Paula Cuellar is a Ph.D. candidate in History with a minor in Human Rights at the University of Minnesota. She earned a Masters in Human Rights and Education for Peace from the University of El Salvador and a Master of Laws degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Notre Dame. She has published in de Centroamericanos, Journal for the Study of Peace and Conflict, and IIDH.
In this unique fellowship, Cuellar focused on her dissertation research about whether scorched earth operations in El Salvador and Guatemala constitute genocidal practices. Though such campaigns are not normally classified as genocide since people were not targeted according to ethnicity, race or religion, Cuellar said “the practices were the same.” She is particularly interested in the experiences of women and girls in scorched earth campaigns since they suffered from violence that was very different from men. Cuellar used USC Shoah Foundation’s newest testimonies, those of Guatemalan genocide survivors, during her fellowship. Only 10 Guatemalan testimonies are currently fully integrated into the Visual History Archive and thus easily accessible, but as part of her fellowship, Cuellar gained access to some of the other 150 testimonies collected and digitized so far. Cuellar said she was “honored” to be one of the first scholars to view the testimonies.