When the government refused to act, Ramona Perez took matters into her own hands.
Ramona Perez, Ph.D.
See the complete fall 2012 issue of 360 Magazine
In the beginning, Ramona Perez noticed the women with bowed thighs. Then she heard about the high rates of infant mortality, and of dementia in 30-to-40-year-old men and women.
Something was very wrong in the Mexican community of Oaxaca, and Perez, an anthropologist, was determined to find the answers.
She traced the health problems to alarmingly high lead concentration in traditional pottery, an important source of income for the people of Oaxaca.
Envisioning a solution, Perez asked Mexican government officials to change manufacturing standards for glazes and paints, but her appeal fell on deaf ears.
So Perez has returned to Oaxaca every summer—and taken SDSU students with her—to work with the women of the communities, creating recipes and advocating dietary changes that fight the effects of lead deposits in human bones.
She has also joined forces with Margaret Handley from UC San Francisco to establish a market for non-toxic glazed pottery and an outreach program about lead exposure in the Monterey County town of Seaside, Calif., where many Oaxacan-born immigrants have settled. This new enterprise will support Oaxacan artisans without increasing their exposure to lead.
As director of SDSU’s Center for Latin American Studies, Perez brings together faculty and students in the fields of anthropology, public health, history, nutrition and public administration to find interdisciplinary solutions to social injustice and global problems.
Read more profiles of leadership:
A Prescription for Healthy Families
Greg Talavera, M.D.
Kee Moon, Ph.D.
To the Arctic and Beyond
Trailblazers for Future Aztecs
Price Scholars Roberto Carcamo, Itza Perez and Isamaria Cortes
Shifting Gears Toward a Greener City