Meet Baylor’s internationally recognized expert on religion in Latin America
When it comes to more fully understanding religion and faith in Latin America, Dr. Juan Carlos Esparza Ochoa bridges data, social work and theology — and at Baylor, he’s found a collaborative spot to continue decades of research in this area.
Esparza Ochoa came to Baylor in 2019 in a multi-faceted role. He serves as a director of the Program on Latin American Studies in Baylor’s Institute for the Studies of Religion (ISR), and as a research assistant professor in both ISR and Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.
Born and raised in Mexico, Esparza Ochoa has studied and taught in universities in both his native country and the U.S. In his last stint before coming to Waco, Esparza Ochoa worked for the highly regarded Pew Research Center, managing data for their global religion projects and serving as co-director of Pew’s Project on Religion and Economic Change. On the effort, he utilized 120 years’ worth of Mexico census data to better understand the impact of pastoral care, missionary activity, humanitarian work and more within Protestant and Catholic churches on areas such as education, economic development, and political outcomes. He developed techniques to link data from those census reports with other historical sources over generations, yielding insights that had previously eluded scholars studying long-term global flourishing.
For all his travels and experiences, Esparza Ochoa has found a home at Baylor.
“I finally feel at home,” he says. “Collaborating in this program is a dream coming true. As a scholar, my interest has always been religion in Latin America. As a Christian, my hope has been finding a community to share expectations, challenges and efforts.”
Sic ’em, Dr. Esparza Ochoa!