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About Transylvania

Martha Ojeda

Professor of Spanish and French; Pre-Health Committee Advisor

Haupt Humanities 312A
Transylvania University
300 North Broadway
Lexington, KY 40508-1797

Phone: (859) 281-3553
e-mail Martha Ojeda

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

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.”

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.”

Professional memberships

  • Association of Caribbean Studies (ACS)

  • Modern Language Association of America (MLA)

  • College Language Association (CLA)

  • Afro-Latin American Research Association (ALARA)

Conference presentations

  • "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)

  • "Afrorealism in Malambo," Academic Affairs Presentation, Transylvania University, November 2007

  • "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

  • "De la Ciudad de los Reyes a Malambo: espacio, resistencia y reconstrucción identitaria en Malambo." "Transnational Identities: Afro-Hispanic Literature of European Exile," University of Missouri—Columbia, April 2005

Want to know more about Transylvania's Spanish program?

Academic history

Courses taught

Areas of research


Recent publications

Academic history

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

Courses taught

  • 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

Areas of research

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


  • 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

Recent publications

  • "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. Routlegde Press, 2011
  • "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
  • "Búsqueda y negación del yo en Malambo de Lucía Charún-Illescas." Afro-Hispanic Review, 23.2 (2004): 13–19
  • "Prologue." Canto Negro.  Nicomedes Santa Cruz.  Editorial Libros en Red, Argentina, 2004
  • "Nicomedes Santa Cruz frente al canon literario peruano: argumentos para su inclusión." PALARA: Publication of Afro-Latin/American Research Association, 8 (2004): 5–19
  • "Nicomedes Santa Cruz and the Vindication of Afro-Peruvian Culture," essay commissioned for 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




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