Joel A. Saldaña Perez

Graduate Student, Doctoral Program (Ph.D.)

Joel is a Ph.D. candidate in Mexican American Studies with a minor in Library and Information Science (Archival Studies) at the University of Arizona and is also a first-generation college student and immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico.  His research interests are Mexican and Mexican American foodways, traditional healing knowledge and practices, and herbal medicine; how these traditions and knowledge are impacted by migration and place; and how gardens and kitchens act as decolonial archival spaces for these intangible cultural knowledge and traditions.

Joel has been a Graduate Research Assistant to Dr. Patrisia Gonzales and with the Native American Research and Training Center (2014-2015) where he helped create curriculum for a hybrid course on Mexican Traditional Medicine and was one of the caretakers for a medicinal garden; a Graduate Research and Recruitment Intern with Pima Community College (2015) where he supported the Office of International Development in promoting and awarding scholarship funds to American students of Mexican origin; adjunct faculty for Mexican American Studies at Pima Community College (2018); and a Graduate Teaching Assistant and Associate in the Departments of Mexican American Studies (2015-2018) and Spanish and Portuguese (2020-2022).

Joel has worked, interned, and/or volunteered with the following organizations: the Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras (since 2019); Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse (since 2015); the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona (2019-2020); the Tucson Botanical Gardens (2017-2018); Casa Alitas (2017); Resplandor International (2013, 2014, 2018); and with the Kino Border Initiative (2013) and the Flying Samaritans (2014) through the Southern Arizona Area Health Education Center (SEAHEC) as an undergraduate student.

In the summer of 2017, Joel was also a participant in the Southwest Folklife Alliance Ethnographic Fieldschool, where he connected with Carmen Baron, a Mexican folklórico dancer and costume designer and recipient of the 2016 SFA Master-Apprentice Award, under whom he apprenticed for a semester on how to design/make Mexican folklórico costumes.  Additionally, between 2020 and 2022, Joel completed multiple oral history workshops through the VOCES Oral History Summer Research Institute (UT Austin), the Institute of Oral History at Baylor University, and the Oral History Bootcamp through the Southwest Oral History Association (SOHA).

In his free time, Joel performs with Grupo Folklórico Miztontli (Miztontli) and Ballet Folklórico Alexa Zozaya (BFAZ), two Mexican folklórico dance groups in Tucson, AZ.  His participation in these groups has taken him to travel and perform in Arizona, California, and Texas in the U.S. and at national/international festivals in Veracruz, Mexico (2018) and Bogota, Colombia (2022).


Saldana Perez, J.A. (2022). “Archiving Mexican Folklórico Costumes: Applying a Participatory Approach and a Post-Custodial Strategy.” Archival Science 22, 465-481. Peer reviewed.

Caswell, M., Douglas, J., Chow, J., Bradshaw, R., Mallick, S., Karthikeyan, N., Bergis, J., Solis, G., Field, J., Robinson, M.D., Gonzales, P., Rodriguez K.K., Saldaña Perez, J.A., Robinson-Sweet, A. (2021). “Come Correct or Don’t Come at All:” Building More Equitable Relationships Between Archival Studies Scholars and Community Archives. UCLA. Retrieved from

Niehaus, J., Freeman, J., Saldana Perez, J.A. (2018). Nuestras Recetas / Our Recipes: Cooks from Tucson’s Mexican Community Share Stories of Food and Family. Tucson, AZ: Tucson Botanical Gardens. [Bilingual Booklet]

Saldana Perez, J.A. (2017). Remedios de mi tierra: An Oral History Project on the Changes and Continuity of the Traditional Healing Knowledge and Practices of a Mexican Immigrant Woman from Guanajuato, Mexico. Master's thesis, Unviersity of Arizona.

Areas of Study


  • Foodways
  • Gardening Traditions
  • Mexican Traditional Medicine
  • Archival Studies
  • Oral Traditions
  • Oral History


  • Mexican Folklórico Dance
  • Mexican Folklórico Costumes
  • Mexican Traditions and Culture
  • Native American and Indigenous Studies



  • Support with the selection, collection, and creation of materials to create an archive about the Alianza and its founder.


  • Archiving Mexican Folklórico Costumes (Fall 2018-2022): includes a virtual poster presentation at the ARCHIVES*RECORDS conference (2020); a 3-minute proposal presentation for the UA GradSlam (2021); and a manuscript that was published (online first) in the journal Archival Science (2022).
  • Mexican Folklórico Costumes Apprenticeship (Fall 2017): apprenticeship with Carmen Baron, master folklórico costume designer, seamstress, dancer, and recipient of a Southwest Folklife Alliance (SFA) Master-Apprentice Award in 2016.  Currently on hold but hope to return to apprenticeship and to complete oral history interviews with Carmen in the future.


  • Nuestras Recetas: Preserving Tucson’s Mexican-American Family Recipes: collaboration between the Tucson Botanical Gardens and Catholic Community Services to interview Tucson’s Mexican American elders about their favorite recipes and stories behind these recipes (how they learned them, where they come from, etc.).  Bilingual booklet available through the Tucson Botanical Gardens.


  • Thesis: Remedios de mi tierra: An Oral History Project on the Changes and Continuity of the Traditional Healing Knowledge and Practices of a Mexican Immigrant Mother from Guanajuato, Mexico” (committee: Drs. Patrisia Gonzales, Antonio Estrada, and Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith).
  • Submitted IRB forms, created questionnaire, conducted oral history interviews, transcribed audio, and defended in 2017.


  • Our Garden Video Project with Imelda Cortez: Video project about community and school garden projects in Tucson and Sells; interviewees describe the projects and the impact that these gardens have had on the people and the community in general.
  • Link:


M.S., Mexican American Studies (Latinx Health & Wellness)The University of Arizona, 2017

B.A., Spanish Translation & Interpretation, Mexican American StudiesThe University of Arizona, 2014