Latin@ Scholar Spotlight: Dr. Antonio Sotomayor, Librarian of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

By: Ana D. Rodriguez

Sotomayor. Illinois News Bureau 2

Tell us about your career in academic libraries, what motivated you to pursue a librarian position?

During my doctoral studies at the University of Chicago, I always kept an open mind regarding professional alternatives. When the position of Assistant Professor and Latin American and Caribbean Studies Librarian opened at the University of Illinois, I was very excited about the opportunities it could provide. I was particularly interested in this position because it is a tenure-track faculty position in one of the best academic libraries in the world, with an equally unique Latin American and Caribbean collection. The required emphasis on research was a perfect match with my career aspirations: to educate and contribute to the academic conversation with original research. The educational work involved in libraries was and is very appealing to me. Librarians have a unique opportunity to impact the lives of students and scholars. As librarians, we are entrusted with the duty to organize information and teach the critical lessons of information literacy. I do this from the point of view of a published scholar. With students I not only discuss the (re)sources necessary for their studies, but I also talk about the ways to use them in a scholarly argument, and sometimes even how to organize them in a paper. I truly enjoy discussing the research process with everybody as well as to aspire to understand a region of the world we all are passionate about.

Sports and Nationalism are two prominent subjects in your teaching curriculum (looking at http://www.asotomayor.com), how do you get to this professional intersection (how you became an expert in these disciplines)?

My main scholarly interests are culture and politics. I find fascinating the ways in which groups of people find ways to define themselves. Particularly, I am interested in the processes by which societies identify themselves as a nation. National identity and nationalism are powerful concepts that have mobilized humanity in dramatic ways. Sport is a recent component in the study of nationalism and national identity, despite being an increasingly powerful social aspect of modern societies throughout the globe. To me, Puerto Rico represents an ideal place to study the power of sport in the process of national identity formation, especially the Olympic Movement, due to Puerto Rico’s special political and cultural condition: a colony of the United States considered a Caribbean and Latin American nation. Officially, an unincorporated territory of the United States for almost 120 years now, I find fascinating how this society has adhered so tightly to its definition as a Hispanic people, while possessing citizenship from a country mainly thought of as Anglo-Saxon (despite being really a multi-cultural country). The Olympic Movement plays a crucial role in this process of identity. By having a sovereign Olympic delegation, Puerto Ricans participate as a unique nation, with their own flag and anthem, and separate from the United States. By doing this as U.S. citizens, they challenge the notion of both the meaning of Latin America and the United States. That is, are they Latin Americans or U.S. Americans?  The answer is not easy and such requires close study. In this sense, Olympic sport participation provides a powerful component in a cultural practice of vital stature. Puerto Rico’s Olympic Movement also has a direct political role. Puerto Rico’s Olympic delegation acquires a prominent role in the discussion of whether the island can or should become a state of the Union. I argue that Puerto Rico’s Olympic delegation poses a serious obstacle to Puerto Rico’s bid for U.S. statehood, especially for local statehood promoters. But for the U.S., Puerto Rico’s unescapable profile as a Caribbean and Latin American nation should also be considered as they ponder on this prospectus.

As the Latin American librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, how you serve the community of Latin American and Latino students?

I serve the Latin American and Latino student population in multiple ways. I receive numerous visiting scholars and students from Latin America at the library. Given that my native language is Spanish, and that I’m also fluent in Portuguese, students and visitors can discuss their projects in their native language if they wish. This breaks a huge language barrier and they quickly become more comfortable and express better their research projects. Our conversations are thus more meaningful and productive, just the way I do with English speaking patrons. We have prepared introductory library guidelines in different languages, including Spanish and Portuguese, for those scholars new to the country who would like to begin their stay on campus on a familiar language.

But for all students, Latino or Latin American or Caribbean, I hope I can serve as a role model. I hope they can see that it is possible to achieve what they aspire to. I always enjoy being approached by a Latina/o student to talk about my experiences and trajectory because others did it when I was in their shoes. I’ve served as a faculty mentor, dissertation committee member, or simply a good listener. I like to think as someone open and available for mentorship, advice, or just chit-chat. I have also been asked by different Latino/a organizations on campus to give talks about my research, which I’m always happy and honored to do so. I was even invited to read to local elementary school children on Latino book night, and I found that particularly special.

Describe to LACCHA the focus (collection development policy or plan) of the Latin American Collection at Urbana-Champaign University Library. By materiality, by country, by Latin American communities present in the state?

Our collection development plan is comprehensive. Today, the collection is nearly 990,000 volumes, covering multiple languages and formats. It is one of the largest in the nation, known for its size and comprehensiveness. We have material from all countries and territories, but our strengths are the Andes, Brazil, and the Southern Cone. Nonetheless, we have many special items from all over the region including a strong Mexican collection that includes a series of legal documents from 1562-1623 New Spain, and a very rare collection of some 1,476 pamphlets from Mexico from 1813 to 1908. The papers of anthropologist Oscar Lewis, notable for his work in Mexico and Puerto Rico, are available in our University Archives. Our library has been collecting material on or about Latin America and the Caribbean since its foundation in 1867, when the library’s first collection included titles such as History of the Conquest of Mexico (1843) and History of the Conquest of Peru (1847) both by the eminent historian William Prescott. By 1916, the collection had some 2,500 titles, covering multiple languages, and from different countries. Back then, the focus was Argentina and the Southern Cone, with Brazil also getting good coverage. Later, in the middle of the 20th century, Illinois’s responsibility under the Farmington Plan was Brazil and we began collecting more strongly on that country led by prominent scholars like economist Werner Baer and historian Joseph Love. At the same time, Illinois enjoyed a serious scholarly focus on the Andes with preeminent anthropologists such as Tom Zuidema, Norman Whitten, Joe Cassagrande, and Donald Lathrap, among others, while keeping its strong tradition on Brazil. After the 1960s, and as part of the University Library’s traditional commitment to collections, Latin America and the Caribbean grew overall, including Central America and the Caribbean, especially after the Cuban Revolution. All of this activity enjoyed a very productive partnership with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, one of the first to be established in the nation in 1963. Today, we still collect material (books, DVDs, music, serials, etc.) from all countries in the region. We have established a strong and productive collaborative relationship with specialized academic book vendors throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe that supply academic books in Spanish and Portuguese through a system of approval plans. I prepare an acquisitions profile that these book vendors use to select materials for us. This profile takes into consideration our traditional collection strengths, the current needs of scholars and students on campus, and prepares for future research coverage. A special focus on the collection since I arrived here is a Latin American and Caribbean Sport collection, the first of its kind.

How do you envision the panorama of Latin American scholarship in the future?

Latin American and Caribbean scholarship in the 21st century has to include the digital world. More and more students and scholars immerse themselves in the digital platform, and librarians have been good at embracing this now almost basic format. Websites, online research guides, digital humanities, digital scholarship, social media, are all the new turf and the landscape of the field. This trend is not necessarily driven by scholars in the U.S., but also many Latin American countries are developing initiatives and projects related to the digital humanities spectrum. Their robust open access policies for journals are more advanced than the States, and it’s up to librarians to disseminate this knowledge and show users how it affects their scholarship. That is, we need to effectively communicate that there are a variety of digital platforms that are of use in our scholarship. Organizing and optimizing the digital world is our major task. This is the aspect that’s missing in Latin American open access policies; there’s no consolidated space to gather all these journals. Redalyc and SciELO are starting points, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Not everything exists in digital form. Communicating and teaching our students that there are more books and other resources in the physical world than in the digital is another challenge. Teaching about online resources needs to include the important caveat that not everything is online, and much work needs to be done to locate all possible resources for our studies. Lastly, if we want to advance Latin American and Caribbean scholarship we must become part of the academic conversation and engage dynamically with the scholarly community. Librarians need to go beyond the library, as well as to bring people to the library, all in the effort to see the library and librarians as part of the scholarly endeavor. We need to attend campus lectures, as well as device programs or design our spaces so that the library community are seen as collaborators, teachers, and colleagues equally significant.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your career? (teaching Latin American studies)

By far the most rewarding part of my career is having a chance to talk to people about what most interests us: Latin America and the Caribbean. I enjoy working with undergraduate students, and having the chance to play a small roll in teaching them about this fascinating region of the world by introducing them to the plethora of resources. I enjoy explaining how to search, how to use the information, and even how to structure arguments based on the sources. I also truly enjoy working with graduate students because I make sure they are taking full advantage of the library. With them I push a bit harder and begin to inquire about experience with databases, archives, etc. I do this in the most casual and sympathetic manner because my goal is to develop a working relationship that, hopefully, will last their entire graduate career at Illinois. Lastly, but certainly not least, I enjoy collaborating with fellow faculty members. We are here to make sure we best prepare our students and to contribute to making Illinois a world-class institution for comprehensive research on Latin America and the Caribbean. I do most of this work through collaboration with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies. As such, dealing with visiting scholars is highly important. We want them to feel that their time at Illinois was very productive and that they have colleagues here that they can count on.

The other rewarding aspect of my job is collection development. I have been given the most challenging and extraordinary task: to steward and build on a preeminent collection at a world class library. I undertake this job with lots of humility, pride, and enthusiasm. The materials I acquire, the guides I curate, the resources I organize will have a much larger impact than my time at Illinois. I’m working on a bibliography of the collection done by the first Latin American faculty historian, William Spencer Robertson, from 1916. Robertson, perhaps the first Latin American “librarian,” sought to make a catalog of the library’s holding at the time, probably to evaluate our collection needs, to help others find resources, or to make a case to the administration to bring more attention to the collection. Whatever his intentions, he left us with a snapshot of the collection at a crucial time of the institution and, indeed the world, given that the “Great War” was fully underway. Back then, the collection was around 2,500 volumes in size. One hundred years later, the collection nears one million. Who knows how the collection will be in 2118 but knowing that I played a small role in the library’s collection during my tenure is truly exhilarating.

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New Website Redesign!

 

MEMORIA SITE

By: Leah Rios

We are thrilled to announce our new website redesign! While we kept all the same content we thought it would be great to refresh the site and change the website address to include SAA. Our old website will still be available but eventually will be fazed out. Please feel free to send us feedback through our contact page and share the site.

Please check out our website at the new address: https://saalaccha.wordpress.com/

We will also be creating a new logo which should be completed soon. Looking forward to a great new year!

 

Join us for our next Webinar! Mark your calendars for November 28, 2017 and find more information below

BORDER

Están cordialmente invitados al próximo webinar de la serie Desmantelando Fronteras/Breaking Down Borders. Sylvia A. Fernández y Maira E. Álvarez, estudiantes de doctorado en la Universidad de Houston, en Texas, y creadoras del proyecto digital Borderlands Archives Cartography (BAC) serán las presentadoras invitadas. Ellas nos hablarán sobre la misión del BAC, un mapa digital que preserva y presenta una sintesis visual de periódicos publicados en la region de la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos.  El evento es en español y se llevará a cabo el martes, 28 de noviembre 2017 a las siguientes horas locales:

  • EEUU 14:00 horas EST / 13:00 CST / 11:00 PST
  • México D.F. / Honduras 13:00 horas
  • Quito / Bogotá / Lima 14:00 horas
  • Buenos Aires / Santiago de Chile 16:00 horas
  • Cáracas 14:30 horas

You are cordially invited to the next webinar event of the Desmantelando Fronteras / Breaking Down Borders webinar series. Sylvia A. Fernández and Maira E. Álvarez, doctoral students from the University of Houston and founders of the Borderlands Archives Cartography (BAC), are the invited speakers. Ms. Fernández and Álvarez will discuss the mission of BAC, a digital map that displays the U.S.-Mexico border newspaper’s cartography that records geographic locations of nineteenth and mid-twentieth century periodicals. The webinar is in Spanish and will take place on Tuesday, November 28, 2017 at the following local times:

  • United States 2 PM EST / 1PM CST / 11AM PST
  • Mexico City / Honduras 1PM
  • Quito / Bogotá / Lima 2 PM
  • Buenos Aires / Santiago de Chile 4 PM
  • Cáracas 2:30 PM

Presentador@s Invitad@s / Invited Speakers

Maira E. Álvarez

Ph.D. Candidate

University of Houston

Sylvia A. Fernández

Doctoral student

Hispanic Studies, University of Houston

 

Haga clic aqui para accede al evento en vivo

Click here to participate in the online event

https://fiuconnect.adobeconnect.com/rykdtgmlexf5

 

La sección de los Archivos de Patrimonio Cultural de Latinoamérica y el Caribe (LACCHA) de la Sociedad de Archivistas Americanos (SAA), en asociación con la Biblioteca Digital del Caribe (dLOC) y la Asociación de Bibliotecas Universitarias, de Investigación e Institucionales del Caribe (ACURIL), ha organizado Desmantelando Fronteras/Breaking Down Borders, una serie de seminarios por Internet recalcando proyectos archivísticos de Latinoamérica y el Caribe. Esta serie provee un espacio colaborativo para archivistas de Latinoamérica y el Caribe donde se pueden compartir proyectos, experiencias y mensajes principales y a la vez fomentar comunicación bidireccional entre profesionales a lo largo de las Américas.

The Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives section (LACCHA) of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), in partnership with the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) and the Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institutional Libraries (ACURIL), has organized a series of online events, Desmantelando Fronteras/Breaking Down Borders, a webinar series showcasing archival projects of Latin America and the Caribbean. This series provides a collaborative space for Latin American and Caribbean archivists to share their projects, experiences, and takeaways and fostering a two-way communication between professionals throughout the Americas.

 

LOGOS

Archives Leadership Institute 2017

By: Liz Zepeda

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I didn’t always gravitate toward leadership roles. Growing up I wasn’t necessarily encouraged to take on leadership roles and I never thought of myself as a natural leader. But when I started graduate school and started learning about archives and the immense power they held, I realized that I wanted to share this whole new world with everyone. More specifically, I wanted communities that traditionally have been underrepresented in archives to see themselves in history. Since then I’ve dedicated myself to exploring different ways of engaging the community in the archive whether it be through primary source materials or encouraging community members to think about their personal history as an archive.

I applied for the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI) after a few colleagues told me about their experiences. While writing the application, I reflected on where I saw myself in the field, what I thought a leader represented and how I wanted to change the field if not the world. We also had to think about a project that we would develop at the ALI. I did not know what to expect, and on my flight to the institute, I was intimidated. Once I arrived in Kentucky, everyone was nice, and it felt amazing to be with so many archivists. Everyone had a diverse range expertise and worked in different types of institutions.

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We stayed at the Boone Tavern for a week and took classes at Berea College on various subjects, but leadership was at the center of all of them. Before coming to the ALI, we all had to complete a survey from the book, “Strength based leadership: Great leaders, teams, and why people follow” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie and learned our top five strengths. In our classes, we learned more about these strengths, how to lead with our strengths, how to work with our colleague’s strengths, about cultural competence, and how to manage our projects.

In addition to our classes, we had collaborative activities and ice breakers. We got to know each other during breaks, lunch, dinners, and after classes. We also the opportunity to get to know the Berea College campus with a tour of the Special Collections, we made a broom in the Broom Making Studio, and we got to hear bell hooks speak. We also did some hiking on the Indian Mountain Trail at the Berea College Forest, and I have to say that it was one of the hardest things I did.

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All in all this experience changed my life. I met so many amazing people with so much insight. The classes broke down the nuts and bolts of leadership, productivity, and project management. I have also made lifelong friends. I am forever grateful to Rachel Vagts, Mark Nigro, everyone in the steering committee and my fellow ALI cohort 17 members for this experience. The Archives Leadership Institute changed how I see the world and how I see myself.

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Reference:

Rath, Tom, and Barry Conchie. Strengths based leadership: Great leaders, teams, and why people follow. Simon and Schuster, 2008.

Archivist Spotlight: Natalia Fernández, Multicultural Librarian, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

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By: Ana D. Rodriguez

Tell us about your beginnings in librarianship and archival science, what sparked your interest in the field?

I grew up in “The Old Pueblo” Tucson, Arizona, and attended the University of Arizona for both my undergraduate and graduate studies. As an undergraduate, I majored in Art History and Spanish Literature. During my undergraduate years, I began thinking about graduate school when a friend told me about the university’s master degree program in information resources and library science. I began working at the university’s main library as a shelver and pager, and I spoke to a number of librarians about their work. My first experience in a special collections and archives was during my honors thesis research process, and the type of work done by archivists fascinated me. As someone who naturally loves to organize and categorize materials, the concept of being able to do that as a career seemed too good to be true, and it also seemed like a good match for my undergraduate studies. In 2008, I became a part of the University of Arizona’s Knowledge River program, a program that focuses on community-based librarianship and archival work to serve traditionally underserved populations. In addition to the program, I interned with as many archival repositories as I could and, again, sought out advice from others within the profession. My supervisors’ commitment to using history as a means to empower communities, educate the public, and celebrate heritage inspired me greatly.

How instrumental was the Knowledge River program in your career?

The University of Arizona’s Knowledge River (KR) program focuses on community-based librarianship and partnerships with traditionally underserved communities, with a focus on Latinx and Native American communities. The program trains future librarians to have a better understanding of library and information issues from the perspectives of Latinx and Native Americans, as well as to be advocates for culturally sensitive library and information services. I am currently the Curator and Archivist of the Oregon Multicultural Archives and OSU Queer Archives, as well as an associate professor, at the Oregon State University Libraries and Press Special Collections and Archives Research Center in Corvallis, Oregon. The Knowledge River program was quite instrumental in securing my position.

The KR program offers a great combination of theory, practice, and network building. As part of the program, all KR scholars are required to complete the course “Information Environments from Library and Hispanic and Native American Perspectives” during their first semester. The knowledge gained in this course was fundamental for me as I then applied a more critical lens to my other courses that did not include non-traditional perspectives. As part of the program, I worked as a graduate assistant at the University of Arizona Library Special Collections, which has a wide variety of materials pertaining to the Latinx community. I also worked as a graduate assistant for a local tribal community’s summer early literacy program. Because of my employment experiences as a KR scholar, I obtained internships and student jobs at a variety of other archival repositories. In part, this job experience helped me secure my current position. The other piece of the Knowledge River program that was instrumental in starting my career was the network of Knowledge River scholars and the reputation of the program within the field. While at the University of Arizona, my supervisor at the time had also graduated as a KR scholar. She had worked for my now current institution and acted as a reference. Now in its 16th cohort (I was in cohort 7), it is incredible to think about the ever expanding network of amazing KR graduates.

What does your current position as Multicultural Librarian at Oregon State University, entail (types of ethnic communities you’re working with)?

In November of 2010, I began my job as the curator and archivist of Oregon State University Oregon Multicultural Archives (OMA). In 2014, I co-founded the OSU Queer Archives (OSQA). The mission of the OMA is to assist in preserving the histories and sharing the stories that document Oregon’s African American, Asian American, Latinx, and Native American communities. OSQA’s mission is to preserve and share the stories, histories, and experiences of LGBTQ+ people within the OSU and Corvallis communities. The majority of my job for both archives is to collect materials, from both individuals and organizations, to add to the archives. I also curate exhibits and collaborate with other organizations on special projects as well as with professors for their classes.

Talk to us about the Latinos en Oregón Oral History project, how it started, objectives, and response from the community?

As the curator and archivist of the Oregon Multicultural Archives, I develop relationships with communities of color to share information about the process of documenting their histories, the opportunity to do so, and the importance of ensuring that their stories are preserved and made accessible to current and future generations. In the summer of 2014, I took a variety of research trips across the state and spoke with museum curators and archivists about their current and future plans to document local area communities of color. One of the predominant topics of discussion was the need to connect with local Latinx communities and better represent their experiences in the historical record. According to the August 2016 report, “Latinos in Oregon: Trends and Opportunities in a Changing State”, Oregon’s Latinx population in 2014 was 12% of the state’s population, up from 8% in 2000. Various archival repositories in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, located in western Oregon, such as the Oregon Historical Society, Pacific University, and the University of Oregon, have oral history collections documenting the Latinx experiences in their areas. However, the institutions with which I spoke in central Oregon did not; they recognized the growth of the Latinx population in their local communities and the need to document the Latinx experience. In early 2015, recalling my conversations and the research I had conducted, I had the opportunity to connect with members of the Madras, Oregon, Latinx community, and I jumped at the chance. Madras is a small town in central Oregon with a population of about 6,000 people, 38.5% of which are Latinx. In the spring of 2015, I began the Latinos en Oregón oral history project in Madras, Oregon.

The purpose of the Latinos en Oregón oral history project is to document the Oregon Latinx community’s stories, from their perspectives. Through the OMA, I wanted to connect with local communities to document the stories of everyday life – the family stories, traditions, opinions, and diverse perspectives – of Latinx communities in Oregon. The project has various objectives including: creating an archival collection for public access to increase awareness of the contributions and challenges of Latinx community members in Oregon; honoring and celebrating the state’s Latinx communities; establishing and strengthening relationships with and within the Latinx community; and most importantly, providing the opportunity for Latinx communities to be empowered to share their stories and have them become a part of the larger Oregon historical narrative.

In central Oregon, the project’s first collaboration began with the Oregon State University Juntos program, a program that partners with schools to provide Latinx families across Oregon with the knowledge and resources to gain access to higher education. In collaboration with my community liaison, I developed a set of questions that were modified based on each individual’s needs; but overall, there were five main sections for each oral history interview: family/ancestors, immigration stories, life in Oregon, topics/traditions, and plans for the future. The oral histories I conducted included questions about the interviewees’ childhoods and educational experiences, opportunities to share the stories of why and how they moved to Oregon, as well as their thoughts regarding life in Madras and the connections, or lack thereof, between the Latinx community and non-Latinx community members. A large portion of each interview consisted of the interviewees sharing their thoughts on a range of topics covering a variety of life experiences: cultural celebrations and traditions, religion, values, hobbies, etc.

The community response has been amazing. In 2016, I expanded the project to Yamhill County in collaboration with the county cultural trust, the local historical society, and the Latinx community organization Unidos, along with a dedicated group of community volunteers. In Clackamas County, Oregon, I partnered with the Canby Public Library, and most recently I began a collaboration with the Hood River Museum to expand the project in that region. For each collaboration, I worked with community liaisons who have already established trusting relationships with community members and who can act as advocates for the project. Early on, I realized I needed to build project capacity and sustainability, but also that I did not need to be the only one conducting interviews. I developed a flexible project workflow where I could conduct interviews in some areas, and train local community members in others. The result is that oral history interviews are added to the Oregon Multicultural Archives, but this approach expands the scale of the project and allows for deeper engagement within communities.

How do you envision the field of Latin American librarianship (in terms of archival collection development and outreach)?

Whenever I work on the Latinos en Oregón oral history project, I am reminded of how much more there is to document, analyze, and to celebrate. Listening to the interviewees’ stories of migration and settlement, their childhood experiences and thoughts on a variety of topics and family traditions, as well as their hopes and dreams for their futures and those of their children, is truly inspiring. The oral history collection is available for the communities themselves as well as to the public so others can learn this rich history. The field of Latin American librarianship plays such a powerful role in fostering understanding that enables people to consider the positive impact Latinx community members have had in their local towns, how people have adapted, and how communities have changed as a result of their presence. Due to our current political and social climate, now more than ever it is essential that we document, share, learn from, and celebrate the stories of Latinx communities, as well as other traditionally underrepresented groups. In this way, I hope that these stories encourage people to speak with empathy in their conversations, and perhaps have a broader and better understanding of what it means to be an Oregonian, and to be an American.

Finally, what has been the most rewarding part of your career as a multicultural librarian?

Along with the value of archival collections, especially oral histories, for scholarly purposes and the edification of the public, creating an opportunity for a community to tell its story can offer benefits to the community members themselves. A common response I receive when I ask an individual or family to share their stories is that they feel they have no story to tell. They may say that they consider their lives too ordinary for anyone to want to hear or that their kind of life’s story is one that is not typically told. As an archivist, it is incredibly rewarding to speak with community members about how much their stories matter, and about the positive impact that their stories could potentially have to those who listen to them. For communities who have been traditionally marginalized in both the historical record and in historiography, oral histories can be a form of empowerment, a way in which they can literally add their voice to the narrative. In addition, the process of sharing their story can be a personal opportunity for self-reflection and appreciation for the struggles they have endured and their life’s accomplishments thus far.

Archivist Spotlight: Ximena G. Valdivia, Manager, Barry University Archives and Special Collections, Miami Shores, Florida

by Ana D. Rodríguez

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Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you started working in libraries

I come from a humble Chilean family, of which I am the only one who has earned a university degree. Overcoming cultural and economic barriers to success was not too difficult for me because I had a natural aptitude for reading; this is where I got a strong sense of equal rights, dignity, and the will to succeed. My aptitude for reading was also influential when I had to choose a career once I finished high school. After completing a BS in Library Science in Chile, I began to work on diverse projects in different types of libraries. I discovered that technical processing was the activity I liked the most and for which I had innate skills. I started working on cataloging projects for the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile (National Library of Chile), where I had the opportunity to work with wonderful professionals willing to share their knowledge and experience with me. I was sent out to organize and put into operation other collections, such as the library of the Museo Regional de Atacama (Regional Museum of Atacama) and the Archivo Niemeyer at the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural (Niemeyer Archives – National Museum of Natural History). Later, I was invited to work on the Chilean Memory Project (www.memoriachilena.cl), the first digital library in Chile and one of the most prestigious projects of the Libraries, Archives, and Museums National Department (DIBAM). Because of this project, in 2002 I was invited to the Congress of Latin American Cities organized by the University of Miami in Florida.

My arrival to the United States was like a new beginning, for a long time I felt anxious like a kid on the first day of school, not only in a personal way, but also in a professional one. My contact with the American library world showed me that libraries could fulfill their role as a supporter of both the cultural and scientific-technical development of human beings.

When I had reached an acceptable understanding of the language, I volunteered at the University of Miami Libraries. Soon I was hired as a library assistant at the Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC), where I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge in archives; processing important personal and institutional archival collections and working with a great team led by Esperanza de Varona, now retired. My main responsibilities included the creation of finding aids and basic preservation work; occasionally creating metadata for digitized materials or processing films and videos.

Knowing that I needed to complement the experience I gained at the CHC, I studied for my master in Library and Information Science at the University of South Florida. As soon as I graduated in 2009, I started working at the Barry University Archives and Special Collections, initially as an Assistant Archivist and later in 2012 I became the manager of the department.

Describe the mission of Barry University Archives and Special Collections

Our mission statement is very simple and straightforward; we are “committed to collecting, preserving, processing, promoting and providing access to primary source materials that support the research needs of the Barry University community and beyond.” Our collections comprise over 2,500 linear feet of manuscript materials, over 6,000 rare books, some of them dating back to the 17th century, tens of thousands of historical photographs, audio and video recordings, ephemera, architectural drawings, cartographic materials, works of art, artifacts, and digital materials.

A great deal of my time is dedicated to outreach activities to help promote Archives and Special Collections’ mission and services.

Which are some of the most noteworthy collections at Barry University?

Our holdings are particularly strong in documenting the University history, that is how this Archives started in 1991. A few Adrian Dominican Sisters who had retired from their faculty/administrative positions organized the department and did an excellent work in collecting and preserving University Records. Later, we began collecting paper collections and almost by chance.  I would say those collections came to us and we took the responsibility of processing and preserving them. Now I am insistent and not reluctant in asking people for their collections.

Some of the most interesting archival collections we have in our holdings are:

Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh Papers

This unique collection provides a thorough overview of Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh’s life and work providing context for historical and political events that shaped South Florida’s social and cultural landscape.

Monsignor Walsh is best known for his role in Operation Pedro Pan/Cuban Children’s Program, an initiative that brought over 14,000 unaccompanied children from Cuba to escape political indoctrination during the 1960s. Concurrently, serving as Director of the Catholic Welfare Bureau of the Archdiocese of Miami, and in the following 30 years he participated in numerous social initiatives to improve the living conditions of underrepresented groups including children, seniors, HIV/AIDS patients and political refugees from Cuba, Haiti and other areas in the Caribbean and Central America. In addition to working to achieve racial integration in Miami Dade County, he was crucial to fostering community dialogue during the aftermath of the 1980 riots in Miami.

William Lehman Papers

A United States Representative from Florida, 1973-1993. The papers document the various activities in which the Congressman was involved in, gives insight into how he accomplished his goals, and reflects his vision for the future.  The Papers include correspondence, research papers, pamphlets, ephemera, and other materials relating to legislative issues; committee and subcommittee reports, testimonies from hearings, press releases, newsletters, speeches, and clippings; personal correspondence, memberships, campaign materials, and travel materials, photographs, audiotapes, and video tapes.

Congressman William Lehman (1913-2005) was instrumental in transforming both South Florida and the country.  A proponent of mass transit, he secured funds to build Miami-Dade County’s Metrorail and Metromover systems and the Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.  He revised regulations to facilitate the adoption of children from foreign countries and to enable federal employees to donate their unused sick leave to other employees. To help the State of Florida mitigate the financial impact of the influx of Cuban and Haitian refugees during the 1980s, Lehman joined forces with other Florida congressional representatives to obtain federal funding. In 1988 he met with Fidel Castro, secured the release of longtime political prisoners. He helped acquire funding for Israel and advocated for Soviet Jews seeking resettlement in Israel. Additionally, Lehman worked to pass legislation and secure funding to protect the environment.  He focused on issues directly affecting Florida including oil leasing and offshore drilling, acid rain, the Kissimmee River Restoration Project, the Miami River (Harbor) Project, Munisport/Interama (Dade County, Florida) Superfund proposal, coastal zone management and beach restoration, Everglades protection, traumatic injury treatment, and Hurricane Andrew relief.

 Patricia Minnaugh Puppet Collection

This collection documents Barry graduate-faculty Patricia Minnaugh’s professional work in puppetry from 1979 to 1991.

Although always interested in theatre, Minnaugh’s passion was puppetry. She was an accomplished playwright, who used to write, direct and design her own puppets. In 1990, Puppeteers of America elected her to its national board of directors.

The bulk of the collection consists of scripts, research material, collectibles, personal files and photographs. The collection also includes over a hundred of puppets collected by Mrs. Minnaugh. Puppets are still in process; and these are not available for research or view yet.

 Edouard Duval-Carrié Papers

This small collection documents the work of Haitian-American artist Edouard Duval-Carrié since 1989 through the present. Materials include biographical information, exhibit catalogs, exhibit programs, lobby cards, articles, and clippings.

I would say that the most important collection is Operation Pedro Pan/Cuban Children’s Program Records

Operation Pedro Pan was an initiative to help Cuban parents send their children out of Cuba to avoid Communist indoctrination. Through Operation Pedro Pan, over 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minors arrived in Miami between December 1960 and October 1962. Of these, almost 7,000 received foster care via the Cuban Children’s Program.  This federally funded foster care program, was developed and headed by Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh in December 1960, and became the model for future nationwide initiatives that would provide federal support for locally administered social services, including those offered by faith-based agencies. The program ended by 1979.

Monsignor Walsh took a special interest in preserving the history of Operation Pedro Pan and the Cuban Children’s Program. Thanks to his efforts, 584 linear feet of records – papers, photographs, films and books – were gathered. These materials constitute the Operation Pedro Pan / Cuban Children’s Program Records (OPP/CCP).

In 1995, Monsignor Walsh deposited these records in the Barry University Archives and Special Collections Department. Since then we have been responsible of processing and preserving the OPP / CCP Records.  Catholic Charities of the archdiocese of Miami is still the owner of the collection and permission to conduct research requires their final approval. We do believe that expanding awareness of this experience for future generations is vital, so we have taken some initiatives in digitizing the collection and making it available to researchers and to the “Pedro Pans”, so you may find some materials available at the Digital Library of the Caribbean.

Collection-level finding aids are currently available online through the library research guides

How is the Latin America and Latin@x experience reflected in the collections of Barry University?

I think I already mentioned something about it. Most of the collections we have are related in some way to the Latin-American experience. I would like to add that for a long time there was no collection development policy to guide our acquisition. There was this idea that we only collected university records and my predecessors did a great work doing that, but we are focusing our work toward improving our holdings. We are working hard to strengthen our relationship with faculty to increase the internal use of these collections and we have some of our records available through the Digital Library of the Caribbean, which has enormously increased our exposure to the community.

How do you envision the field of Latin American librarianship?

I think that the field of Latin American librarianship in the United States is very promising, not only in terms of the number of Hispanics and Latinos dedicated to the profession, but also in terms of developing collections related to Latin America and the Caribbean Area. Now it is better understood that we Hispanics may speak the same language, but we have such a rich history and diverse culture that all those differences among us is worth to record. Being the largest minority in the United States not only gives us more influence in our day to day life, but also a more prominent role in our communities. And we Latinos are willing to contribute to this society in a positive way

What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

There are a few things for which I feel rewarded as a librarian:

  • The satisfaction of being able to assist users who are in need of information is the most important thing. There is a certain democratic principle to this profession and it is very exciting for me to see the difference that I can make in improving people’s lives by performing my work as a librarian.
  • As professionals, we -Librarians/Archivists- are unafraid of sharing with others our knowledge, experience, skills, etc. You can always find a professional who is willing to support any program or a project that will benefit the community at large.
  • And finally, it is very fulfilling to be part of a profession with such great values, our Code of Ethics is wonderful, comprehensive, inclusive… and the best part is that most of us believe in it.

 

Interview with Dr. Bonnie A. Lucero, Assistant Professor of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley

by Ana D. Rodríguez

Note: Fall 2017 Dr. Lucero will be starting a new role as Post-doctoral Fellow in Law and Society at the Newcomb College Institute at Tulane University

What motivated you to pursue a career in Latin American studies? 

My fascination with Latin American studies began as a quest to explore my own identity. Even as a very young person, I was drawn to discovering my heritage and understanding the changing community in which I lived. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was surrounded with cultural, ethnic, racial, and linguistic diversity, and I was enmeshed in a place thoroughly shaped by global connections. In my hometown of Richmond, California, diverse populations co-existed but remained geographically and socially separate. My family lived in working-class neighborhoods that straddled the boundaries of African-American, Latinx, and white areas of the city. As a mixed-race person, I struggled to find my place within this richly-heterogenous yet largely-segregated society. But what made it even more of a challenge were the powerful stereotypes conflating Latinx identity with Mexican and Mexican-American people, even though the community of Latin American immigrants and Latinx people in my city was very diverse in terms of national background. I grew increasingly curious about how Puerto Ricans fit into the broader Latinx category. I wanted to learn about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans to understand that part of myself. And I wanted to explore Latin America and its relationship to the United States to figure out the social and historical forces shaping migration and immigration. Most of all, I wanted to understand how I and the evolving racial and cultural landscape of my community fit into broader global processes.

These goals steered me towards a bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the School of International Studies at the University of the Pacific. My college experience prompted new questions about my and my country’s relationship to Latin America. I was surrounded for the first time in my life by a wealthy, predominantly-white student body. Navigating this new environment forced me to reckon with the profound inequalities that defined my own country. So, when it came time to fulfill the study abroad requirement of my degree, I wanted to experience a society that approached inequality as a problem to be fixed, instead of a necessary and immutable part of life. I chose Cuba. Part of my decision was informed by the island’s historical and cultural connections with Puerto Rico. Yet, I was also interested in Cuba because I had read that the 1959 Revolution set out to dismantle class, racial, and gender hierarchies. I found the possibility of a more empathetic society profoundly inspiring.

Though perhaps not in the ways I imagined, the semester I spent at the University of Havana changed my life. It cemented my love of Cuba and Latin America. It also motivated me to dedicate myself entirely to understanding how inequality functioned in the region, and how different Latin American societies had attempted to address social stratification at specific historical moments. Upon returning to my university, I researched and wrote about the abolition of slavery in Cuba, which I understood to be a key moment in which social change could have materialized. These experiences eventually led me to pursue graduate degrees in Latin American studies and later in History.

You got an M.Phil in Latin American studies from the University of Cambridge, what are some notable aspects and differences of studying Latin America from a European perspective?

One of the key reasons I applied to study at Cambridge was because the strained relations between Cuba and the United States complicated my ability to pursue my studies on the island. In fact, when I initially proposed to complete my study abroad in Cuba as an undergraduate, I was told that it was not possible because of the embargo. I actually had to transfer to a different university to make it happen. I remember the entire ordeal involved with traveling to the island for the first time. It was during the Bush years in the 2000s, and one of the first things I had to do was attend a “briefing” at the U.S. Interests Section in the Swiss Embassy. Over the course of an hour, I listened to a U.S. official justify her office’s efforts to topple the Cuban government as the only way to deliver Cubans from what she claimed to be a tyrannical police state that oppressed them. I listened to her defend a failed policy that I didn’t believe in, one that I knew only hurt Cuban people and separated families. Later, as an intern at the Organization of American States in Washington D.C., my naïve and optimistic hopes of bringing Cuba back into the organization after decades of exclusion were greeted with laughter. Both those experiences were very jarring for me as a student. I was determined to get another perspective.

Studying at the Latin America Studies Center at Cambridge afforded me an opportunity to escape some of the antiquated Cold War thinking that plagued area studies in the United States. Moreover, it pushed me to think beyond the comparative framework that implicitly poses the U.S. as the main point of reference. In that vein, one of the most transformative aspects of my M.Phil studies was being able to engaging with Cuba and Latin America more generally beyond the Cold War politics that dominate area studies in the United States. From this perspective, I was able to see Cuba for more than just the Cuban Revolution. Studying the history of race and ethnicity with my advisor Gabriela Ramos gave me new ideas about why Cuba captured my interest. It was more than just a single moment of revolutionary upheaval, but rather a much longer trajectory of struggle. This interest pushed me towards a historical approach to Latin American studies, with an emphasis on the evolving nature of social inequality.

I began to explore social inequality through the lens of race. My master’s thesis explored the impact of slave emancipation on ideas about race in Cuba. I sought to build upon this study during my doctoral studies in history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, by exploring the ways imperial transition shaped racial hierarchies in Cuba at the turn of the twentieth century. Yet, as I studied the work of black feminists and delved further into the archival sources, I realized that a history of racial inequality in Cuba would be incomplete without accounting for its entanglement with gender hierarchies. My dissertation represented my first attempt to grapple with those issues. After obtaining my PhD in 2013, I devoted my scholarship to exploring the intersections of race and gender. I co-edited Voices of Crime: Constructing and Contesting Social Control in Modern Latin America (University of Arizona Press, 2016), a volume that explores how race, gender, and class informed ideas about criminality in the region throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I also finished my first monograph, Revolutionary Masculinity and Racial Inequality: Gendering War and Politics in Central Cuba, 1895-1902 (University of New Mexico Press, forthcoming in 2018), which analyzes the ways Cuban soldiers and politicians employed ideas about masculinity both to challenge and reinforce racial hierarchy. The seminar on the history of race and ethnicity in Latin America at Cambridge empowered me to bring a scholarly and historical approach to my personal and experiential interest in social inequality. It allowed me to pursue personally and politically meaningful work that I believe provides a new perspective, which has the power to produce knowledge for change.

Tell us about your current teaching role at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley

When I got the job offer to work at the University (then called University of Texas-Pan American), my first thought was that this was the perfect job for me. Throughout graduate school, I had often questioned whether there would be a place for me in academia, where the odds seemed to be stacked firmly against women of color and people from working-class backgrounds. I had also felt torn about potentially taking a job that would isolate me from communities that I wanted to serve. The prospect of working at one the largest Hispanic-serving institutions in the country melted away these apprehensions. The job seemed to offer the best of both worlds—it afforded me a place in higher education while also enabling me to serve a community with which I truly identified.

Over the last four years, I have embraced this position as an opportunity to apply my areas of expertise in ways that validate and empower my students in the classroom and beyond. Part of that vision stems from my own experience as a student who struggled to identify with curriculum centered on a wealthy, white, male experience. I want my students to feel invested in the content and to see its relevance to their lives. Thus, in my courses on Latin American and the Caribbean, I purposefully center the historical experiences of social groups that are typically omitted from the historical record. Students learn about immigrants, African-descended peoples, indigenous populations, women, LGBTQ+, and religious minorities, among others. In this way, my courses empower students to see themselves in the curriculum, explore the common humanity of people across the Americas and beyond, and think critically about what they might reveal about our own society and experiences.

As a Latin Americanist, working with a predominantly Latinx student population has been a very fulfilling experience. Because of the working-class and immigrant backgrounds of many students, I have found that my teaching on historic social inequality and struggles for justice has resonated in unique and meaningful ways. I have proudly watched as many of them apply the lessons embedded in my curriculum to create change within their communities. I have also enjoyed working with a truly bilingual and bicultural student body and a borderlands community. In this context, the student population possesses a foundation of language skills and some degree of cross-cultural competency, which provides them a distinct advantage for studying Latin America. More than that, in this unique cultural context Latin American Studies is not merely a vehicle for understanding some far-off foreign society, but rather a mirror for exploring the dynamics that have shaped and continue to influence the borderlands.

For this reason, I have dedicated myself to rebuilding the Latin American Studies program at my institution. One of the initiatives I am most proud is Global Latin America, an Interdisciplinary Lecture and Engagement Series I founded in early 2016. As director of the series, I curate an enriching array of cultural and academic programming on the global connections defining the region and its borderlands. Some of the academic talks have focused on Mexico’s African heritage, Chinese Cubans, and this coming semester, Islam in Latin America. Because the Rio Grande Valley has remained geographically and politically isolated from the centers of elite knowledge production in the US, I envision Global Latin America as an important step towards connecting students and community members with internationally-recognized experts. Global Latin America also bridges classroom and community by recognizing the lived experiences of the borderlands as a valuable intellectual pursuit and forging connections between current and future generations of Latinx leaders. I see the series as a strong foundation for an academic certificate program, a minor, and eventually a major. Within an increasingly neoliberal academy and corporatized university, ensuring that students—particularly students of color in one of the most impoverished areas of the country—have access to this kind of liberal arts education is, in itself, a revolutionary act.

Which is your current research project?

Currently, I am finalizing my second monograph and looking forward to starting a new book project. My current book, titled Geographies of Power and Privilege: Urban Racial Segregation and Colorblindness in a Central Cuban City (under contract with University of Alabama Press), examines the gendered mechanisms of urban racial segregation over Cuba’s long nineteenth century. I explore how racial segregation was constructed and perpetuated in a society devoid of explicitly racial laws. By the late nineteenth century, Cuban law did not even recognize race, let alone prescribe racial segregation in the way Jim Crow did in the United States. Scholars have searched for indirect mechanisms of racial inequality, concluding that class was the principal mechanism of racial exclusion. However, the singular focus on class has perpetuated a male normative perspective, which obscures the myriad ways racial exclusion was bound up with gendered relations of power. Consequently, we have an incomplete understanding of the ways race functioned in Cuba and other supposedly-colorblind societies across the Atlantic World.

In the book, I argue that the key to understanding racial segregation in Cuba is recognizing the often-unspoken ways ideas and practices of gender shaped the historical production of race. Through a microhistorical case study of the central Cuban city of Cienfuegos, my research demonstrates that laws governing processes previously understood as neutral and ungendered—for instance slavery, emancipation, migration, urbanization, and property ownership—in fact shaped urban society in distinctly gendered ways. For instance, in mid-nineteenth-century Cuba, enslaved women in rural sugar districts cited their legal rights as mothers and wives to achieve freedom in larger numbers than their male counterparts. Many of these newly-emancipated women migrated to the city, where they found opportunities for wage work, which allowed them to take advantage of their legal right to own land independently from men. The way these women navigated urban space in turn shaped the city’s racial landscape. Most black women migrants settled on the cheaper and less regulated land located on the urban peripheries. But the relative autonomy of these black women property owners drew the scrutiny of local white male elites, who expanded policing and imposed new regulations to preserve urban order. Heightened state surveillance in turn helped institutionalize de facto racial boundaries. The gendered implications of the law were instrumental in producing and perpetuating urban racial segregation, without ever mentioning race outright.

My second project is a new book manuscript tentatively titled Malthusian Practices: A History of Pregnancy, Abortion, and Infanticide in Cuba. I became interested in this subject when I discovered over 300 newly-declassified abortion cases, mainly involving poor women of color, from the early years of the Cuban Revolution. This set of records seemed to contradict the revolutionary discourse of women’s liberation and racial justice. Thus, I began to wonder how laws regulating women’s reproduction perpetuated racial and gender inequality even in moments defined by intense social change. To address this question, I employ a reproductive justice framework to explore evolving interpretations of laws governing pregnancy and fertility control, and their consequences for women of African descent in Cuba. My intersectional approach to women’s health, bodies, and sexuality addresses a critical lacuna in the scholarship on Cuba—and much of Spanish America—by considering the way laws regulating women’s reproduction impacted the status of entire social and racial groups.

The study begins in the early eighteenth century, when colonial officials established the island’s first foundling asylum to care for abandoned infants and curb infanticide. By the early nineteenth century, precisely as Cuba transitioned from a white settler colony to a predominantly-black slave society, white Cuban elites excluded women and infants of African descent from accessing the asylum to ensure the institution could save white babies. I end with the consolidation of the Cuban Revolution in the 1960s, when the state again intensified its policing of women’s reproduction. The racially- and class-specific application of anti-abortion laws reinforced the racialized-gendered subordination of poor women of color within patriarchal family structures, while permitting expanded public roles of white women as symbols of revolutionary progress. Over all, this project illuminates how the regulation of women’s reproduction served as a key pillar of racial hierarchy, a continuity that endured through moments of social upheaval and revolutionary change. I am looking forward to engaging with and contributing to the growing body of scholarship on women’s bodies and reproduction in Latin America.

How do you envision the panorama of Latin American scholarship in the future?

One of the aspects of Latin American Studies that I particularly value is how deeply embedded the notion of intersectionality has been in much of the recent scholarship on the region, even if the theoretical influence has not been explicitly named. Latin Americanist scholars have long recognized the ways gender, class, and race have functioned as entwined system of inequality. In the field of Cuban Studies, Verena Stolke’s pioneering 1974 book Marriage, Class, and Color in Nineteenth-Century Cuba, created a strong foundation for future intersectional work. Recently, a new generation of scholars including Aisha Finch, Tiffany Sippial, Karen Y. Morrison, Camillia Cowling, and others have contributed some inspiring research centering women and gender in historical studies of social inequality in Cuba. As I move into my new role as Post-doctoral Fellow in Law and Society at the Newcomb College Institute at Tulane University, I look forward to contributing to this growing interdisciplinary collaboration between scholars of Latin American Studies and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your career teaching Latin American studies?

There are many rewarding aspects of my career as a scholar and teacher of Latin American Studies. I think one of the things I have enjoyed most has been the ability to produce knowledge that has a direct bearing on the experiences of ordinary people and on struggles for social justice today. So much of my research and teaching has been dedicated to exposing the implicit and indirect ways race has operated in Cuba’s supposedly raceless society. In some ways, this research is specific to particular moments in the histories of Cuba and Latin America. However, I also see important parallels for the shifting landscape of race in the United States. Over the course of my life, colorblindness has become the unequivocal and unquestioned foundation for prevailing discussions of race in the United States, even as racial inequality and violence have not only persisted but grown worse. I see important parallels to Cuba; the consolidation of racelessness as a key pillar of national identity marked not the end of racial exclusion, but rather its mutation. Some of the worst episodes of racial exclusion and the most genocidal acts of racial violence occurred under the veil of racelessness. By understanding the way race operated in this context, my research potentially offers insights for combatting these abuses in the United States.

Translating these insights into the classroom and beyond has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career.  Like my research, my courses expose the implicit, unspoken, often unconscious ways in which racial difference and other axes of inequality are constructed in specific historical and cultural contexts. Discussing the implications of concrete historical examples across the Hemisphere, my courses empower students to see the United States, Latin America, and the borderlands between them in a new light, as they learn to question, analyze, and critique dominant narratives and find their own voice. I have watched as my students apply their new knowledge and critical thinking skills to create change in their communities, whether by engaging in discussion with the spouses or children, by conducting original research, or by emerging as local activists.

In discussing these intersections of race and gender, I have had the privilege of seeing other women feel validated in their lived experiences. I have particularly enjoyed mentoring several very talented women students of color on original projects that grew out of my courses. One of my masters’ students is doing a fascinating project on the forced sterilization of Mexican- and Mexican-American women in the Rio Grande Valley. And another student is conducting research on the experiences of women of color in higher education. To me, there is nothing better than empowering students to produce original knowledge that is meaningful to their own lived experiences and has the potential to create positive social change in their communities.