Ph.D., Folklore and Mythology, 1998
Dissertation Title: "'The Tongue is the Whip of the Body:’ Identity and Appropriation in Lucumí Religious Narrative:" Dissertation focused on the use of Patakí (sacred narratives) by Lucumí diviners (babalao and oriaté) to explain issues of authority and assert rank. The telling of Patakí or sacred narrative validates knowledge and establishes status within the religious community.

M.A., Folklore and Mythology, 1991
Specialization in Folklore, Ritual, Custom, and Belief


Ph.D., MA (Folklore and Mythology) UCLA; MA (Education) Catholic Univ of Puerto Rico; BA (Hispanic Studies) Univ of Puerto Rico

Specialist in African-based religions in the New World

Publications include Santeria Garments and Altars: Speaking Without a Voice (1994); Fit for a Queen: Analysis of a Consecration Outfit in the Cult of Yemaya
Scholarly papers presented at UCLA's Fowler Museum and the St. Louis Museum, among other national and international venues.


Ysamur Flores-Pena’s Picture


Otis Faculty Development Grants: Fall 2013, 2007-08, 2004-05

Professional Accomplishments/Exhibitions:  
  • City of Venice Office of Councilman Mike Bonin, 11th District Certificate of Appreciation
  • Otis College of Art and Design Faculty Improvement Grant, 2005, 2014
  • UCLA Wayland D. Hand Award for Scholarly Excellence in Folklore Studies, 1998
  • American Folklore Society Honorary Mention for "Santería Garments and Altars: Speaking Without a Voice," 1994
  • Fowler Museum of Cultural History Arnold Rubin Award (Santería fieldwork), 1993
  • UCLA Office of the President Research Assistant Mentorship Award, 1994-1995
  • UCLA Project 88 Scholarship Recipient, 1990-1994
  • Graduate Opportunity Fellowship Award, 1989-1990
  • Graduated Cum Laude, University of Puerto Rico, 1971
  • "The House was Too Big" UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History Opening Sept. 2023


  • “Ifá Divination, Knowledge, Power, and Performance” Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2015
  • “The Changing Canvas of the City: Education and Aesthetics in the Urban Environment” in 2013 Aesthetics/Future: The Arts in the Technological Horizon. Brunella Antomarini & Adam Berg ed. Lexington Books
  • “Son dos los Jimagüas” (“The Twins are Two”): Worship of the Sacred Twins in Lucumí Religious Culture” in Twins in African and Diaspora Cultures: Double Trouble, Twice Blessed, Phillp M. Peek ed. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2011.
  • “Lucumí, the Second Diaspora.” Witchcraft and Magic, Helen A. Berger ed. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005
  • “Flowers, Candles, and Perfume: Puerto Rican Spiritism on the Move.” Botánica Los Angeles: Latino Popular Religious Art in the City of Angels. Los Angeles, Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 2004.
  • "Overflowing with Beauty: The Ochún Altar in Lucumí Aesthetic Tradition." Oşun Across the Waters: A Yoruba Goddess in Africa and the Americas. Joseph M. Murphy & Mei-Mei Sanford ed. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2001
  • Flores, Ysamur "La Lengua es el Azote del Cuerpo: Identidad y Apropriación A través de la Narrativa en la Cultura Religiosa Lucumí," Del Caribe 34:65-71, 2001
  • Flores-Peña, Ysamur and Evanchuk, Roberta J. "Kwanzaa: The Emergence of an African-American Holiday," Western Folklore 56:281-294, 1997.

Clients/Employment History:  


  • Visiting Professor Lecturer - "Magic Science and Religion:" survey of religious beliefs and folk practices and how they influence culture.

1999-2002, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES (UCLA); Los Angeles, California

  • Adjunct Faculty Member

UCLA Folklore and Mythology Program

  • Lecturer- "Latin American Folklore and Ritual:" Examination of the folkloristic expressions of Spanish-speaking America and how it reflects the various cultural influences of Native, African, European, and Asiatic cultures.

UCLA World Arts and Cultures

  • Lecturer: "Afro-Cuban Ways of Knowing:" Examination of the ways in which traditional Lucumí sacred narrative and divination systems provided idioms for cultural, ethnic, and religious identity, both in Cuba and its subsequent diaspora.
  • Lecturer: "Santería in Popular Culture and Scholarship:" Seminar examining the way in which Santería or Lucumí religious culture first emerged in music and popular culture and how scholars later defined the culture for American audiences.

Fowler Museum Research Associate, UCLA, Folklore, 1999

1999-Present, OTIS COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN; Los Angeles, California

  • Associate Professor Lecturer - “Secret Societies and Conspiracy Theories:” The class explores the impact of images on shaping cultural perceptions of science, art, and pseudo-science
  • Lecturer - “Fashion as Text:" Course explores the relationships between anthropology and fashion and how fashion becomes a text to decode the ethos of cultures through the use of materials and designs.
  • Lecturer -  “Costume and Identity:" Course explores the idea of cultural ethos expressed through costumes. Students engage in research or concepts of codification, representation, and political power through the use of costumes and how the costume becomes a signifier
  • Lecturer - "African Spirituality in the Spanish-Speaking Caribbean:" Course examines the influence and contributions of West African Spirituality to the making of a distinct cultural personality in the Spanish Caribbean. The class examines the cultural, ethnic, and religious interactions between Catholicism and traditional African religions to produce a rich vernacular practice that reflects the regional ethos.
  • Lecturer - "Puerto Rican Folklore:" Course examines the influence of culture in defining cultural and racial identity in Puerto Rican culture. Exploration of arts, literature, and customs both in Puerto Rico and its manifestation in America.
  • Lecturer - “Cultural Anthropology:” Class explores the diverse ways in which cultures manifest through time and space and how they can be studied diachronically and synchronically using the field of anthropology
  • Lecturer - "Religious Anthropology:" Class explores the topic of religion as a vehicle of cultural expression. The students are encouraged to compare and contrast diverse religious practices across cultures in order to ascertain their meaning for those who practice them and their relevance in contemporary societies.
  • Lecturer- “Mary in Folk Art and Folk Belief:" Study of how the figure of the Virgin Mary has defined cultural, artistic, and gender identities in popular culture and folk arts. The course surveys the diverse ways in which official and popular cultures view and recreate the image of Mary through official theology, art, popular beliefs, and folk arts.
  • Lecturer - "Construction of Africa in Contemporary African-American Culture:" Overview of issues pertaining to the diverse meanings of Africa in African-American culture. The class critically examines the political, cultural, and social meanings of Africa as reflected in academic and popular discourse.
  • Lecturer - "Cultural Perspectives:" Focuses on cultural diversity and communication with a major emphasis on intercultural communication in the United States, particularly in Los Angeles.

Otis College Creative Action

  • Lecturer - "Homeboy Histories: Exploration of Social and Cultural issues in Urban Violence"
  • Lecturer - "Afro-Caribbean Ritual Arts:" Explores the interconnection of the African-based religions in the Western Hemisphere
  • Lecturer - "Mary in Folklore and Folk Belief:" Focuses on the artistic legacy and cultural manifestations of Mary as a cultural and historical icon
  • Lecturer - "Secret Societies and Conspiracy Theories:" Explore the way in which secret societies and conspiracy theories influence culture and politics
  • Lecturer - Capstone