Santa Clara University

Casa de la Solidaridad

Meet the Faculty


Marina Najarro

Spanish Professor

Marina is originally from El Salvador. She has been teaching, English and Spanish, for almost 30 years. She really likes her profession. She graduated from UTEC, San Salvador, in 1987. Then she got a one- year scholarship to study at UNM, USA. She worked with CAPS, a USAID scholarship program for low income students from public school. She has been working at the Casa since 2005. She has also been working at Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas”, UCA for almost 25 years. She enjoys reading in her kindle and spending time with her husband at the beach.


Eugene Palumbo

History Professor

Gene Palumbo is a freelance journalist. After graduating from Amherst College, he went to Iraq to teach and coach at Baghdad College. When he returned to the United States, he did graduate work in philosophy and theology at Fordham University, receiving a Masters degree. A conscientious objector during the war in Vietnam, he did his alternative service in New York City at Central Harlem Family and Community Services, and then, in the 70s, worked as a journalist and at Mobilization for Youth Legal Services, a branch of the federal anti-poverty program.

In 1979 Gene covered the landmark three-week meeting of CELAM (the Latin American Bishops Conference) in Puebla, Mexico; there he met Archbishop Oscar Romero. He came to El Salvador in 1980 to cover the civil war, and has stayed on. He is the N.Y. Times’ local correspondent, and has also reported for National Public Radio, the BBC, Time Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, Commonweal Magazine and the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

Gene’s wife, Guadalupe Montalvo, is the cook, counselor and mother-away-from-home for the students who live at Casa Silvia.


Cruz Portal

Spanish Professor

Cruz is devoted to his lovely family (Jerry, Luis, Rodrigo, Daniela, his wife Silvia and a couple of puppies) and very thankful to be born in this beautiful yet small country, which was christened “Cuschatan” or “places of beautiful stones." He received a diploma in teaching in 1987 from a private university in San Salvador and three years later he received a bachelor degree in education from Pedagogical University of El Salvador. During his spare time he enjoys listening to 70´s and 80´s music, reading literature and testimonies during the Salvadoran civil war. In 2004, he received a master degree in Political Science by Central America University (UCA). At present, he is very interested in writing about Monsignor Romero's spiritual inheritance.


Peggy O'Neill

Theology Professor

Sister Margaret "Peggy" O'Neill has dedicated her life to the causes of peace, justice and service to others. She went to EI Salvador during the country's brutal civil war to accompany a refugee community from Copapayo back to their homeland from a United Nations camp in Honduras. She essentially served as a human shield to help protect the refugees from the Salvadoran army. Peggy has remained in EI Salvador ever since. Known for her energy, determination, sense of humor and unflagging commitment to the community, she teaches the class of Liberation Theology for Casa students


Kevin Yonkers-Talz

Praxis Seminar Professor

Kevin is co-founder and co-director of Casa de la Solidaridad and has taught the Praxis Seminar for the last 14 years. His research interests include accompaniment-based pedagogy, Jesuit international higher education, and college students development. In the spring of 2011, Kevin taught at the University of San Francisco's Casa Bayanihan program in the Philippines.


Manuel Velasco

Salvadoran Literature Professor

Manuel studied a bachelor’s degree in Literature and Education. Later he got a master’s degree in Social Education. Currently, he is working on his dissertation for a Ph.D in Philosophy. He has been part of the faculty at the UCA for more than a decade teaching classes such as writing, grammar, journalism, narrative, and oratory. He also has taught several workships and courses for private organizations. Manuel is currently the director of the National Plan of reading and public libraries in El Salvador.


Pedro Martin

Political Science Professor

A former Jesuit of the Central American Province, Pedro Martin began studying philosophy at UCA. He then received a Master's degree in Latin American Politics from the Jesuit university in Chile. After finishing his doctorate in Philosophy, he was El Salvador's in-country Director of Diakonia Suecia, an Swedish international development agency. In his work with Diakonia, Pedro worked with a variety of NGO's the areas of human rights, gender equality, economic and social justice, peace and reconciliation. He has taught at the UCA (El Salvador) and UAH (Chile). He is also co-founder of the Central American Institute of Research for Development and Social Change (INCIDE in Spanish).