Sam Del Toro decided on the idea for her Summer Fellows research project when she found gaps in her research for her capstone, a project which examined the corrupt relationship between the Mexican government and the largest drug trafficking organization in the world, the Sinaloa Cartel.
“As I was doing research for my capstone, I struggled to find background information on the drug trade in Latin America, especially information from a historical perspective. This made me decide that I wanted to dig deeper and historicize how the drug trade came to be,” she said.
“The main goal of my Summer Fellows research is to identify how the social and cultural construction of narcotics as commodities has shaped the drug war in Latin American as well as the Latin American countries that the drug trade has consumed.”
A senior history major with a minor in Latin American studies, Del Toro plays for the volleyball team, works as a resident assistant and with the sports information office, and serves on the Student Athletic Advisory Committee.
Del Toro hopes to turn her Summer Fellows project into an honors project this upcoming year. “Not many historians have been willing to touch the subject of the drug trade, so by researching this summer, I am hoping to be able to publish an article that will spark an interest for the historical community,” she said.
For her research, Del Toro is working with Dr. Jaclyn Sumner, assistant professor of history, whose research interests include 19th- and 20th-century Mexico.
“This research is important because Sam is able to choose exactly what she wants to study,” said Sumner. “She is able to see first-hand that history is not simply about collecting facts, but rather it is about understanding arguments, interpretations, and evidence. She is doing this by analyzing and reviewing various primary and secondary sources, including books, journal articles, and government documents.”
When she graduates, Del Toro hopes to enter into the Drug Enforcement Administration, and she believes that her research will help her to that end. “The drug trade directly influences individuals around the world, especially in the United States, which is the world’s largest consumer of cocaine,” she said. “These Latin American countries are facing a massive criminal insurgency due to the drug war, and in order to find a solution, we must first be able to understand how drugs were produced and their origins.”
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