Alba Reyes

Alba Reyes

Deputy Logistics Director, Symposiums

Before joining InquireFirst, Alba Reyes worked in project management at NJI Media, where she served as an active researcher for multiple high-level clients, providing support for the analysis of website and social platform performances while leading strategic proposals for paid media campaigns that aligned with clients’ marketing goals.

Alba also worked as a management consultant at The Komenda Project, analyzing the efficiency of the nonprofit’s processes, financial capabilities and overall operations to present growth opportunities in the sector.

Alba earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science / International Relations and a Bachelor of Arts in Literature / Writing from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). As an undergraduate student, Alba was a news writer for UCSD’s independent, student-run news site, The Triton. Her interest in investigative journalism and social justice led her to participate in the UC Washington Center Program (UCDC), where she researched barriers to health care services on the basis of an individual’s racial and/or ethnic background.

In addition, she became a student for UCSD’s Teaching+Learning Commons to speak about the impact of experiential learning for college students after having worked at an organization in the nation’s capital. Alba was selected to be the Keynote Speaker for the 2023 Xicanx/Latinx Graduation Ceremony.

S. Lynne Walker

S. Lynne Walker

President and Executive Director

S. Lynne Walker is a Pulitzer Prize finalist whose reporting has taken her to Mexico, where she lived for almost 16 years and reported on political, economic, legal and social issues affecting U.S.-Mexico relations.

Walker began her journalism career at the age of 18 when she got her first newspaper job at The Honolulu Advertiser.  After graduating from the University of Hawaii, she worked at newspapers in Tampa, Sacramento and San Diego. It was at The San Diego Union-Tribune, while covering California’s agricultural industry for the business section, that Walker became interested in Mexico coverage. She received her first national journalism award — the 1989 Gerald Loeb Award from the UCLA Anderson School of Management — for her four-part series, “The Invisible Work Force.”

Walker did a three-month stint in Saudi Arabia in 1990-91 during Operation Desert Storm as a correspondent imbedded with an Army tank division. A year later, she was hired by Copley News Service as Mexico City Bureau Chief. It was from her base in Mexico City that Walker came to understand the Mexican people and appreciate their rich culture, music and art, as well as the political, economic and social issues that shape their country.

Her coverage of Mexico and Central America won numerous national and international journalism awards.  In 1997, she received a National Headliner Award for a 14-part serial narrative that showed the human drama of illegal immigration to the United States. Her coverage took her to remote corners of Mexico: to Chiapas, where she rented a plane to fly into Zapatista-held territory, and to a remote village in the mountains of Oaxaca where she traveled on horseback to report on rural poverty.

In 2004, Walker was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for “Beardstown: Reflection of a Changing America,” her four-part series about a small Illinois town that was transformed by immigration. That same year, she received the American Society of News Editors’ Diversity Award.

Walker received the Maria Moors Cabot Prize from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2005 for her outstanding coverage of Latin America. In awarding the Cabot Prize judges said, “Among the many correspondents who cover the uneasy relationship between the United States and the countries south of the border, Walker stands out as one of the very few who manages to fully convey the human side of the story. With a natural sympathy for the underdog and a keen eye for detail, and by probing the depths of Latin American culture and society, Walker gives readers an unblemished view of and greater insight into the region.”

Before joining InquireFirst, Walker served for eight years as the vice president of the Institute of the Americas, a nonprofit organization on the University of California, San Diego, campus.  There, Walker established the Institute’s regional journalism program, creating an international network of journalists and raising funds to provide them with scholarships to attend week-long journalism workshops that she organized and directed.

Walker continues to travel to Latin America to help colleagues there find new ways to produce in-depth reporting and broaden their audiences. She has conducted Spanish-language journalism workshops in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Bolivia and Argentina.

Published Work

Beardstown / Reflection of a changing America
Published November 9-12, 2003 in The State Journal-Register (Springfield, Illinois)
BEARDSTOWN – On winter afternoons, in the sliver of twilight dividing day from night, Mayor Bob Walters drove along his town’s quiet streets troubled by the changes he feared were coming. Beardstown was an all-white community of 5,200 people built by German immigrants. No one remembered an African-American ever setting down roots in this Illinois River town. When Mexican immigrants began flowing into the state, they, too, had bypassed Beardstown. Read more…

Exporting a problem/Gang members deported from U.S. take deadly culture to their home countries
Published January 16, 2005 by Copley News Service
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Marlon Fuentes is a big man at Honduras’ largest penitentiary. His face is tattooed. His talk is tough. He menaces with threatening stares. A gang member from Los Angeles, Fuentes spends his time behind bars impressing Honduran “homies” with stories of his exploits in California. He joined Los Angeles’ 18th Street gang when he was 12, was later arrested for selling dope and brandishing a deadly weapon, then was deported in 1995. Read more…

Skeleton force/Emerging from shadows on the edge of Mexican society, devotees of Santa Muerte clash with Catholic Church
Published July 1, 2004 by Copley News Service
MEXICO CITY – In Mexico City’s most violent neighborhood, two men are locked in battle for people’s souls. One is a priest. The other calls himself a priest. At the center of their struggle is a sinister icon who implores her followers to worship death.Read more…

Mexico peyote site suffers onslaught of tourists, mining
Published December 9, 2007 by Copley News Service
REAL DE CATORCE, Mexico – Pity the peyote, the legendary cactus whose hallucinogenic powers inspired gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and an entire generation of hippies. This ground-hugging native of Mexico’s northern desert is in danger of disappearing, a victim of psychedelic tourism, silver mining and greenhouse tomatoes. Read more…

New law propels gay rights in Mexico/Moves boldly with civil unions as nation watches
Published March 5, 2007 by Copley News Service
SALTILLO, Mexico – Gabby and Ana are in love. So are Marco Antonio and Juan Carlos. Under a sweeping new law allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions, they are planning to turn their love into a legal commitment. Legislators in the dusty northern border state of Coahuila have stunned Mexico by giving same-sex couples property and inheritance rights long reserved for married heterosexuals. Read more…

Public Appearances

Lynne Walker talks with journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro on the “Esta Noche” news hour in Managua, Nicaragua.

Lynne Walker is interviewed by Bolivian television talk show host Justa Canaviri in La Paz, Bolivia.

Walter Baranger

Walter Baranger

Vice President

Walter Baranger, former senior editor of news operations at The New York Times, joined InquireFirst as vice president in August 2017.

Baranger has a deep understanding of the challenges facing journalists in Latin America and around the world. During his 27-year tenure at The Times, he logged more than 3 million airline miles traveling to more than 60 countries and nearly all of the U.S. states in support of the Times newsroom.

His accomplishments and awards include The New York Times Publisher’s Award for introducing satellite communications to the newsroom, and an additional Publisher’s Award for designing an online version of the Times Manual of Style and Usage.

Baranger’s departure from The Times came 46 years after he sold his first news story to the Los Angeles Times for $10. Over the decades, Baranger has worked as a reporter and editor at The San Diego Union and Evening Tribune, as a copy editor and columnist at The Press-Enterprise in Riverside and even as a reporter for high school sports at The Orange County Register.

He has covered 13 wars and conflicts, several Olympics, and countless political conventions and special events including the impeachment trial of President Clinton, 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing and Hurricane Katrina. Baranger was The New York Times Company’s longtime delegate to the International Press Telecommunications Council, and was liaison between the newsroom and major news wire services.

Baranger is a 1986 graduate of California State University, Fullerton. He returned to his alma mater in August 2017, this time as a full-time journalism professor in the College of Communications.

Luis J. Jiménez

Luis J. Jiménez

Web Developer

Luis J. Jiménez is a photojournalist who is refocusing on web design and presenting news on multiple platforms.

His experience ranges from covering Mexico’s armed Zapatista uprising to presidential elections to the tequila industry and Day of the Dead celebrations.

His work has appeared in U.S. newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, the Austin American-Statesman, The San Diego Union-Tribune and U.S. News & World Report.

His coverage of rural poverty in México was selected as a finalist in the photojournalism category of World Hunger Year’s Harry Chapin Media Awards. Luis now resides in San Diego.

Public Appearances

Luis J. Jiménez produced this video report about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Latin America and along the U.S.-Mexico border.

This video report, which was photographed, produced and narrated by Luis J. Jiménez, reports on a Summer Science and Innovation Camp for Latin American high school students held in July at the Institute of the Americas.

Audrey Aguilar

Audrey Aguilar

Logistics Director, Symposiums

Audrey Aguilar is an event planning specialist who serves as Logistics Director for Symposiums at InquireFirst.  Since joining InquireFirst in 2016, Audrey has directed logistics for journalism workshops in Costa Rica, San Francisco, San Diego and at Stanford University. The workshops were attended by almost 300 journalists from more than 12 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

For nearly a decade, Audrey has coordinated workshops, private events, forums and movie premieres for numerous organizations and government agencies. In 2009, she worked in the Mexican Senate as an assistant and advisor to the Latin American Parliamentary Committee specializing in international affairs in Latin America and Caribbean.

Audrey worked as for five years as an English and French teacher at the Institute Real de Playas in Tijuana, Mexico. She is also qualified as an English-Spanish Certified Translator.

Early in her career, Audrey interned for the U.S Commercial Service in the U.S Consulate General in Tijuana, Mexico, assisting in commercial trade shows to identify potential import/export opportunities in Tijuana and San Diego.

Audrey earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California. She also participated in an exchange program for European Studies at the Universidad de Castilla La Mancha in Toledo, Spain, on the introduction of Arabic and Islamic studies.

She now resides in San Diego.

Julieta Pelcastre

Julieta Pelcastre

Logistics Director, Virtual Symposiums

Julieta Pelcastre is a Mexican journalist with more than 23 years of experience in investigative reporting. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications related to politics, migration, corruption, drug trafficking, security and defense, including Journalists for Transparency, 100 Reporters, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Diálogo-America, Cox Newspapers, Mundo Hispánico and Ahora Sí.  For the past seven years she has been reporting on cooperative efforts between the United States and Latin American military.

Julieta also participated in 2018 as a panelist in courses organized by the Reyes Heroles Institute under the supervision of the National Electoral Institute of Mexico. Among the subjects covered were: political marketing and the evolution of social media; public image; and the media and its influence on the public agenda.

In addition, she headed the Organizing Committee of Conference of the International Network of Environmental Lawyers in Mexico City sponsored by the prestigious environmental law firm Vera & Asociados. The 2014 conference resulted in an ideal setting for the beginning of professional and commercial relationships among the more than 120 attendees.

She also collaborated in 2014 with the Institute of the Americas in San Diego, California, in the organization, execution and supervision of the first China-Americas Program congress in Mexico.

Julieta produced the documentary Mexico: Journalists Against Silence. And she was awarded the 2008 José Martí Silver Award for best article (in collaboration with Austin American-Statesman investigative reporter Jeremy Schwartz) by the National Association of Hispanic Publications for a series of articles titled “From Atlanta to Mexico.”

Luisa Reyes

Luisa Reyes

Director, Science & Health Symposiums

Prior to joining InquireFirst, Luisa served as the Institute of the Americas’ STEM Programs Manager, following four years as a key contributor to the Institute’s Science & Innovation Summer Camp, co-founding a professional workshop for STEM Instructors and expanding its reach to Latin America.

As a Gates Millennium Scholar, Luisa completed her bachelor’s degree specializing in neuroscience & physiology at the University of California, San Diego. She co-authored a book titled “Mexican Migration and the U.S. Economic Crisis: A Transitional Perspective” in collaboration with the Mexican Migration Field Research Program. Her work focuses on parallel relationships between traditional and scientific medicine. Subsequently, Luisa became a licensed Emergency Medical Technician where she provided her services for three years in Imperial County on the U.S.-Mexico border, which has the highest unemployment rate in California.

In the educational sector, Luisa served as Civil Engineering Department Lead for two years at the national Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement (MESA) program. She took the IOA STEM Programs to an international audience utilizing her experience of 10 years in the U.S.-Mexico border region, where she designed an innovative workshop for both students and instructors in Argentina and Mexico.

Luisa continues her mission to advance teaching and learning excellence through her collaboration with UC San Diego and serves as a spokesperson, panelist and instructor in national and international leadership, academic and health and science forums.

Denisse A. Tirado

Denisse Tirado

Director, Symposiums

Before joining InquireFirst, Denisse A. Tirado was director of the Institute of the Americas Summer Camp on Science and Innovation. For six years, Denisse helped organize the camp for more than 200 students from 16 Latin American countries, the Caribbean and the U.S. who received scholarships to attend the two-week program. The camp, which is conducted in Spanish, is designed for motivated students who have demonstrated interest in science and desire to go to college, but they need support and motivation from educators.

In 2015, Denisse launched a five-day workshop, complementary to the Science & Innovation Summer Camp, that engages high school science instructors in an idea-generating program designed to promote innovative teaching techniques in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Denisse also worked with the Vice President of the Institute of the Americas, S. Lynne Walker, in coordinating logistics for professional development workshops for journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean.

From 2007-2010 Denisse worked in the Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services (OASIS) at the University of California, San Diego. Where she supported underrepresented freshmen students in achieving maximum academic and personal success and satisfaction with first- year college experience via weekly group meetings with a facilitator, an academic counselor, and a mentor. During this time, Denisse also volunteered at Gompers Middle School tutoring 6th grade English.

Denisse has a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies focused on Political Science and a Minor in International Migration Studies from the University of California, San Diego.

Denisse earned her MBA from California State University San Marcos, where she now serves as Director of MBA Operations. Her specialization is business intelligence.