Ester Trujillo, Ph.D.

Researcher. Writer. Educator.

I am an interdisciplinary scholar of Central American Studies and Chicana and Chicano Studies

My areas of research and teaching include ethnic boundaries, ethno-racial identities, transnationalism, intergenerational historical memory, and Central American immigrant integration. My book project examines how U.S.-born Salvadorans construct and navigate ethnic boundaries in Southern California.


Ester Trujillo

Ester Trujillo is an interdisciplinary scholar of Central American immigrant integration and Chicana/o Studies. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Latin American and Latino Studies at DePaul University in Chicago. As a child of immigrants from El Salvador and Mexico, Ester’s scholarship and teaching are shaped by her lived experiences attending public school and growing up in East Los Angeles, California. 

Dr. Trujillo is author of the book, Becoming Salvi: Crafting Salvadoran Ethnic Identity in the Diaspora (Forthcoming from University of Arizona Press). In the book, she explores how U.S.-born Salvadorans construct and navigate ethnic boundaries in Southern California. The book grapples with questions of intergenerational war trauma and healing, and with the weight U.S. citizenship extols on members of mixed status families. The book challenges contemporary understandings of Latinidad as it examines how racialized emotions between Mexicans and Salvadorans in Southern California enact racial scripts that uphold white supremacy in the U.S.  

Professor Trujillo’s research is organized around a central concern: What lessons can be derived from the lived experiences of marginalized people and how can these sets of knowledge be applied to advance social understanding, justice, and equity? Substantively, her research addresses the creation and significance of ethnic meaning among immigrants and their children. She applies a range of methodological and analytic approaches including ethnography, oral history, content analysis, and other forms of innovative semi-structured fieldwork. 

Dr. Trujillo’s research and commentary is published in the Journal of Latin American-Latino Studies, Latino Studies, Aztlán, and Camino Real: Estudios de las Hispanidades Norteamericanas, and Remezcla. She has a chapter in the forthcoming Modern Language Association anthology, Teaching Central American Literature in a Global Context. 

Trujillo was a Visiting Scholar of Race and Ethnicity at Brown University and is a past recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty. She was also a Duke University SITPA Fellow and a member of the inaugural Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow cohort at UCLA.

Her research has been funded by the Social Science Research Council, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Institute for Citizens and Scholars (formerly the Woodrow Wilson Foundation), Brown University’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences at Duke University, the University Research Council at DePaul University, and both the Chicana/o Studies Institute and the Chicana/o Studies Department at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Ester received her Ph.D. in Chicana and Chicano Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara where she also earned a Certification in College and University Teaching. She received her B.A. from UCLA (Chicana and Chicano Studies, Minor Political Science) and her M.A. from UC Santa Barbara (Chicana and Chicano Studies).