jess (they/them) is a diasporic refugee settler raised in Treaty 6 Territory, with roots in a Central American territory currently called El Salvador which their family fled due to the Salvadoran Civil War. jess was born in Texas into an undocumented family and brought to Canada via a Canadian refugee program. As such, the themes of belonging, global peoples’ struggle and solidarity, border politics, and sovereignty are ever-present in their work and life. jess carries both Indigenous Nahua and (as a consequence and marker of 500 years of European colonization in Central America) colonial ancestry from the regions of Spain and Portugal. Because they were not raised within a Nahua way of life, they do not identify as an Indigenous person.
jess first became involved with IYR as a youth participant and have now been employed at IYR for 7 years. In that time they’ve had the honour of serving in a variety of ways at the organization including program design, development, and evaluation, workshop facilitation, staff training, organizing and chaperoning exchanges, contributing to organizational accessibility policy, managing and leading national gatherings, and coordinating IYR youth grants. Currently, jess occupies the role of Executive Coordinator through which they support IYR’s Leadership and Board of Directors, as well as special projects such as leading IYR’s first attendance to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Outside of work, jess is a full time aunty, relative, partner, introvert, and homebody. They are a crafter of many mediums but their heart truly lies in claywork, the primary outlet for which is their small-batch pottery project, Iayu Lala.