Martha Ojeda

Professor of Spanish and French

As a Latin Americanist, Martha Ojeda has found her classroom discussions can sometimes veer toward delicate or controversial issues, such as U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. But she believes it is her responsibility to challenge preconceived notions and encourage students to think about their own cultural traditions and worldview and what influenced their beliefs.

To ensure that students are exposed to multiple perspectives, she invites local and internationally known speakers into her classroom and shows documentaries on a variety of topics. “Students appreciate objective presentations that evaluate supporting and opposing arguments of a particular issue.”

Learning, at times, can be an uncomfortable experience, because it pushes us to question the ideas and values we take for granted.

In her beginning and intermediate language classes, Ojeda tries to create a “low-anxiety classroom atmosphere” while challenging students to perform to the best of their abilities. As a non-native English speaker, Ojeda remembers when she was first introduced to English in high school and how words sounded “magical and beautiful.” She wants her students to enjoy learning languages as much as she enjoyed learning English.

Ojeda also knows that introducing students to individuals in the local Latino community can influence their understanding of other cultures. She encourages students to participate in internships with local organizations or volunteer in organizations that serve the Latino population.

This face-to-face connection is vital to a student’s understanding of the decisions other individuals make. “I remember one first-year student who was dreading having to take more Spanish classes at the college level. Then she decided to major in Spanish. As a result of her experience teaching English as a second language, not only did her spoken Spanish improve greatly but she also became very sympathetic to the concerns of migrant workers. As she confessed to me, she understood ‘why they are here,’ whereas before she had ‘discriminated against them.’”

When Ojeda developed a course for the first-year seminar program titled Latinos: One or Many Cultures, she learned more about the various perspectives students bring to campus.

“I was particularly touched by the writings of two of my students of Latino background who were able to reflect on their sense of alienation living in a culture and a country that reminded them of their difference. It was equally touching to read the experiences of my Anglo students who reflected on how their perceptions of ‘others’ had been formed. I learned so much from my students’ sense of empathy and compassion, especially when we read the testimonies of the undocumented migrant workers.”

Academic History

Ph.D., Spanish, University of Kentucky, 1998
M.A., French, University of Kentucky, 1993
B.A., French, Berea College, 1991

Courses Taught at Transy

Latin American Culture and Civilization
Latin-American Literature
Afro-Hispanic Literature
Contemporary Latin-American Prose Fiction (Women Writers)
Contemporary Latin-American Prose Fiction (Novels of Armed Conflict)
Latin-American Civilization through Film
The Hispanic Experience in the U.S.
Spanish for Teachers
Business Spanish
Medical Spanish
From Cuzco to Lima: Andean Migrations and the Creation of Hybrid Cultural Communities (May term travel course)
Conversation on French and Francophone Culture

Conference Presentations

“Representaciones de la mujer negra esclava en El Barco de ébano,” presented at the GEALA: Grupo de Estudios Afrolatinoamericanos Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. September 2-4, 2019.

“Cuerpos subyugados: violencia física y violencia económica en Piel de Mujer de Delia Zamudio,” presented at the ALARA: Afro-Latin American Research Association Conference in Nieuwpoort, Curaçao. August 2-6, 2016.

¿Afro-feminismos en construcción?: Piel de Mujer de Delia Zamudio y la lucha por la equidad de género,” presented at the fourth conference on Negritud: Conference of Afro-Latin American Studies, Universidad de Cartagena, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. March 11-14, 2014.

“Repensar la peruanidad: solidaridad entre negros e indios en Malambo de Lucía CharúnIllescas,” presented at the International Congress on Afro-Andean Literartures, Lima, Peru, June 26-28, 2013.

 “Historiar liricamente: danza, canto y poesía en Décimas y Cumanana de Nicomedes Santa Cruz,” presented at the 71st Annual Convention of the College Language Association, Spartanburg, S. C., April 2011

“Recuperando la memoria perdida: esclavitud y libertad en Malambo y El barco de ébano,” presented at the 69th Annual Convention of the College Language Association, Cambridge, Maryland, March 2009

“De la Ciudad de los Reyes a Malambo: espacios de resistencia y reconstrucción identitaria en Malambo,” presented at Jornadas Andinas de Literatura Latinoamericana, Santiago Chile, August 2008 (revised and expanded)

 “Manifestaciones del afrorealismo en Malambo: los orichas y la recuperación de la memoria simbólica,” presented at the 67th Annual Convention and the Seventieth Anniversary of the College Language Association, Miami, Florida, April 2007

Keynote address: “El lenguaje poético de Nicomedes Santa Cruz,” presented at Coloquio Internacional en homenaje a “Nicomedes Santa Cruz”: Identidad y literatura afroperuana, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Peru, June 2005

Selected Publications

“Recuperando la memoria perdida: esclavitud y libertad en El barco de ébano.” Visitas al Patio: Revista de Lingüística y Literatura, 13 (2019): 107-125

“Afro-Hispanic Poetry.”  Chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Latin American Poetry. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

“Nicomedes Santa Cruz frente al canon literario peruano: argumentos para su inclusión” in D’Palenque Revista de Literatura Afro-Peruana, 1.1 (2016): 7-16. (Reprint)

“De la Ciudad de los Reyes a Malambo: espacios de resistencia y reconstrucción identitaria en Malambo de Lucía Charún-Illescas” in Afro-Hispanic Review, 32.1 (2013): 129-144.

“Nicomedes Santa Cruz and Black Cultural Traditions in Peru: Renovating and Decolonizing the National Imaginary.” Chapter in Critical Perspectives on Afro-Latin American Literature. Editor: Dr. Antonio Tillis. Routledge Press, 2012

“Introduction to Nicomedes Santa Cruz,” (Special Edition on Black Peru: Literature, Art and Culture) Callaloo, 34.2 (2011): 268–272

“Nicomedes Santa Cruz: breve biografía literaria.” Identidades: reflexión, arte y cultura peruana, Año 4, número 86, 6 junio 2005

“Nicomedes Santa Cruz and the Vindication of Afro-Peruvian Culture.”  Chapter in  Contemporary Latin American Cultural Studies, Eds. Stephen Hart and Richard Young. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003

Nicomedes Santa Cruz: Ecos de Africa en Perú. London, England: Tamesis Books, 2003

Areas of Research

Afro-Latino literatures and cultures
Testimonial narratives
Novels of the Armed Conflict in Peru (1980–2000)

Professional Memberships

Association of Caribbean Studies (ACS)
Modern Language Association of America (MLA)
College Language Association (CLA)
Afro-Latin American Research Association (ALARA)


Kenan Faculty Development Grant, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009
The National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar, 2003
The Bingham Award for Excellence in Teaching, 2002
The National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute, 2001
The David and Betty Jones Faculty Development Grant, 2000
Jessie-Ball duPont Technology Grant, 1999