Category Archives: Uncategorized

Attorney Susana Prieto-Terrazas, a Champion for Maquiladora Worker’s Rights

Image provided by authors of poster calling for workers to join march.

Image provided by authors. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Marlene Flores and Miguel Juárez

The maquiladora industry has long impacted the border region, especially the Ciudad Juárez-El Paso region. With the passage of NAFTA, neoliberal economic policies that have encouraged the freer movement of goods and services across the border have especially encouraged the explosion of the maquiladora industry. In a maquiladora factory workers assemble part of a product (such as a car door handle) and the product is shipped to the final country destination where multiple parts will be put together for the finished product. Maquiladora factories do not have to reside on the border but many of them do because of their proximity to another country and trade laws. Though promising stable jobs and a healthy economy, this industry has had detrimental effects on the workers themselves. Still recovering from a sluggish economy and heavily hit by the cartel violence from its peak in 2010, the region where maquiladoras flourish provides plenty of employment opportunities. There are over 300 maquiladoras in Ciudad Juárez that employ over 250,000 workers at substandard wages. Continue reading

Stigmatized Markets: Los Angeles Street Vending Kids Working and Restoring a Dignified Self

By Emir Estrada

The video in the link above depicts the public humiliation of a child street vendor in Tabasco, Mexico. Three officials stand tall next to him as he inconsolably and powerlessly follows through on their command to dump on the street the merchandise he carried on a small straw basket. Once he empties the basket, the officials turn away and leave him on the floor to collect his merchandize. This incident took place in Mexico, but this also happens in our own backyard, here in the U.S.

When I watched this video, I was working on an academic article based on original research I conducted in 2009 to 2012 with street vending children and their families in Los Angeles, CA.  Street vending is a popular economic strategy for poor, undocumented and Spanish monolingual Latinos in Los Angeles. During my study, I spent two and a half years with various street vending families and conducted 66 interviews with children between the ages of 10-18 and their parents. I also accompanied several families while they sold goods on the streets. Continue reading

Zika and Abortion

The sign says “Stop Criminalizing Women.” The woman belongs to a protest movement in Chile, which, like El Salvador, has draconian laws that criminalize women who terminate their pregnancy. In both countries abortion is illegal under all circumstances, even if necessary to save the life of the woman. In El Salvador the exception that allowed abortion when the mother’s life is in danger was removed in 1998; in Chile it was removed under the military dictatorship in 1989.

The sign says “Stop Criminalizing Women.” The woman belongs to a protest movement in Chile, which, like El Salvador, has draconian laws that criminalize women who terminate their pregnancy. In both countries abortion is illegal under all circumstances, even if necessary to save the life of the woman. In El Salvador the exception that allowed abortion when the mother’s life is in danger was removed in 1998; in Chile it was removed under the military dictatorship in 1989.

by Ann Hibner Koblitz

(This essay was originally published on February 1, 2016 on the author’s blog:  “Sex, Abortion, and Contraception”)

The spread of the Zika virus is causing consternation and alarm in many countries. The symptoms of the mosquito-borne virus are generally quite mild, to the extent that many victims don’t even know that they are ill. Recently, however, it has become clear that, when contracted by women in the first trimester of pregnancy, Zika can cause birth defects such as microcephaly, brain damage, deafness, and paralysis. The World Health Organization has stated that as many as four million people in the Americas could be infected in 2016, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control are cautioning pregnant women not to travel to certain countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where the virus outbreak is becoming severe.

The Central American country of El Salvador has been particularly hard hit, and the government has taken the unprecedented step of warning women not to become pregnant until 2018. This advice is bizarre. El Salvador is a poor country. Many women face barriers, both practical and cultural, to contraceptive use. Moreover, abortion — even when the fetus is known to be severely deformed — is illegal, and the punishments are severe.

An effective government strategy to combat the epidemic of birth defects would consist of three components: widespread sex education and cheap and easily available contraception; widely available prenatal screening for birth defects (amniocentesis); and safe, legal abortion. Since El Salvador has none of these, women in large numbers will inevitably get pregnant, and some will deliver babies with severe abnormalities.

Note that the government’s admonitions are not directed at men, as if they didn’t realize that men share responsibility for pregnancy. Rather, the clear implication is that women and women alone will be blamed for the expected public health catastrophe. A 25 January 2016 article in The New York Times about the Zika threat in El Salvador aptly describes the Salvadoran government’s pregnancy warning as “the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass that, to many here, only illustrates their government’s desperation.”

In this article the word “abortion” is conspicuous by its absence. This is a peculiar oversight by The New York Times, since the illegality of all abortion in El Salvador is one of the principal obstacles to an effective response to the public health crisis.

Also omitted from the coverage in The New York Times is any discussion of U.S. culpability for the deplorable situation in that country. During the years 1979-1992 the U.S. gave billions of dollars in financial and military aid to the right-wing government that committed large-scale atrocities during a civil war in which an estimated 80 thousand people died. After the war the huge quantity of weapons and the large number of demobilized and unemployed former soldiers set the stage for an epidemic of violent crime. In addition, in the mid-1990s the U.S. deported several thousand Salvadoran pandilleros (gang members, mainly from Southern California), who brought their criminal gangs back with them to El Salvador. Current estimates of the number of gang members in El Salvador (a country having 1/50 the population of the U.S.) range from 30 to 60 thousand. At present El Salvador has the highest homicide rate in the Americas.

The pandilleros are not the only U.S. export to cause havoc in El Salvador. Over the past two decades religious fundamentalist groups based in or funded from the U.S. have given rise to anti-abortion fanaticism on a level that was virtually unknown before. In 1994 the Kovalevskaia Fund (of which I am director) and the Salvadoran Women Doctors’ Association convened an international conference in San Salvador to discuss the medical consequences of illegally induced abortion. El Salvador’s Vice-Minister of Health attended, and topics included the use of herbal abortifacients and menstrual regulators by the indigenous peoples of El Salvador, the actions of RU-486, the efficiency of vacuum aspiration as an abortion technique, the work of South American abortion clinics and their education programs for midwives and obstetricians, and so on. There was a sprinkling of anti-abortion people among the 300 doctors and medical students in attendance, but discussions were wide-ranging and respectful. Yes, that is not a misprint. The abortion opponents in El Salvador listened to the discussions of these topics with interest and respect.

Now, however, such an event would be virtually impossible to organize because religious fundamentalists have become much more visible, violent, and well-funded than they were in the mid-1990s. Medical personnel are prevented from performing abortions even in cases of ectopic pregnancy or other life-threatening conditions. In such circumstances it is not surprising that the Salvadoran government fails to mention abortion in connection with the Zika crisis. That The New York Times fails to mention abortion in its own coverage is harder to explain.

Postscript (added 4 February 2016) Although the article on the response in El Salvador to the Zika virus did not mention abortion at all, a 3 February editorial in The New York Times did: “In Latin America, where many nations outlaw abortion, some governments have advised that pregnancies be delayed, which can create only greater anxiety for women who have sadly limited control over such decisions…. Immediate responses, like increasing access to birth control and abortion, face stiff legal and cultural resistance in the affected region.” The New York Times also carried an article “Surge of Zika Virus Has Brazilians Re-examining Strict Abortion Laws”.

Second postscript (added 8 February 2016) Today’s The New York Times has an excellent op-ed on the situation in Brazil by Debora Diniz, a professor of law at the University of Brasilia.

Ann Hibner Koblitz, Professor of Women and Gender Studies, has taught at ASU since 1998. Her first book was the biography of a Russian woman mathematician, feminist and writer. Her second book examined the lives of the first group of Russian women to receive their doctorates in the sciences and medicine. Her most recent book, Sex and Herbs and Birth Control: Women and Fertility Regulation through the Ages (Kovalevskaia Fund, 2014) received the 2015 Transdisciplinary Humanities Book Award from the Institute for Humanties Research at ASU. She also directs a small non-profit foundation for women in science in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and her blog, “Sex, Abortion, and Contraception,” can be found at

Some of my Students are Leprechauns (Or Why it is Difficult for White College Students to Understand that Racism is still a Big Deal) Photo by Edward Foley (CC BY-NC 2.0). Photo by Edward Foley (CC BY-NC 2.0).

By:  Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo

“The new world of monsters is where humanity has to grasp its future.”
—Hardt and Negri, Multitude

Teaching Introduction to Ethnic Studies and the Art of Asking Questions

I hate surprises in the classroom. I appreciate the potential of surprises in life. The promise they sometimes carry with them. The ability to keep me on my toes, so to speak. But to be clear, I hate surprises in the classroom. Especially when I teach lower division courses. When I teach Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies in particular, a service course we do for the university, I follow a simple, modified rule designed for lawyers in court: do not ask a question for which you do not know what the answer will be. The questions I am talking about here are not questions about class content, but rather demographic or attitudinal questions, that is to say, questions for which the answers will illustrate a particular point. This is not about students knowing the “correct” answer, but about me knowing the answer that students will give me beforehand because although I do not know each one personally, I have a certain general knowledge about who is in my classroom, and the ideas they may bring with them. Thus, I rely on both experience and “external” indicators to anticipate what their answers will be. For instance, when I ask my students in the Introduction course (like I usually do at the beginning of the semester) to stand up if they see themselves as White (to make a point about the changing definitions of “Whiteness” in our country), I know, before it happens, that 80-85% of the 100 students in the classroom will stand up (because I know the student demographics at our institution). Also, when I ask for the left handed students to raise their hand to make a point about certain predictable angles of “random populations,” I know that about 10% will do so (because they mirror the general population, and the very point I am making by asking them to raise their hand is based on that precise fact). And when I ask them to talk to me about their experiences with “diverse populations of students” at their high schools, I know what they will tell me (e.g., whether there were “lots of students of different backgrounds in their high schools” or whether they “hadn’t interacted much with students different from themselves until they stepped foot on our campus”), depending on what part of Washington they went to school.

On a carefree day, I would say that I have turned this “asking only questions for which I know what the answer will be” endeavor into a work of art. Over the years I have become accustomed to and very comfortable with this practice: I always know (at least approximately) how many students will stand up or raise their hands, or the verbal answer they will give me in response to a question I make. Like I said, I hate surprises in the classroom.

The Question that Broke my Art

A few years back in my Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies class, during a lecture on the use of American Indians as mascots in sports teams, I made two simple points: (1) the (ab)use of American Indians as mascots is tied to the (ab)use of American Indian cultures and peoples by mainstream American culture, which has a long history; and (2) the practice must be terminated. I showed them horrifying visuals depicting these practices throughout the decades, including pictures of sports teams using the American Indian mascots of other teams in violent, degrading ways. During this lecture, I lingered on a particular picture of a state college with a bull as a mascot portraying the American Indian mascot of its rival state school on its knees performing fellatio on their bull. My students thought the picture was in bad taste (which is a start), but I also asked them to think about the treatment of mascots in general, and whether it was fair to portray human beings in the same light. For instance, a tiger performing fellatio on a bulldog is still in “bad taste,” but the objections may end there. This was not the first time I had given that lecture, so I knew the point the students were going to raise in response, which they did, right on cue: American Indians are not the only “humans” portrayed as mascots, for we also have the “Vikings” and the “Fighting Irish,” they earnestly offered.

I always take this point very seriously, because I assume they bring it up in good faith, wanting to understand the difference. This time, my answers were simple but to the point: As a group of people, the Vikings (like the Trojans, and the Ancient Greeks) are gone, the American Indians are still with us. As for the Irish, I usually concede that it is a good example, because the Irish, as a people, do exist. I could have easily gone into all sorts of discussions about the positionality of the Irish as an ethnic group within U.S. culture or even within the United Kingdom, but this time I decided to take a different route: I asked my students what the mascot of the Fighting Irish was (and as with every question I ask in that class, I knew the answer). They promptly and ceremoniously responded: “a leprechaun.” Then, with the picture of the bull and the American Indian on his knees still up, I asked my students to raise their hands if they had American Indian ancestry. I saw them hesitate, so I made it clear: raise your hand if either of your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents is or was American Indian. Around 30% of the students in the classroom (regardless of how they identified ethnically or racially) raised their hands, and as always, I knew they would. So, I said, that picture right there (pointing again to the Indian on his knees) is about your relatives, which is to say, is about you. Now let me ask you this: How many of you have leprechaun relatives? I thought I knew the answer to this question. The question was supposed to be a throwaway, a joke for them to get the point. No hands were supposed to go up. Not one hand up was the answer I knew to expect. But, to my surprise (yes, a surprise in my classroom), at least three white-identified students raised their hands. Not as joke, not even as a challenge to my authority, but as a bona fide answer to my question. I am hardly ever thrown off balance in my classes, but for a fraction of a second I was, and then sternly told those students to put their hands down because although I hated to break it to them, “leprechauns, just like unicorns and mermaids, do not exist.” At least not in the corporeal sense that would prompt genealogical claims. For a moment there all I wanted was to get those hands down and erase the incomprehensibility they represented. But regardless of how fast they put their hands down (and they were extremely fast), my fail-safe system of asking students questions in class was broken. Even if momentarily.

Some of my Students are Leprechauns, Which is to Say, they Think Racism is not a Big Deal

Those hands confirmed that this generation of students is truly lacking an understanding of the historical impact and contemporary reverberations of racial formations (a la Omi and Winant) and racism. More to the point, if students do not understand the difference between “real” and mythological peoples or even how genealogy has operated in their own creation, how can they understand the difference between racial myths and racial realities, or how racism works in our society? Students suggesting that mythological leprechauns or extinct Vikings are as abused as flesh and blood American Indians should be troubling enough. But for them to actually identify with the figure of the monstrous leprechaun by seeing themselves in that figure should be beyond comprehension. Unless you understand this generation, that is. This is the first generation of White Americans raised with a societal understanding that equality between the races as a principle should not be disputed. However, this understanding has been intertwined with a convenient lie, mainly, that we have actually achieved racial equality. That lie has taken root because although their generation is buffered by my generation (Generation X), which was born after segregation and other major forms of de jure discrimination were deemed unconstitutional, studies show that buffer notwithstanding, White millennials have not transcended the history of this country. Thus, when it comes to expressing racism, Millennials are sometimes no better than their parents (Gen Exers) or their grandparents (Baby Boomers) (Clement, 2015). As Michael D. Smith argues, “the education [white Millennials] have received has left them ill-equipped to understand the nature of racism,” as they “have inherited a world in which the idea of ‘reverse racism’ has been legitimized…” (2015). Their “education” has taken place in a vacuum where discrimination against Black folks (which they equate exclusively with slavery and perhaps segregation), was something that happened in a long and terminated past, something that has no repercussions today because, as they’ve learned, we are now all equal.

And that is the crux of the matter, for if as they’ve been instructed, we are all equal today (whether we descend from American Indians or leprechauns), that means that Whites can experience as much discrimination as anybody else (hence “reverse discrimination”). So, from this perspective, Black folks, American Indians, and Latinas/os may be having a hard time in our society, but by golly, so are Whites. Their understandings of race and racism have become another mythology, where their perceived oppression is equal to that of anyone else’s. And in their mythological views about race and racism, their non-human, monster-like “leprechaun ancestors” are being abused by sport teams, just as are those of American Indians. Unfathomable to many, but if we (professors) are to help them understand their own positionality within historical and contemporary manifestations of racism, and to help humanity “grasp its future” as Hardt and Negri compel us, we must become adept slayers of mythical creatures in this new world of monsters, which irritatingly enough, seems to include a classroom surprise or two.

Clement, Scott. 2015. “Millennials are just as Racist as their Parents.” The Washington Post. April 7.
Omi, Michael and Howard Winant. 1994. Racial Formations in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. New York: Routledge.
Smith, Michael D. 2015. “Millennials are Products of a Failed Lesson in Colorblindness.” PBS. March 26.

Unveiling the Secret to Tenure Expectations

picture of Tanya Golash-Boza

Professor Tanya Golash-Boza

Tanya Golash-Boza (2015 Mujeres Talk Contributing Blogger)

Imagine this: Your first year on the tenure-track, you sit down with your department chair and ask him what the expectations for tenure are. He hands you a written document that indicates that you have to publish six articles, and that you must be first author on at least four. He provides you with a list of acceptable journals and makes it clear that this is the hurdle you have to cross for tenure. You meet with other senior colleagues in your department and across the university, and everyone agrees on the research component of the tenure expectations. You know exactly what you need to do and the only thing left to figure out is how to do it.

This situation, for better or for worse, is remarkably uncommon. Most new faculty members are never told exactly what they need for tenure. Senior colleagues are reluctant to give an exact number of how many articles you need to publish, whether you need articles in addition to a book, which journals are considered important, whether or not you need a major grant, and whether or not book reviews, conference presentations, and book chapters in edited volumes count for anything. Your senior colleagues are most likely to tell you that the tenure expectations are individualized and that a wide variety of portfolios can make an excellent tenure case. They will likely tell you that they are looking for a research profile that demonstrates excellence and an upward trajectory.

As a new faculty member at a research institution, I found this very frustrating. I thought to myself: why can’t they just tell me what I need to do so that I can do it? If you are in this sort of situation, where you are not clear on what the expectations are, one thing is certain: it is in your interest to find out anyway. How do you do that?

It turns out that there are a number of ways for you to figure out what a solid tenure case would look like. You just need to approach this as you would any other research project: ask around, investigate, and look at a variety of cases. Here are four strategies for you to figure out what your research portfolio should look like.

A pen resting on top of an open journal with writing faintly apparent.

On the importance of asking for clarity regarding tenure expectations. Photo by Sebastien Wiertz. CC BY 2.0

  • Ask around at your institution. In your first semester, you should meet with your department chair and with your faculty mentor. Ask both of them to give you advice on what the publication expectations are. They might be vague, but they will communicate something to you. You also can ask other colleagues around the institution, especially if you can find people who have served on the campus Promotion and Tenure committees.
  • Look at the CVs of people recently promoted in your department. If there is anyone who has been promoted in the past five years in your department, you should look at their CV and figure out what they needed to get tenure. Tenure expectations are a moving target, so the more recent candidates are a better comparison case than your older colleagues. You may even be able to ask recently tenured colleagues to share their tenure materials with you so that you can see exactly how they put their case together.
  • Look at the CVs of people recently promoted at other comparable institutions. Most departments post their faculty members’ CVs online. And, since promotion and tenure require updating the CV, most recently tenured faculty have updated CVs online. Look at several CVs of people who were recently tenured in your field and figure out what they had that allowed them to make a compelling tenure case. If no one has been tenured recently in your own department, this strategy can be particularly helpful.
  • Develop your own expectations, and share them with a trusted mentor. After you have compiled all of this information, use it to make explicit expectations for yourself. Suppose, after this research, you determine that you would need a book published at a university press, two single-authored articles in top tier peer-reviewed journals, one co-authored peer-reviewed articles, and at least six conference presentations. Take this information back to your department chair and your mentor and ask them if that would make a reasonable tenure case in your department. Tell them that you have set these goals for yourself, and that you would like their feedback on your goals. Their responses should be enlightening.

This last step is very important. Senior faculty are often reluctant to tell you exactly what you need because they don’t want to be wrong, but also because they do not want you to limit your options. If, however, you decide for yourself what your goals are and make it clear that you want their feedback, they likely will be willing to provide it.

The quest for tenure can be stressful, and the lack of clear expectations makes it more so. Figuring out what the expectations are yourself can be one step towards achieving clarity for yourself, and, in the process, to relieving some of the stress.

Tanya Golash-Boza is a Mujeres Talk 2015 Contributing Blogger. Her academic blog site, Get a Life, PhD, has been online since 2010 and offers “how to” advice for college professors on topics such as how to write a book proposal, revise an academic article, or organize work time in a semester. Dr. Tanya Golash-Boza also leads two other academic blog sites, Social Scientists for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Are We There Yet? World Travels with Three Kids. An Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California Merced, Golash-Boza is the author of four books: Due Process Denied (2012), Immigration Nation (2012), Yo Soy Negro: Blackness in Peru (2011), and Race and Racisms: A Critical Approach (2014). She has also written for Al Jazeera, The Nation, and Counterpunch. She has  a new book out in December: Deported: Immigrant Policing, Disposable Labor and Global Capitalism.

Latinas and Tenure in the Seventies: A Testimonial

February 11, 2013

Flower among the Spines by raelb. Flickr/Creative Commons License.

Flower among the Spines by raelb. Flickr/Creative Commons License.

by Eliana Rivero

Once upon a time there were no Latinas tenured in the Arizona university system, from Tucson to Tempe to Flagstaff. This lasted until 1973, when it was my good (mis?)fortune to confront the system and see how things worked.

I had prepared diligently, and then some. When I submitted my tenure file in the spring of that year, I had one monograph in print published in Spain, one coedited critical edition by Oxford University Press, eight articles in reputable journals, several conference papers delivered, very good teaching evaluations, and quite a bit of professional service. Since the year before, I had been meeting with a group of faculty women who formed a caucus to look into our status on campus at the University of Arizona; this group would go on to form the first Women’s Studies program in the state. I remember one male colleague in French stopping me in the hall to inquire: “Why Women Studies? Why not Men Studies?”  I laughed then, since I could not have known how my tenure case and the subsequent struggle would be seen first as waged by a woman, and second, by a Latina who was trying to obtain job permanence as a Latin-Americanist in the United States.

My case passed the scrutiny of a departmental committee (admittedly with some grumblings from traditional scholars, all men), and then went on to the Dean’s office for review. There my troubles began: I was called to the College of Arts and Sciences office and literally put on the carpet by the Dean, a Harvard alumnus whom (I would find out later) had been “informed” by some older colleagues at a Harvard alumni party that my work was dubious in nature and provenance. My publications were all right, but nobody knew if I had written them by myself or with help from some ghost writer, perhaps my dissertation director (!). Furthermore, my field (Latin American contemporary literature, mostly poetry) was not that important in the scheme of things.

Thus spoke the Dean: “Consider yourself lucky that we have to award you tenure, because a letter should have been sent to you a year ago indicating trouble with your CV, and it wasn’t. However, you will not be promoted to associate professor. Your title will be lecturer.”

I was speechless. I left the office, went home, got into bed, and pulled the covers over my head. How could that be?  Where was justice?  Two days later, I found out that the colleague who had asked me in the hall about the feasibility of Men Studies was promoted to associate professor with tenure, despite having fewer years in rank, not having a book in print, and having been hired in the position of lecturer as an ABD a year after me. The department head of Romance Languages explained to me that since the promoted colleague was in a less popular field—French Canadian literature—and I was in Spanish, they needed his services more than mine in Arizona (!!).

I consulted with my colleagues in the women’s studies group, received their moral support, hired a lawyer (who had just won a case of gender discrimination in the state), and filed a formal grievance with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Education in Washington DC.  Everyone on campus was amazed:  “She called in the Feds!”  I heard whispered behind my back.  A team of investigators came to campus, and after many interviews and much examining of files and almost a whole academic year, I was given a letter with what they called the “right to sue”: yes, they had found evidence that I had been discriminated against for reasons of gender and ethnicity. It helped that a young teaching assistant (also a Harvard alumnus) told me, and later testified, that he had overheard the conversation between one of my older colleagues and the Dean in which they trashed my work, and conjectured about the authorship of my publications. That colleague was opposed to granting me tenure because according to him, Latin American literature was not a departmental priority, nor a well-respected field of research (after all, he couldn’t read more than thirty pages in García Márquez´Cien años de soledad without getting utterly bored!). At the time, out of twenty-five faculty in my department, there were only two women besides me: one was semiretired at 78 years of age, and the other was tenured but in the more acceptable field of medieval studies and linguistics. Neither was interested in women’s issues: I heard the older one say at a faculty party that she preferred to speak to men because “ladies only talk about their babies.”

It was in the spring semester of 1974 that the Dean was removed from office and another head of department was named. I received a letter from the President of the University with a new contract as associate professor with tenure, and a substantial salary increase. Both the new dean and the acting department head called me in and offered verbal apologies. But the title of lecturer for the academic year 1973-74 is still on my record, as a testimonial to that annus horribilis in which they tried unsuccessfully to hold a Latina scholar back.

Oddly enough, the only other Latina who received tenure in the Arizona system around that time was another Cuban-born woman in Flagstaff. But it would be at least five more years until the first Chicana PhD would be hired by the English department here in Tucson. She was tenured six years later, and I—already a full professor with a very substantial CV—sat on the Dean’s committee that examined her case.

It all seems incredible now, but so were the early seventies. At present, at least in my field, the tenure process for Latinas is an easier road than the one I had to travel. In 2013, there are eight tenured women scholars in my department (one Chilena, one Chicana, one Puertorriqueña, one Mejicana, one Argentina, two Brasileñas, one Española, one AngloAmericana). Three more Chicanas are untenured lecturers. We still have some way to go!

Eliana Rivero is Professor Emerita of the Spanish and Portuguese Department of The University of Arizona. During her 45 year career at the U of A, she was also affiliate faculty in Latin American Studies, Mexican American Studies, and Women’s Studies. Her current research focuses on Cuban American women writers and her recent poems and short stories appear in the online Spanish literary magazine LABRAPALABRA.


Mari Castaneda    February 25, 2013 at 9:01 AM
querida Eliana, thank you so much for sharing your story! It’s amazing how stories like these still abound though… I know several Latinas that were recently denied tenure and also questioned about the quality/authenticity of their work. Indeed, there’s still more work to do! But you were a trailblazer, and we wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for mujeres like you – gracias!!

Latinas/os in Film and Television?

March 19, 2012

By Susan Mendez    

            Another Oscar season has come and gone and for anyone interested in the representation of people of color in mainstream visual culture or the dramatic arts, it has been a disappointing season once again. This year, the talk was all about how The Help was the controversial film to watch. Yes, this movie did provide the only two African-American actors/actresses up for awards in this year’s Oscar season, but the reality is that the roles that they played were ones of domestic servants. And the larger reality is that The Help was most likely the best choice for finding meaty, starring roles for these actresses. African-American actors and actresses have long dealt with the challenge of making stereotypical near racist roles and stories compelling and worthwhile. This problematic position just highlights the lack of interesting, complex roles for African-American actors and actresses due to the economic reality of supply and demand. Stereotypical stories of hardship are what people will pay to see; thus, they are what movie production companies will financially back. Recently, the backstory on the difficulties that George Lucas had in getting his movie RedTails made became public knowledge as part of the publicity for this film. Red Tails, not the first movie to honor the Tuskegee Airmen and featuring a near-all African-American cast, still faced so many obstacles in production that not even having the name George Lucas attached to the project was enough to get investors. Finally, Lucas became the main financial backer himself. Yet, with all these very public and well-known problems facing the African-American community in getting proper representation in the mainstream visual culture or the dramatic arts, I cannot help but think that the Latina/o community has much work to do even to get to this public and problematic stage in the world of mainstream visual culture.      

            When I think of recent mainstream films that highlight the Latina/o experience in the United States, I come up with a very short list. This is possibly because I do not get to teach visual cultural texts often in my classes so the impetus to keep abreast of the latest films is not great in my work. Also, I live and work in a relatively small and not so-diverse town so even just flipping through the local news or arts paper will not keep me up-to-date on Latina/o film. The latest mainstream film related to the Latina/o experience that I can remember was the release of the action parody Machete (2010) with its very clear political commentary on the immigration issue. But other than that film, in the recent past, these are the films that I can recall: QuinceañeraAngel RodriguezWashington HeightsRaising Victor VargasA Day Without a Mexican, El Cantante, Maid in ManhattanGirlfightSelena, Mi Vida LocaThree Burials of Melquiades EstradaPiñero, LonestarAmerican MeMi FamiliaStar Maps, SalsaLa BambaBorn in East L.A., Stand and Deliver, El Norte, and Zoot Suit. These are the movies that I can remember either easily seeing in the theatres or getting a copy of at a local store; this is not meant to be a comprehensive list at all. But even in this sampling of mainstream films that highlight the Latina/o experience in the United States, one can see two patterns: the emphasis on the Chicana/o community in the southwest and the Dominican/Puerto Rican communities in the northeast and the general lack of commercial and/or critical success.  The end result is a grouping of films that do not cover the diversity of the Latina/o community in the United States and that are not successful in any common measurable way. Yet, this discussion, this well-founded lament for complex and diverse roles and stories for the Latina/o community is not as public as it is for African-American community. Why is this so? Furthermore, few recent Oscar seasons have included Latina/o actors, actresses, or films that focus on the Latina/o experience in the United States, with the notable exception of Demián Bichir’s Best Actor nomination this year for A Better Life. It seems that we as a community are behind in having these significant discussions, questions, and concerns brought into the public light. Independent film endeavors and projects are fantastic and worthwhile in getting more critical representations of the Latina/o community circulating, but it is important not to undervalue mainstream visual culture. This is the arena in which various representations of the Latina/o community are easily proliferated and become accessible. This arena includes the world of television but even here, the number and variety of shows and roles that feature Latinas/os and their stories have been disappointing. Television shows such as I Love Lucy, Chico and the ManI Married DoraResurrection BoulevardGeorge LopezCane, and Ugly Betty have been pivotal in gaining representation for Latinas/os, but these stories, for the most part, do not stray far from familiar tales of exotic entertainment or hardshipThe majority of the United States population learns of the different communities within this nation from the world of television and mainstream film. Therefore, the same questions and concerns that dominate the African-American community in the realm of visual culture need to have a central and public presence for the Latina/o community as well.      

Susan Mendez is on the faculty of the University of Scranton and serves as an At-Large Representative of MALCS. 


Mujeres Talk Moderator  June 2, 2012 at 6:38 AM

Your blog essay is a also a resource on Latina/o film and television programs. Has anyone written about Resurrection Boulevard? It was a fascinating drama that provided Elizabeth Peña with a meaty part.

Spilling the Beans: Mujeres Talk Can Be a Virtual Public Sphere

by Ella Diaz

In the first two months of 2012, there are already major crises facing Latina/o and Chicana/o communities. From Alabama’s HB56, which makes all civic participation illegal for undocumented children and their parents, to Arizona’s recent “confiscating” of certain books from public schools, the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness in the U.S. is looking kind of bleak. If you have 35 minutes, you should listen to the first portion of the January 27, 2012 episode of This American Life, titled “Reap What You Sow.” They do an excellent job of talking about HB56 on the street level and frontlines of law enforcement.

On the MALCS listerv, we send out many emails updating each other on the status of certain legislation and movements against Latinas/os. We also update each other on general news from our campuses and professions, or ask for specific help on projects. But perhaps it’s Mujeres Talk –our blog—that can provide us with a virtual public sphere, a place that each of us may enter and speak with one another openly about many of the topics we raise in our emails. There are so many important circumstances we are facing in our schools, jobs, communities, and families. What is a major issue that you are currently facing? In 2012, what do you find to be the #1 crisis we need to confront?

For me, the next year will prove to be one of the most significant for the 21st century. We are in a political and mainstream cultural moment that will continue to push us farther away from our stories, the lives we live that make us tell them, and, as writer Wally Lamb entitled his second novel, from what we know is true. Theoretical frameworks that are not grounded in our narratives are ahistorical; and by “our narratives,” I mean the testimonios, poems, plays, fictions, and “autobioethnographies” (to use Norma Cantu’s term) that create our individual and collective memory. It is my opinion that one cannot understand Borderland Theory without knowledge of the 1845 and 1848 annexations of northern Mexico in to the U.S. Likewise, oppositional consciousness and the decolonial imaginary are also not possible without knowing the migrant chains of mujeres across geopolitical borders, historical revolutions, and tactics for survival under state policies of the twentieth- now twenty-first century. Theoretical frameworks not grounded in our narratives help create a reality that makes Shakespeare’s The Tempest a banned/confiscated text in Arizona and Helena Viramontes’s “The Moths” pornography. I am not undercutting the value of the theory and critical lenses we use to more clearly interpret our cultural production in relation to larger systems of power and the global economy. I am merely stating that theory and narrative aren’t mutually exclusive. We have to decide if, in addition to scholars, we are also story-tellers who listen, remember, and retell the stories that built the fields of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies. That is my biggest concern, and I would love to know what others think and if they agree or disagree. What is your #1 concern going forward into March 2012?

Ella Diaz is a Visiting Faculty member at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her Ph.D. in American Studies is from the College of William and Mary. Diaz is an At Large Representative of MALCS.