Keynote Speaker


Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj

is a journalist, social anthropologist, and international spokeswoman. She has been at the forefront of struggles for respect for indigenous cultures.

She was Executive Director of the Mecanismo de Apoyo a Pueblos Indígenas Oxlajuj Tzikin (Support Mechanism for Indigenous Peoples) (2005-2013). Dr. Velásquez Nimatuj is the first Maya-K'iche' woman to earn a doctorate in Social Anthropology, and she initiated the court case that made racial discrimination illegal in Guatemala. She has won numerous academic fellowships and awards for her journalism. She was a member of the Latin American Consulting Group of Indigenous Leaders for UNICEF and participates in the UN through the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She also served as advisor on indigenous issues for the Latin American and Caribbean office of UN Women (2014-2015).

Dr. Velásquez Nimatuj is the author of Pueblos Indígenas, Estado y Lucha por Tierra en Guatemala (AVANCSO 2008) and La pequeña burguesía indígena comercial de GuatemalaDesigualdades de clase, raza y género (AVANCSO-SERJUS 2002). She writes a weekly newspaper column in el Periódico de Guatemala and through both her political and academic efforts seeks to create viable and realistic ways to achieve equality for indigenous people and a truly democratic and participatory democracy in Guatemala.

Invited Panelists

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is the director of El Faro, a digital news site in El Salvador. A founding member of Sala Negra, an investigative team specializing in organized crime, violence, and public safety in Central America, since 2009 he has reported and written about the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs. He is co-author of the books Johnattan has No Tattoos (CCAPVJ, 2009) and Dark Stories: From a Region that Doesn’t Count (Aguilar, 2013). He directed the documentaries The Last Offensive (El Salvador-Spain, 2009) about the arrival of the FMLN party to power in El Salvador, and The Seed and the Stone (El Salvador-Guatemala, 2010) about the Ixil genocide. He was part of the team that in 2013 won the IPYS Latin American award for investigative journalism for their work on the truce with gangs in El Salvador, and in 2016 the Gabriel García Márquez prize for excellence. Follow him on Twitter @jlsanz


learns, applies and promotes dialogic communication (or what she calls “B-side communication). She works in research, teaching and development projects with local, national and international institutions that share the vision of communication as a shared process that begins with listening. Karina believes in research and teaching as a means for generation of authentic knowledge. Her research interests are currently related to social change, ICT4D, and activism in developing countries. She did a Ph.D. at Michigan State University on socioenvironmental activism in Mayan communities in Guatemala.

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Daniela Pastrana

is a Mexican journalist specializing in human rights and social movements. She has worked as a reporter and editor at various national and international media outlets. She directed the project Buscadores, which won the 2017 Gabriel García Márquez prize, and in 2018 she received the National Journalism Award for an article about the killing of journalist Miroslava Breach. She is the co-author of various books about the effects of violence in Mexico, and is a journalism professor at the Iberoamerican University. Currently she is the general editor of PiedePágina.mx and investigative coordinator for the Periodistas de a Pie Network, an organization comprised mostly of some journalists known for their defense of journalism and human rights.

Twitter: @danielapastrana


Chris Valdez

has managed communications at United We Dream in Texas since November 2016. United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the United States, made up of over 400,000 members and 48 affiliate organizations across 26 states. There, he has worked through media and training to further the vision of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement of young people who organize and advocate at the local and national levels for the dignity and justice of immigrants and communities of color in the United States.

Alongside undocumented immigrant leadership across Texas and the country, he has most recently worked on state and local campaigns to stop Texas racial profiling Senate Bill 4 (SB4) and anti-trans bill SB6, and to pass local protections for the Houston immigrant community. Nationally, UWD campaigns continue the work to #DefundHate and build freedom and protections for all immigrants in the face of regular federal attacks against migrants, people of color, and the LGTBQ community. He believes that strong communication is rooted in our collective humanity, reflects our lived experience, and inspires change.

Chris's communications experience also includes efforts to increase higher education achievement through the work of First Lady Michelle Obama, equal rights protection for all Houstonians through the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, equitable solutions post-Hurricane Harvey with Houston's HOME Coalition, the fight for cleaner air with One Breath Partnership Houston, and breaking down historic barriers to civic engagement in Houston through the work of Houston in Action. Twitter @thewhether


Cesar Espinosa

is a native of Mexico. Mr. Espinosa came to the U.S. 27 years ago and has learned how grassroots organizing can make a difference in the community. He graduated from Michael E DeBakey High School for Health Professions. Mr. Espinosa studied at Houston Community college then transferred to the University of Houston where he studied Pre-Law/ Political Science. Mr. Espinosa is co-founder and current Executive Director of an Immigrants Rights Organization named FIEL (Familias Inmigrantes y Estudiantes en la Lucha - Immigrant Families and Students in the Struggle). FIEL is an immigrant-led nonprofit that seeks to empower the immigrant community in Houston, the State of Texas and The United States. He has served on a variety of boards at the local, state and national level. Mr. Espinosa is an advocate for immigrants rights, students rights and human rights.

Workshop Leader


Raymond Ruiz

is the founder of EGMN (El Gato Media Network), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides career development services for media students and young professionals. When not training young media pros, he is doing communications and digital marketing consulting for nonprofits and small businesses. Raymond was recently selected by the Online News Association as a Journalism Mentorship Collaborative fellow and is a trainer for the Society of Professional Journalists where he teaches newsrooms how to use Facebook products. Raymond has a master’s degree in education and a bachelor’s degree in technology management from the University of Houston. He is currently pursuing his MBA at UH with a focus on digital marketing.