SANDRA NICHOLS, Ph.D.
Sandra is a Cultural Geographer who specializes in Mexican migration. Fluent in Spanish, she has extensive experience interviewing farmworkers and their families, in both California and Mexico. Since the mid-1990s she has been conducting research, writing about, and working with Mexican transnational communities.
Her in-depth study of the Los Haro-Napa transnational community is titled
"Saints, Peaches and Wine: Mexican migrants and the transformation
of Los Haro, Zacatecas and Napa, California." The Spanish language version was published in Mexico and in 2006 was honored
at the annual book fair at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.
While working for the California Institute for Rural Studies in Davis, she conducted action-oriented research on access to healthcare and education for agricultural workers in Salinas and San Luis Obispo counties; civic participation by Mexican immigrants in the San Joaquin Valley; and led the Napa element of the Agricultural Workers Health Study, a large multi-region study funded by The California Endowment.
In 2005, in collaboration with Rick Mines, she produced a study for the Rockefeller Foundation on the Mexican ‘nostalgia market,’ analyzing its potential to promote development in migrant-dependent communities. Most recently, again in collaboration with Rick Minwa, she helped produce the Indigenous Farmworker Study, focusing on the newest group of immigrants working in California agriculture: people who come from indigenous communities in southern Mexico, bringing with them languages and customs that date from before the time of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. A report detailing the numerous indigenous linguistic groups, their communities of origin in Oaxaca and other Mexican states, along with an analysis of their deplorable living and working conditions in California, will be released in early 2010.
Sandra continues to study the transfer of agricultural innovations by
Mexican farmworkers to their communities of origin in Mexico, and to work with
migrant hometown organizations to promote sustainable agriculture and better
opportunities for the next generation. Since 2006 she has served as Volunteer Adviser to the Los Haro Support Committee and has actively collaborated on the Summer Camp program in Los Haro.
Prior to her current work, Sandra spent 22 years producing documentary films for Public Television, including the NOVA series. That work took her to Asia, Africa, Latin America as well as to her own back yard in California’s Central Valley. Her films have won numerous awards including the DuPont-Columbia Award for Broadcast Journalism and the Peabody Award. Many of her films have been broadcast in Europe and elsewhere and continue to be used around the world in education and training. Always she has sought to put a human face on the complex interaction of culture, environment and economic development.
Sandra grew up in Lima, Peru. She holds a BA in Anthropology, and an MA in Communication, both from Stanford, and a Ph.D. in Geography from UC Berkeley.