Travel Award Recipient Spotlight: Aaron Victoria

Release Date: May 27 2016

Every semester, a handful of UF graduate students in the humanities, arts, and social sciences are awarded one of only a few Graduate School Doctoral Research Travel Awards. These awards are given to students to conduct doctoral dissertation research away from UF when faced with insufficient funding.

One recipient, anthropology student Aaron G. Victoria, is currently performing research in Central America with the help of the award.

“The Graduate School Doctoral Dissertation Research Award has been extremely valuable to me,” he wrote in an email. “It provided me with the funding that I needed to jumpstart my dissertation research; something that I could not have achieved without access to these resources.”

Aaron’s dissertation, “Finding Rhythms in the Road: How Mobilities become Livelihoods on Central America’s Pan-American Highway,” is focused on how “mobility barriers” such as road repair, roadblocks and border checkpoints affect traffic flow and how local communities make a living from these bottlenecks. He said he first became interested in his topic while working as a translator on the Pan-American Highway between the U.S./Mexico border and San Jose, Costa Rica.

“During this work, I observed firsthand how the traffic flows of the highway create crucial opportunities to earn livelihoods,” he said. Aaron’s current research visit – the start of his long-term Ph.D. dissertation research for UF – focuses on the 1,300-kilometer stretch of highway between the Panama Canal and the construction site of the future Gran Canal of Nicaragua.

Aaron has spent his time conducting archival research in the National Archives and the Library of the Ministry of Public Works to better understand the complexity of the region’s infrastructural development. At the same time, he has been gathering stories from local workers about “why they’ve chosen to work along the highway, the history of the items and services that they sell, and what the highway means to them as a part of their everyday lives.”

These “informal highway jobs” aren’t just important to Aaron because of the income they generate and the service supplied to travelers stuck in areas of congestion, but because they often aren’t factored into the stories told about the region.

“While an essential piece of the story of mobility and infrastructure, these exchanges between travelers and roadside workers are often omitted from larger analyses of infrastructure projects and human mobility.” 

If you would like to follow Aaron’s research and see more photos and videos, you can visit his personal research webpage at

You can also learn more about the Graduate School Doctoral Research Travel Awards by clicking here to visit the award’s webpage.