CJC Student Spotlight: Gabriel Panuco-Mercado (SFS ’23)

The following is our latest installment of the CJC Student Spotlight Series! The Center is pleased to spotlight Gabriel Panuco-Mercado. Panuco-Mercado is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service from Los Angeles majoring in Regional and Comparative Studies. In addition to minoring in Jewish Civilization, he minors in Arabic. On campus, he is an active member of the SFS Academic Council, the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, and Ballet Folklórico Mexicano de Georgetown. Learn more about him, his experience as a CJC student, and his time at Georgetown, below!

Q: How were you introduced to the CJC?

A: I heard about the CJC through Professor Jacques Berlinerblau. During the fall semester of my freshman year, I took his proseminar, “Fictions and Politics of International Relations.” It ended up being one of my favorite courses. Our thought-provoking conversations and intense writing exercises in his course have been seminal to my experience as a student at Georgetown. One day, Professor Berlinerblau invited my peers and I to a conversation about the JCIV minor and the Center’s opportunities with him and CJC advisors. I decided to pursue the minor after that warm interaction.


Q: What was your first CJC class? Additionally, have you had a favorite CJC class thus far?

A: I actually took three “first CJC classes,” all at once. They are also my favorites. My freshman year spring, I took “Intro to Jewish Civilization” with Professor Benjamin Haddad; “Confronting Contemporary Antisemitism” with Professor Ira Forman; and “Wording Your Identity” with Professor David Ebenbach. Of course, I enjoyed aspects of each course. In Professor Haddad’s class, I participated in engaging discussions about Jewish civilization. In Professor Forman’s class, I learned first-hand about what confronting antisemitism entails from Forman’s experience as the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Professor Ebenbach’s class challenged my preconceptions about reading and writing prose and poetry. All three are great courses which illustrate the breadth of the CJC’s academic offerings.


Q: What are some of your academic interests? Have you been able to explore them while at the Center?

A: As the son of Mexican immigrants, I am interested in all things relating to Latin America and especially about Mexican affairs. As a CJCer, I have been able to explore Catholic-Jewish relations in Latin America extensively. Professor Forman’s course was instrumental to my exploration of this topic. For his class, I wrote my final research paper about efforts to confront antisemitism in Mexico. This was one of my favorite papers I have have ever written while at Georgetown. Through my research interviews with journalists, clergy, and professionals, I was able to learn about Catholic-Jewish relations in Mexico and the Mexican Jewish community, at large.


Q: How has the CJC impacted your time at Georgetown?

A: The guidance I receive from professors and advisors at the CJC shapes my experience at Georgetown in ways I doubt would have been possible anywhere else. From deciding which courses to take to crafting internship applications, my time at Georgetown has been impacted for the better because of the Center. Needless to say, I have found my favorite professors, mentors, and peers as a CJC minor.


Q: Have you been able to further your research and extracurricular interests (CJC and non-CJC) while online? If so, how?

A: Because of the online transition, I have been able to expand the geography of my extracurricular involvement. Currently, I am organizing with a couple of housing and food justice groups at home and in Mexico City. With both organizations, I help in some capacity with mutual aid initiatives. For the group closer to home, I help secure community-based funds and donations for weekly food distributions. I also assist with those distributions, ask tenants about their housing conditions and prepare grocery bags for them to take home. Moreover, I build bridges between the organization based in Mexico City and US-based organizations, in order to establish a mutual aid coalition of networks in both countries. I have been able to connect with diverse people from across the country and in Mexico. Each of them are passionate about developing community-based solutions to housing and food insecurity. I believe that our virtual adjustment actually helped to foster my connections with this cohort.  

Q: How have you furthered your learning experience outside of the CJC and SFS? This can be through internships, or other activities.

A: As I mentioned, I have worked with a couple of housing and food justice groups. Recently, I also started my internship at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). As an intern, I engage with domestic workers and labor organizers to advance domestic workers’ rights in the Washington metropolitan area. While at the NDWA, I hope to learn more about the intricacies of labor organizing, which is something I aspire to pursue after graduating from Georgetown.

On campus, I am involved with the SFS Academic Council, write for the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, and dance (pre-COVID) with Ballet Folklórico Mexicano de Georgetown. 


Q: What have been some of your favorite moments while an SFS student in general? What have been some of the highlights of your time as a Georgetown student?

A: One of my favorite moments at the SFS thus far was attending the Centennial Gala last fall. I was fortunate enough to win a ticket through the Georgetown Scholars Program. Although I was hesitant about going at first, the Centennial Gala is one of the most memorable experiences I have had as an SFS student. Where else would I have been able to watch Yo-Yo Ma perform with a bagpiper?


Q: What are you most looking forward to this upcoming semester?

A: I really look forward to continuing my work with the National Domestic Workers Alliance and securing new virtual opportunities. I am also excited to declare my major!