Karla Aguilar Velazquez

Hispanic Studies PhD Student, Romance Languages and Literatures & Museum Educator at the Kemper and the Pulitzer Museum, Curator at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA)

Karla Aguilar is interested in the influence of Afro-Caribbean forms of spirituality in rites of remembrance, particularly focusing on the contemporary role of witchcraft in the administration of national traumas in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Her work examines the strategies official institutions of memory, like museums, have used since 1960 to visualize the presence of afro-spirituality in popular culture while reducing that influence to the symbolic-homogenizing field of folklore. Finally, her work also focuses on forms of socialization and survival based on magic rites, outside of nationalistic cultural policies, that allow Caribbean communities to regain a sense of historic agency: altar building, work with ancestors, and the celebration of a mystical calendar. Aguilar’s research is deeply connected with her practice as curator and museum educator in different St. Louis museums, where she has developed anti-racist projects involving the rediscovery of Martín Chambi photos at the Kemper Museum and the design of pedagogical guides on the intersection between gender and race for Barbara Chase’s Riboud retrospective at the Pulitzer.