Latina/o Studies Association 2016: Nourishing the Mind and the Spirit
By Magdalena L. Barrera
The 2016 LSA conference was a wonderful experience, for many reasons. To situate myself: I am a faculty member of the Mexican American Studies department at San José State University. My primary area of research is analysis of textual representations of Mexican Americans in early twentieth century American cultural production; however, in recent years I have developed a secondary research area that explores the retention and mentoring of first-generation and underrepresented students in higher education. This second area was inspired in part by the learning curve I underwent as my environment changed from the R1 settings of my undergraduate through postdoctoral training to working in the California State University system. Although I have maintained my primary research area, it requires some effort to stay in touch with emerging trends in the field, as I am the only person at SJSU who does Humanities-based work in Chicanx Studies. Moreover, I had not attended a conference in a couple of years, and so I welcomed this year’s LSA as an opportunity to fully engage as both a presenter and participant, and to expand my professional network.
What I appreciated most about the content and structure of LSA is that it allowed for me to engage with both areas of my research. Some of the sessions I attended were focused on emerging trends in disciplinary or period-based areas; such panels included “What Does Latina/o History Do?” “Producing and Imagining Latinidad,” and “Latina/os in the Early Twentieth Century.” These sessions left me with many pages of notes on new theories to explore, critical methodological questions to consider, and new readings to share with my students. Other sessions, such as “Developing Coalitions of Solidarity,” “Deliberations Among Latin@ Teachers,” and “¿Y Latino Twitter Que?”explored the practice of Latinx Studies, discussing concrete approaches to student support and outreach, the challenges of growing our departments and programs, and how to promote our work in and out of academia. These panels and roundtables invited dialogue with session attendees, resulting in significant and lively reflection on how we do what we do. Even deeper than my research areas, the Chicagoland born-and raised Latina within me was thrilled to attend a roundtable on Latina/os in Chicago and the Midwest, which examined how this region is an important disruptive force in Latinx Studies. Overall, the presenters’ varied responses to exploring the conference theme of “promiscuity, incivility, and (un)disciplinarity” offered something for everyone.
Compared to the overall feeling of many other association meetings (which shall remain nameless), I found that LSA participants were especially open, friendly, and eager to connect with each other. Perhaps it was the summertime setting, the fact that there were no job interviews taking place, the number of palm trees in the courtyard, or maybe just because Latinx scholars are generally amazing, but the mood of the conference was one of both professional engagement and chill hangout. Between each session, conference-goers lingered in the hallways, extending conversations and deepening their relationships; later, at the close of each day, the hotel patio was filled with chatter and laughter as people reconnected. Each day of the conference, excitement and positive energy radiated from room to room.
My hope for LSA is that it continues to remain a space open to exploring the pedagogy of Latinx Studies from the perspective of scholars outside the scholarly field of education. My own presentation centered on the question, “How can Latinx Studies do meaningful work in the classroom that does not replicate the inequities and unimaginative pedagogies we survived in order to reach this point in our careers?” In other words, I hope that as Latinx Studies becomes more established that we continue to ask ourselves whether we are enacting practices in our classrooms, programs, and departments that build upon the community cultural wealth of our students, especially as greater numbers of Latinxs enter the realms of higher education. On a similar note, I envision LSA at an ideal place to offer pre-conference professionalization workshops for graduate students and pre-tenure faculty—for as many of us are first-generation academics, it is up to us to demystify the process of tenure and promotion for each other and to share strategies to continue surviving and thriving.
I share these hopes not because I found LSA to be lacking in any way, but rather because it was a gathering that fed both the mind and the spirit, and that is something that makes this academic association memorable and unique. I look forward to next year’s conference and to the inspiration I know I will receive from colleagues old and new.
Magdalena L. Barrera is an Associate Professor of Mexican American Studies and Faculty-in-Residence for Diversifying the Faculty at San José State University. Her primary research agenda, situated at the intersection of literary/visual studies and cultural history, is the textual recovery of Mexican American experiences in the early twentieth century, particularly around narratives of gender and cultural adaptation. She also writes about the mentoring and retention of first-generation students and students of color in higher education. Her essays have appeared in Latina/o Literature in the Classroom: 21st Century Approaches to Teaching; Journal of Latinos and Education; Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies; Bilingual Review; and Sexualities in History: A Reader.
Conference Highlights: Latina/o Organizing on Campus and in Communities
By Natalia Deeb-Sossa
The conference in Pasadena, CA had many highlights, but I have chosen to discuss two of them, which for me embody the mission of the LSA, which is to promote the research and teaching of Latina/o studies, advocate on behalf of Latinas/os, and use its expertise to encourage positive policy change related to Latinas/os.
The first one was a roundtable tilted “Creating a University of California-system Latina/o Faculty Association.” A representative of each UC was present at the roundtable. Dr. Baquedano-Lopez from UC Berkeley reported on the “State of Affairs” and noted how of the 9,000 faculty in the UC system only 4.8 percent are Latina/o faculty. The UC Davis and UC SF campus have the lowest percentages of Latina/o faculty (less than 3.9 percent) and UC Merced has the largest percentage of Latina/o faculty with 8.9 percent (which represent a total number of approximately 300 faculty). It was also noted how UC LA had only increased by 1 percent the percentage of Latina/o faculty over a period of 10 years (2005 to 2015). Given this context, all present at the meeting (except one who abstained), voted in favor of creating a University of California-system Latina/o Faculty Association.
The following day, an ad-hoc steering committee was created to develop the association’s structure and bylaws. In the Fall 2016, each UC campus will report back on what would be the goals of a Latina/o Faculty Association, but given the context described above and the discussion at the Conference, I understand that the UC-system Latina/o Faculty Association will be an independent faculty organization whose goal is to bring visibility to the issues that Chicanx/Latinx faculty face and have not been addressed or validated by administration; including pipeline issues, retention, lack of Latina/o Faculty in administration, uneven workload, no inclusion of Latina/o Faculty in the HSI planning committee, and marginalization. In addition, I understood that the faculty association will advocate for the UC to continue (or return) to be the peoples’ university that is at the forefront of addressing inequities and disparities; that is, working for the social good. I look forward to the future of this faculty organization!
The second highlight was the film screening of “No Más Bebés (No More Babies),” chaired by Dr. Elena Gutierrez from the University of Illinois, Chicago. Those who attended were privileged to have one of the producers Virginia Espino and one of the Madrigal 10, Doña Consuelo Hermosillo as discussants.
The film No Más Bebés weaves interviews and reminiscences of women patients (who are now known as the #Madrigal 10) and their families, doctors, lawyers, and activists to bring light to the case of Madrigal v. Quilligan. The Madrigal v. Quilligan is the lawsuit filed by 10 Mexican women against Los Angeles County Medical Center (LACMC), Los Angeles County, the State of California, the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and doctors for forcibly sterilizing them when they went to give birth. No Más Bebés asks the simple yet challenging question of “why?” were the #Madrigal10 forcibly sterilized.
At LACMC it was “routine” for residents, doctors and nurses to approach women of Mexican descent at their most vulnerable. The medical professional approached birthing women and used coercive measures to get women to agree to sterilization. The medical professionals would do what it took: they refused pain medication, lied, used scare tactics, and even physical force. As a result, the film highlights the important difference between birth control and population control. Population control is a state policy that determines that one group of women should have very few children or no children at all (such as people with disabilities, incarcerated people, and poor people). In contrast, birth control is the right every woman has to regulate the number of children born through the deliberate control or prevention of conception.
After the screening, applauses and expressions of gratitude, many audience members told Doña Consuelo Hermosillo (and the Madrigal 10) how important they were to the reproductive justice movement. As plaintiffs involved in the Madrigal trial they were front and center of the fight against reproductive oppression. Reproductive oppression is the control and exploitation of women, girls, and individuals through their bodies, sexuality, labor, and reproduction. In contrast to white feminists at that time, the #Madrigal10, made a compelling case for why reproductive justice is so much more than just legal access to abortion. It was important to fight equally for (1) the right to have a child; (2) the right not to have a child; and (3) the right to parent the children they had, as well as (4) to control their birthing options, such as midwifery. As the film depicts, just as important is to (5) fight for the enabling conditions to realize these rights.
I was very honored to have met Doña Consuelo Hermosillo. Her efforts, and the testimonies of the other Madrigal 10, helped ensure that sterilization consent forms were written in a patient’s language and at a 6th grade reading level. The case of Madrigal v. Quilligan also ensured that a 72-hour waiting period was put into place between the consent signature and the procedure to help ensure that no coercion on the part of medical professionals would occur.
Thank you LSA for the screening of such important film!
 Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice. 2005. A New Vision for advancing our movement for reproductive health, reproductive rights, and reproductive justice.
Natalia Deeb-Sossa was born in Bogotá, Colombia and came to the U.S. in 1995 to continue with her graduate studies and escape the Colombian violence, which at that time was shaped by the growing drug trade. She was finishing her undergraduate degree in economics when the number of kidnaps, extortions, intimidations and murders became grotesque and unprecedented, even for Colombian standards. These observations of violence eventually brought her to sociology as a field of study. Natalia has taken on the challenge of scrutinizing why and how income inequality, and gender, racial and ethnic discrimination are reproduced. Now an Associate Professor in the UC at Davis’ Chicana/o Studies Department, has conducted research in medical sociology, social psychology, symbolic interaction, race, class and gender, and methodology. Her work makes contributions to substantive issues in inequality. In Doing Good, through participant observation and in-depth interviews, she analyzed how workers at a private, not-for-profit health care center reproduce –or resist reproducing– inequalities of race, class and gender in their interactions with each other and in their daily work with the poor, especially Latinas/os. Her current research focuses on how Mexican immigrant farm-worker mothers in a Northern California rural community, despite being marginalized and excluded at multiple levels, mobilize as cultural citizens and resist local practices and policies of educational inequity and other inequities.
The Creation of a New Interdisciplinary Academic Home
By Sujey Vega
My son has a small board book from when he was a toddler, Home for a Bunny, wherein a bunny tries to find “a home for a bunny, a home of his own.” I was reminded of this children’s book when attending this year’s LSA conference in Pasadena. As an interdisciplinary intersectional scholar, I often find myself searching for a home of my own. Thankfully, I reside in an interdisciplinary Gender Studies department that is welcoming of my work. Still, at times I crave discussions at the National Women’s Studies Association that are inclusive of theoretical lenses beyond gender. I’m trained in Anthropology and cherish the ethnographic method, but the American Anthropological Association Meeting can be overwhelming. Though I find all these spaces productive for my work in different ways, I always feel bifurcated somehow in each of them.
The Latino Studies Association once more left me feeling whole and rejuvenated. The panel “What Does Latinoa/o ‘History’ Do” spoke to the ways Latina/o/x scholars engage with and create a historical record. How we have not only “established a presence, but connect our antepasados to the politics of the present,” for the very act of establishing a history is in and of itself political (Genaro Padilla). Nancy Mirabal’s exploration of racially-mixed Cubans who “willed themselves into history” was inspiring for the way these antepasados refused to be forgotten. Mirabal pointed to historic ties between individulas in Cuba and Mexico to teach us about what brings us together as a Latina/o/x community. Moreover, Maribal asked the audience a critical question, “how do we write a history that was never meant to be remembered.” Indeed, Maria Cotera navigates this remembered and forgotten memory making in Chicanas Por Mi Raza Digital Memory Collective (http://chicanapormiraza.org/ ). With Nancy de los Santos herself in the audience, Cotera beautifully displayed de los Santos’ early private photography collection as a testament of Chicana visual representations in the otherwise male-centered memory-making of the Chicana/o Movement.
In “Niñas Have Risen” (full disclosure, I organized this panel), the panelists provided a rich array of narratives from Latina girls in the juvenile justice system and Latina teens navigating expectations of educational attainment. Papers by Vera Lopez, Tracey Flores, and Rebeca Mireles-Rios all provided mixed-methods approaches to how Latina girls find voice in a society that often views Latina women in stifling tropes. I presented a paper in the panel, “Deliberating Latina Feminists’ Ethnographic Engagements,” which began by honoring Dr. Patricia Zavella for receiving the he 2016 American Anthropological Association’s Committee on Gender Equity in Anthropology Award. The papers on the panel merged ethnography, gender, and Latina/o/x studies by narrating the complicated lives of Latino Youth in JROTC, how Puerto Rican Orlando deals with identity, how Trans-Latinx sex workers assert their rights, Latina Feminists redrawing what reproductive justice looks like, and exploring the Latina Mormon experience. The panelists all provided a space for exploring Latina Feminist ethnographic approaches to prioritizing new ways of knowing, researching, and appreciating Latina/o/x communities. As Pat Zavella’s work so wonderfully illustrated, we cannot operate from the space of traditional distant researcher because we recognize that “these communities are very capable of studying/researching themselves.”
Lastly, the Roundtable “¿Y Latino Twitter Que?” provided a venue to discuss the digital presence of Latinx populations or who are the highest content producers online (Jillian Baez). The Roundtable was honored by Urayoan Noel’s (link: http://urayoannoel.com/) impromptu multi-media performance of assessing and naming digital Latinx engagement: “Brown Twitter…Somos La Twitter Nation….no, no nation.” Both audience and panelists discussed how reclaiming the “interwebs” for their own political, artistic, communicative purpose has led to continued growth of the Latinx digital sphere in ways research has yet to fully recognize. People in the room spoke about digital pedagogies, hosting the New Books in Latino Studies podcast, democratizing the workload in La Bloga, and publishing Latina/o Studies academic knowledge on the Mujeres Talk blog. The entire room discussed the need to recognize how artists, public intellectuals, and public digital spaces of communication can both democratize knowledge and become beacons for counter-attacks.
Together the research presented throughout the LSA, the conversations in Roundtables, Q&A discussions, and hugs in the hallways or enjoying California night air while dancing to Quetzal were all ways that made me certainly feel like the LSA is finally a home for this bunny, a home of my own.
Sujey Vega is an Assistant Professor in Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State University. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research explores belonging and the every day lived experiences of Latina/os in the United States. Using ethnography, oral history, and archival analysis, Sujey’s research includes race/ethnic studies, social networks, gendered experiences, and ethno-religious practices. Her book, Latino Heartland: Of Borders and Belonging in the Midwest (June 2015, NYU Press), places in dialogue Mexican Hoosiers and non-Mexican (mostly White) Hoosiers of Indiana as they both come to terms with living in the same communal space. Dr. Vega’s current project historically locates the growth of Latina/o LDS members in the Phoenix area and the role the LDS Church plays in the lives of current Latino Mormons.
From Tortillas to Twitter: Latina/o Scholars Discuss It All
By Jillian Báez
As a member of the Elections Committee tasked with running the elections for the founding executive committee of LSA, I was delighted to attend the conference in Pasadena. Within two years LSA shifted from an “Initiative” to an “Association.” Like the inaugural conference in Chicago, the conversations inside and outside the sessions were provocative, interdisciplinary, and supportive. It was intellectually invigorating to meet with new and old colleagues all in one space. Prior to the founding of LSA, I saw a colleague or two at many different conferences including the American Studies Association, the Puerto Rican Studies Association, National Association of Chicana/Chicano Studies, or Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social. LSA is becoming an excellent place for Latinx scholars to meet altogether in one place, especially for those of us that do comparative work that looks at more than one Latinx ethnicity and/or those of us who study Central American and South American communities.
I attended many panels and learned so much from my colleagues. One of the first sessions I attended was the roundtable titled “The (Dis)locations of Latina/o Studies: The Varied Institutional Struggles to Build Academic Spaces.” All of the roundtable presenters were from public institutions that serve Latina/o and other minority student populations. The presenters included: Magdalena Barrera, Irene Vasquez, Alexandro Jose Gradrilla, Irene Vasquez, Anita Revilla, and Beatriz E. Tapia. This roundtable discussed the challenges of sustaining and growing ethnic and women’s studies programs and how to balance research, teaching, and service while maintaining a commitment to serve Latina/o students. It was especially helpful that the presenters represented large research universities, and comprehensive regional universities alongside a community college. Conversations across multiple types of institutions are rare in discussions of ethnic studies programs, particularly Latina/o Studies, and I very much appreciated hearing my colleagues discuss their challenges and successes.
The roundtable “Chicana M(other)work: Radical Disruptions Within and Beyond the Academy” featured academic mothers’ experiences ranging from graduate students to faculty. The roundtable presenters not only shared their personal challenges as Chicana/a mothers in the academy (i.e., limited affordable child care, lack of support networks, and social marginalization), but also offered their experience in organizing to create more inclusive and equitable academic communities for mothers and their children. For more information on the organization the presenters discussed please consult their webpage, Facebook, and Twitter pages (@ChicanaMotherwork).
As a media studies scholar, I would be remiss not to mention that there were a number of sessions on media and popular culture. There are increasing representations of Latinas/os in media, though not always images that are multidimensional As such, these panels are tremendously important in assessing how both Latina/os are constructed for U.S. and global audiences. The panel “Producing and Imagining Latinidad: Expressive Culture, Media, and Technology” featured analyses of Cuban American cultural production by John Ribó and Albert Laguna alongside a biographical sketch of the Chicano film producer Montezuma Esparza by Elda Maria Roman. The panel, “Speaking While Latina/o: Negotiating the Politics of Language and Race,” featured Manuel Aviles-Santiago discussing how the Spanish-language television network Univision uses language to address bilingual and second and third generation Latina/o audiences. Sara Hinojos also presented on how the comedian Anjelah Johnson performs multiple ethnic and class identities through linguistic performances. Building on these themes, the panel, “Music, Marketing, Media and the Making of Latina/os” Wendy Arce offered a fresh perspective on Latina/o media representations by employing a religious studies approach that emphasizes cuentos (stories). Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo and Mary Bloodsworth-Lugo presented a paper on the representation of actress Zoe Saldaña in L’Oréal’s True Match marketing campaign. A robust conversation amongst the panelists and audiences ensued after the presentations in large part due to the facilitator, Marisol Negrón’s deep engagement with the politics of representation discussed in each presentation. The roundtable I participated in, titled “¿Y Latino Twitter Que?: On Writing, Blogging, Tweeting and Maintaining Digital Intercambios on Latinx Issues” moved these conversations about mainstream media images of Latina/os to Latinx communities producing and circulating their own media via social media. In particular, this roundtable ended with an important discussion about how to bridge academic and non-academic Latinx communities through social media.
Lastly, one of the most exciting sessions I attended was the panel “Revolutionize Your Body: Recipes for Resistance.” The first presenter, Amelia Montes, discussed her own experience as a Type 2 diabetic and how diabetes impacts Latinx communities. Montes encouraged the audience members to “be an activist for your own body” and learn as much as possible about diabetes. Luz Calvo shared her experiences teaching her co-authored (with Catriona Esquibel) book Decolonize Your Diet. Claudia Serrato’s presentation focused on how cooking and eating food from the Americas can be an act of consuming ancestral knowledge for Latinx communities. Catriona Esquibel then offered a compelling argument for reclaiming the tortilla, and more specifically for making tortillas, beyond heteropatriarchal norms. A lively discussion followed the presentation that focused on the contemporary cultural imperialism of Latinx foods.
Overall, the conference offered a unique and much-needed space to share and dialogue about the most current research on Latinx communities in an interdisciplinary context, but also to reflect on place within the academy. I look forward to the next conference in 2018!
Jillian Báez is an Assistant Professor of Media Culture at the College of Staten Island-CUNY. Báez specializes in Latina/o media, audience studies, and transnational feminisms. Báez is currently completing a book titled “Consuming Latinas: Media Audiences and Citizenship,” which is under contract with Wayne State University Press.