Who We Are

The Southwest Folklife Alliance (SFA) is an affiliate non-profit organization of the University of Arizona, housed within the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The Jim Griffith Chair in Public Folklore at the Southwest Center  and UA School of Anthropology serves as lead curator for SFA programs and activities. 

We are the Arizona Commission for the Arts designated State Partner for Folk Arts for the National Endowment for the Arts. We also work in partnership with traditional and folklife communities throughout the state.


A woman with light skin in a white hijab smiles at the camera.

Lynn Hourani (Chair)
Islamic Center of Tucson

Berlin, a person with medium a skin tone, dark hair pulled back into a bun, smiling with books in the background.

Berlin Loa (Vice Chair)
Assistant Professor UA School of Information; Knowledge River Program Manager

A woman with medium brown skin and long dark hair, smiles and poses with her arms crossed over one another.

Teresa Bravo (Secretary)
Government Relations
at Tucson Electric Power

Maribel Alvarez (Treasurer)
Director, Tucson Meet Yourself;
Interim Associate Vice Provost, University of Arizona Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Jim Griffith Chair of Public Folklore

Estevan Azcona
Ethnomusicologist & Assistant Research
Social Scientist, University of Arizona
Southwest Center

Dr. Robert Breunig
Retired Museum Curator and Professor

Alicia Nuñez
Chief Financial Officer &
Executive Vice President,
Chicanos por la Causa

Jocelyn Retamoza-Gonzvar
President of the Latinos@
Amazon Affinity Group

Dr. Praise Zenenga
UA / Africana Studies


Leia Maahs, Executive Director: leiamaahs@arizona.edu

Leia Maahs

Leia is a cultural worker and administrator with over 18 years of expertise in the non-profit arts and cultural sector. Leia served as SFA’s Programs Manager then as Managing Director. With a BA in Liberal Arts/Cultural Policy from Prescott College and an MBA from the UA Eller College of Business, Maahs pays attention to the role of equity in communities and fosters development strategies that center the role of folklore in public life. She has contributed nationally to evaluation initiatives associated with the social impacts of the arts and civic engagement. In Tucson she has contributed to the production of regional exhibits, festivals, grantmaking, teaching artist programs, and community cultural development initiatives that center everyday forms of expression that reflect sense of place and belonging.

Peter Cano, Administrative Associate: cano5@arizona.edu

Kimi Eisele, Folklorist/Communications Specialist: kimieisele@arizona.edu

Kimi Eisele

Kimi is a writer, editor, folklorist, and multidisciplinary artist. She manages SFA’s communications, curates programs and exhibits, and writes for and edits BorderLore, an online monthly on culture and heritage of the borderlands. Her writing and arts-based work aims to illuminate kinship between people, cultures, plants, animals, and places. She is the author of THE LIGHTEST OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE (Algonquin Books, 2019), and her essays have appeared in Guernica, Longreads, Literary Hub, Orion, Terrain.org, and elsewhere. She is a cohort member of Julie’s Bicycle’s Cultural Climate Leadership program.

Nelda Ruiz, Programs Manager in Cultural Organizing: nruiz33@arizona.edu

Nelda Ruiz

Nelda is a community organizer, cultural worker, and folklorist from the Sonoran borderlands. She manages SFA’s participatory action research (PAR) projects and community-based documentation projects. Nelda is a 2019 National Association of Latino Arts & Cultures (NALAC) Leadership Institute Fellow (NLI), a 2019 Adelita Del Año awardee presented by Las Adelitas AZ, and a 2017 Mujer En La Lucha awardee presented by the Arizona Cesar E. Chavez Holiday Coalition. Her first essay “Seeds Planted by Nana Tota” will be published in Nourishing Resistance: Stories of Food, Protest, and Mutual Aid by PM Press in Spring 2023.

Denise Uyehara, Programs Manager in Artist Services: duyehara@arizona.edu

Denise Uyehara is a writer, contemporary performance artist and director. She manages SFA’s services for artists, including the Master-Apprentice Artist Award and strives to make these services more accessible for all. A fourth-generation Japanese and Okinawan American, Denise is interested in how we shape identity, culture, and social movements. Most recently, she helped create the multi-discipline performance “Shooting Columbus” by the Fifth World Collective, a collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists. More info at www.deniseuyehara.com.

Alisha Vasquez, SFA & NFN Communications / Accessibility Manager: xalishax@arizona.edu

A Chicana with light skin, dark hair and glasses, smiles while wearing a flower dress.

As an historian and 5th-gen Tucsonense, Alisha Vasquez holds a unique perspective to analyze the socio-political landscape of these borderlands to push back against the metanarrative. She has taught all ages inside and outside the classroom, was nourished by punk rock, and is the co-director of the Mexican American Heritage and History Museum in Tucson. As a self-proclaimed Krip, Chicana mama, many of her personal experiences influence the way she authentically engages people and encourages them to be the agents in their own lives.

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