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Alfonso Valenzuela-Aguilera

Alexander S. Onassis Fellow awarded Guggenheim fellowship
June 12, 2008

BERKELEY – Alfonso Valenzuela-Aguilera, a former Alexander S. Onassis Fellow and visiting scholar at the Institute of Urban and Regional Development at the University of California, Berkeley, for his research on the relationship between crime, delinquency and social control in the San Francisco Bay Area, has been named a 2008 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellow.

Guggenheim fellowships are given to scholars, scientists and artists who demonstrate "stellar achievement and exceptional promise for continued accomplishment", according to a statement from the Foundation. The award provides fellows with funding to further their research, creativity and work.

This year's fellows in Latin America and the Caribbean were selected from a group of more than 450 applicants and will share awards totaling $1,200,000. Valenzuela-Aguilera said he is delighted to be honored with the award, which will allow him to complete his research on crime, delinquency and social control of space in Latino communities in Northern California -a project he has been working on during his sabbatical year at the Institute of Urban and Regional Development at UC-Berkeley. He plans to use the fellowship to further his research, conduct fieldwork and complete a book on violence and its impact on the urban environment.

"At this moment we face major challenges regarding security issues in our cities, and it is critically important to find strategies to recall a sense of trust and civility among citizens", he said.

Valenzuela-Aguilera received the Guggenheim fellowship to continue his work on the topic of the escalation of violence in Latino communities in the Iron Triangle in Richmond, Fruitvale in Oakland and the Mission in San Francisco, which aims to understand counter-mechanisms to curb violence.

His project is part of a larger attempt on his part to understand the conflicts engendered by gangs and delinquents, but also to address the difficult conditions that the people of the selected areas experience to survive on a daily basis. Violence control and lack of opportunities have become the rallying cry in such communities, Valenzuela-Aguilera said, but tensions and conflict among and between these ethnic communities and between minorities and the government have rendered these areas almost ungovernable.

Valenzuela-Aguilera's interest in Latino community struggles and resources and the livelihood of those who live there stretches back to his interest on improving the built environment grounded in his planning practice as urban planner. Moreover, he is concerned by Latino communities in the United States that seem to remain within a limited range of lifestyles, often worsen by an hostile environment.

"When I came here to study public spaces in the Bay Area, I never imagined that the crime levels in some areas would be higher than Sao Paolo or Mexico City. The fact that California is considered the fifth economy in the world on itself makes it even more striking" Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela-Aguilera received his bachelor's degree in architecture at the Universidad Iberoamericana, he holds degrees in Urban Planning by the University Institute of Architecture of Venice and a PhD in Urbanism by UNAM, Mexico. A Postdoctoral Fellow at the French Institute of Urbanism in Paris, was later invited as a visiting Fulbright scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has also been a visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo, Oxford Brookes University and was appointed the Alfonso Reyes Chair at the Institute of High Studies for Latin America (IHEAL), University of Paris-Sorbonne. He is based in Cuernavaca and Berkeley with his wife, Ana Basurto, who is also an urban planner, and their two children.