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Meet The Team

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Volunteer since 2018

CLAUDIA A. PORTILLO has twenty years of experience in account management, expanding businesses in the private and non-profit sectors. In 2016, she earned an M.A. in Latin American Studies from CalStateLA. Took training in oral history interviewing from the Science History Institute, learned how to create digital exhibits, and found these mediums to be an effective means of disseminating visual interpretations of cultural history. Finally, she co-founded CAHAAS to shed light on overlooked or forgotten histories and to bridge our society's continuing knowledge gap about the Central American experience.

Claudia A. Portillo

Co-Founder

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Volunteer since 2018

CARLA PORTILLO-WHITBY has been in Creative Services for 30 years, perfecting the art of graphic design. She has been in front of the camera as a teen actor and behind the scenes with nearly 100 titles to her credit. She has worked with Warner Bros., Rhino and Paramount to name a few. She brings to CAHAAS a strong creative and technical background. Her loves are her two teenagers and building a better future for them. As a Co-Founder of CAHAAS, Carla is determined to build a network of empowered individuals and communities.

Carla Portillo-Whitby

Co-Founder

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Volunteer since 2020

SASHA WHITBY is currently a student at UC Berkeley. His passion is writing and has several short stories under his belt. His goal is to eventually earn his MFA in Screenwriting and currently volunteers for CAHAAS as the editor and scriptwriter for the 100 Historical Biographies campaign. 

Sasha David Whitby

Volunteer Jr. Editor & Scriptwriter

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Volunteer since 2021

STEVEN DEMILLE  has spent over 30 years working as a very successful marketing executive in the independent film business. In addition to his professional marketing career, Steven has donated his time to participate in medical missions in Cambodia and Honduras. During these trips he assisted with scheduling and record keeping, distributing donated prosthetics as well as assisting nurses and physicians with patient care. 

Steven Demille

Volunteer Development Director

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Advisors

The CAHAAS team of advisors is a dynamic and diverse group of individuals dedicated to providing strategic guidance and expertise in fostering the growth and development of our vibrant cultural community. Comprised of professionals, community leaders, and experts in various fields, this team collaborates to ensure the organization's mission and goals align with the needs and aspirations of the community it serves.

The advisory team plays a crucial role in shaping the organization's vision, offering valuable insights, and fostering strategic partnerships. Through regular meetings, collaborative discussions, and ongoing communication, the team ensures that the cultural community organization remains responsive to the ever-evolving needs of its constituents.

By leveraging the collective wisdom and passion of its members, the Advisory Team serves as a catalyst for positive change, driving the organization towards greater inclusivity, cultural awareness, and community empowerment. Together, they create a foundation for a thriving cultural community that reflects the diversity and richness of its heritage.

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Dr. Ester E. Hernández received her Ph.D. in social science from UC Irvine. She is a professor of anthropology at California State University, Los Angeles. She has published on Salvadoran migration and remittances in social science journals such as the Journal of American Ethnic History and Economy & Society. She is co-editor of the anthology U.S. Central Americans: Reconstructing Memories, Struggles and Communities of Resistance (University of Arizona Press, 2017) about 1.5 and second generation Centroamericanas/os and U.S. Central Americans. Her current research is linked to immigrant rights and cultures of memory among children of immigrants. She recently co-authored a piece on family separation, #FamiliesBelongTogether that appeared in the anthology Critical Latinx Studies (NYU Press 2022). Joining efforts to amplify the voices of immigrant communities in OC and beyond, she co-hosts a morning news segment in Spanish with Radio Santa Ana and serves as the board chair of CHIRLA. Dr. Hernandez was born in El Salvador and grew up in Los Angeles.

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Your name: CAHAAS is always open to volunteer advisors.

Blue Background

Your name: CAHAAS is always open to volunteer advisors.

Blue Background

Your name: CAHAAS is always open to volunteer advisors.

Our 
Story

Get to know us

Claudia A. Portillo started the Central American Ancestry project in 2018 to begin researching, documenting and exhibiting untold stories online. She first documented her own family history, and uncovered many other buried stories about Central Americans that helped shape their countries or influenced communities in California. She understood a need existed to document these stories for the general public, but most importantly, for other Central Americans who may find inspiration in knowing about their history in California and in Central America.

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With an M.A. in Latin American Studies, she was able to create educational content and a simple website dedicated to her mission. She also gained new digital skills at her local community college to better understand archives and digital preservation, and to put it all in practice, she volunteered and worked on digital projects with historical societies. But with the need to grow a collection of artifacts, historical documents and photographs, and start a project to research, write, and disseminate biographies, Claudia realized she needed to bring into the project support from like-minded people. It was this chain of events that lead to the idea of a Central American historical society.

Instinctively, Claudia reached out to her sister, Carla Portillo-Whitby, a Creative Director with a B.A. in Radio/TV and Film to take this project to the next level.

The founders of CAHAAS have an entrepreneurial spirit that has seen them through many ups and downs. Their first business, backed by their beloved grandfather, was in 1978 pushing a shaved ice cart around their neighborhood in San Salvador. After selling a few deliciously flavored snow cones for ¢.10, they retired the same day. Carla was 11 years old and Claudia was seven.

Over the years they embarked upon several more start-ups, and built lasting careers in business. Another side to them includes fighting social injustices; whether it is marching against a war, raising funds for the unhoused, or simply standing up for someone else -- sometimes even for themselves.

Their resilient and fighting spirit has brought them to create CAHAAS in response to the continuous under representation of Central Americans in society and history. And while these sisters do not plan on pushing a shaved ice cart this time around, they will be pushing for the documentation and preservation of the Central American experience for future generations to learn from and explore.

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