Joel A Saldana Perez

About Joel A Saldana Perez

Joel is currently a first-year PhD student in the Department of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona and is a first-generation college student and immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico.  His research interests focus around the use of traditional healing knowledge (i.e. home remedies), gardening and agricultural practices, and foodways within Mexican immigrant and Mexican-origin families living in the United States and how these are affected by migration and place.  This research is informed by Joel’s own immigration experience, coming to the United States as child, which gave him a greater appreciation for his native culture and a desire to learn more about the traditions and culture of his family and the immigrant community and later (as a graduate student) how these adapt and change as a result of being taken out of their place of origin.

Since 2014, Joel has been a Research Assistant with Dr. Patrisia Gonzales (2014), helping her develop curriculum for a hybrid class (Mexican Traditional Medicine) and assisting with in-class activities, and with the Native American Research and Training Center (2015) where he helped start and maintain a medicinal/herb garden and was a mentor to a Native undergraduate student and her project on medicinal plants utilized by her family.  He was also a Graduate Research and Recruitment Intern at Pima Community College (2015) where he supported the office of International Development in promoting and awarding scholarship funds to American students of Mexican origin or to Mexican immigrants.  Additionally, Joel has been a Teaching Assistant (2015-present) for “Sex and AIDS in the 21st Century” and “American Indian Health and Wellness,” where has gained more experience around curriculum development and teaching.  Presently, he is also working as Project Assistant with the Tucson Botanical Garden’s Nuestras Recetas project where he will be talking with Tucson’s Mexican American elders about their favorite recipes and stories behind these recipes.

Joel is a member and former student leader of Grupo Folklórico Miztontli (GFM) and the Mexican American Studies Student Alliance (MASA).  Additionally, Joel has worked, interned, or volunteered with Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, the Southern Arizona Area Health Education Center (SEAHEC), Casa Alitas, Resplandor International, and Border Action Network.

Areas of Study


  • Mexican Traditional Medicine
  • Mexican Immigrant Health
  • Gardening and Agricultural Traditions
  • Foodways
  • Oral Traditions
  • Oral History


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


TUCSON BOTANICAL GARDENS (September 2017 – present)

  • 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.).  Funded by Arizona Humanities.

INDEPENDENT STUDY (August 2017 – present)

  • Mexican Folklórico Costumes with Carmen Baron
  • Oral history interview(s) with Carmen Baron, master folklórico costume maker (seamstress) and dancer and recipient of the 2016 Southwest Folklife Alliance Master-Apprentice Award.

MASTER’S THESIS RESEARCH (August 2016 – August 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 Mother from Guanajuato, Mexico

INDEPENDENT STUDY (January 2013 – May 2013)

  • 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.
Joel A Saldana Perez's picture

Contact Information

Joel A Saldana Perez
PhD Student / Graduate Teaching Assistant
Office: Cesar E. Chavez, #210B
Office Hours: Friday 10:15-11:30pm or by appt.


M.S., Mexican American StudiesThe University of Arizona, 2017

B.A., Spanish and Mexican American Studies, The University of Arizona, 2014

Courses Taught

MAS 150B1: Sex and AIDS in the 21st Century

MAS 160A1: American Indian Health and Wellness