Category Archives: Music, Arts and Visual Culture

Corrido de Norma Cantú

By Rita Urquijo-Ruiz and David Garcia Video by Larissa Mercado-Lopez August 31, 2012, is the last day that renowned Chicana, feminist scholar Dr. Norma E. Cantú will be at the University of Texas, San Antonio’s English Department. To honor her work, Dr. Larissa Mercado-López (one of her former students) led a group of volunteers who organized an amazing mini-symposium on the life and work of Dr. Cantú. Other Chicana scholars and some of Dr. Cantú’s former students presented papers highlighting the multi-faceted aspects of Cantú’s work. As part of the panel on “Chicana Literary Expressions,” David F. García, and Dr. Rita E. Urquijo-Ruiz collaborated by writing her a corrido entitled “Destino al andar.” The day closed with an after party at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center co-organized by another one of Dr. Cantú’s former students, Dr. V. June Pedraza, and Dr. Antonia I. Castañeda, Dr. Elsa Cantú Ruiz and another group of volunteers. People visited from all over the country to honor and thank Dr. Norma E. Cantú for all the work, passion and love that she has shared with thousands of people in her communities. This corrido is just a little “regalito” for her. Mil gracias, Norma! De todo corazón.

Written and performed by Rita E. Urquijo-Ruiz and David Garcia at UT San Antonio on Friday, August 24.  Video by conference organizer Larissa Mercado-Lopez.

Al empezar a cantar
Pedimos permiso ahora
Para rendir homenaje
A una ilustre doctora.Ella es de la frontera
En los dos Laredos criada
Chicana de tal carrera
Por todos muy apreciada

Norma Cantú es su nombre
Y le vengo a saludar
Le brindo mi canto alegre
Un regalo musical

Es persona de renombre
Con buen don de la palabra
Maestra en todo sentido
En cualquier lengua que habla.

Esta doctora sí cura
Con esa pluma en la mano
Escribe de la cultura
De chicanas y chicanos

Para ayudar a estudiantes
Nunca nadie la mejora
Todos ellos son brillantes
Es la ideal profesora

Escribe nuevas historias
Que hablan del feminismo.
Y con una pluma zurda
De un pájaro fronterizo

Brindamos a la maestro
En el lindo San Antonio
Por la cultura tejana
Sigue dando testimonio

Al andar se hace el destino
Por donde no hubo ni huella
Peregrina de caminos
Yo le saludo, ¡Ultreya!

Vuela, vuela golondrina
Por el cielo tan azul
Protege a nuestra madrina
La profesora Cantú

¡Viva la Dra. Norma Cantú!

As we begin singing
We now ask for your permission
To pay tribute
To an illustrious doctorShe is from the border
Raised in the two Laredos
A Chicana with such a career
Respected by everyone

Norma Cantú is her name
And I come here to salute her
I offer her my happy song
A musical gift

She is a renowned person
Gifted with words
Knowledgeable in every sense
In any language she speaks

This doctor does cure
With her pen in her hand
She writes about
Chicana and Chicano cultures

At working with students
No one can be better
They are all brilliant
Because she’s the ideal professor

She writes about new (hi)stories
That speak of feminisms
And with the left-handed plume
From a borderlands bird

We toast our teacher
In our beautiful San Antonio
She continues to give testimony
On Chicana/o culture

Destiny is created as we walk
Where there wasn’t a footprint
Pilgrim of the roads
I salute you, “-Go forth!

Fly, fly away, swallow
Throughout the deep blue sky
Protect our godmother
Professor Cantú

¡Viva la Dra. Norma Cantú!

Dr. Rita E. Urquijo-Ruiz is a professor of Spanish and Transnational Mexican Popular Cultures at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. Her book entitled Wild Tongues: Transnational Mexican Popular Culture was published in July 2012 in the UT Press Chicana Matters Series.   David Garcia is a musician/composer of Chicano/Mexican music from northern New Mexico. He is a Queer Xicano/Manito anthropologist who studies popular culture, foodways and the production of public space. Garcia is currently a Ph.D. student in the in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin.

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.

And Ain’t I an American?

March 12, 2012

by Maria E. Ramirez in Honor of “And Ain’t I a Woman?” by Sojourner Truth

America is a Hemisphere
North, Central, South,
United, not Divided,
Historically and culturally Indigenous at its core,
majestic land of the Eagle and Condor.
Two continents centrally merged as one.
We called ourselves, “Children of the Earth, Stars, Moon and Sun.”
This land was respected and honored in every way,
Called many names which remain to this day
Turtle Island, Pacha Mama, Anahuac, and Abya Yala are but a few
Now called America, which in terms of historical times, is very new.
The original trading routes and migratory trails our ancestors paved
Are now inter-continental super highways
We are still here on this land
And ain’t I an American?

America is a Hemisphere
Upon the North American continent
The United States of America resides
with Canada and Mexico on its northern and southern sides.
So it should be perfectly clear
“American” is inclusive of the rainbow of people who live on this hemisphere.
The problem now seems to be when the U. S. of A. uses
“American” and “America”, exclusively.
As if only they can decide who is “American” and who is not,
so now a mindless war over legality and legitimacy is being fought.
The United States of America is a very young country it’s true
But American history didn’t start with the Red, White, and Blue
We are still here on this land
And ain’t I an American?

America is a Hemisphere
Rooted in Indigenous cosmology,
profoundly rich in spirituality, with its nature based cyclical philosophy.
These teachings go back thousands of years on this land
So how can they be considered “Un-American.”
This way of life still has great relevancy,
during these times of planetary instability and educational incompetency.
Stop denying our youth their history and birthright to know:
The past they embody and where they are destined to go.
We are still here on this land
And ain’t I an American?

All Rights Reserved 2012. Email:

Maria Ramirez is a counselor and performance artist.


Mujeres Talk Moderator  June 2, 2012 at 6:35 AM

Thank you Maria for sharing this poem.