edited by Alicia Gaspar de Alba (with Georgina Guzmán)
University of Texas Press (Chicana Matters Series), Fall 2010

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.


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