Meet The Team

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Volunteer since 2018

CLAUDIA A. PORTILLO is a marketing specialist with over 20 years’ experience growing businesses for profit and nonprofit organizations. In 2016, she earned an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Cal State LA. CAHAAS grew out of her passion for Central American ancestry and history research. She learned how to create digital exhibits and found the medium a powerful tool to disseminate visual interpretations of cultural history. She Co-founded CAHAAS to bridge the knowledge gap that persists in our society 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 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 a second year student at Pasadena City College. His passion is writing and has several short stories under his belt. He is working towards fulfilling the required courses to transfer to a UC in the fall of 2022. 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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Our Story

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.

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.