Monday, July 01, 2013

Spotlight on Spencer R. Herrera

Spencer R. Herrera was born and raised in Houston, Texas. He studied at Southwestern University, the University of Houston, and the University of New Mexico. His areas of research and teaching are Chicano/a literature, studies, and film. His Ph.D. dissertation is titled “Pochoroman: The birth of the Chicano/a writer” (University of New Mexico, 2007), which he describes in the abstract:

“Oscar Zeta Acosta’s The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo (1972), Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory (1982), Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street (1984), and Denise Chavez’s Face of an Angel (1994) are the principle narratives I examine in this dissertation. In each, the idea of writing and establishing themselves as writers is a prevalent theme. Connected to this theme are language and identity, two cultural components to which Gloria Anzaldua refers as ‘twin skin.’ By writing about language and cultural identity, many Chicano writers confront the derogatory tag that has been placed upon them, that of Pocho, a Mexican American who has become Anglicized. Despite all the cultural nuances associated with Pocho, the term is mostly defined by the loss of language, specifically the inability to speak Spanish fluently. Ironically, if it is language (Spanish) that Chicanos have lost, then it is language (English) that they will use to reclaim their cultural identity, voice, and history.”

Herrera teaches at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces where he is Associate Professor of Spanish. He is married and is the father of two daughters.

Herrera’s forthcoming book is Sagrado: A Photopoetics Across the Chicano Homeland (University of New Mexico Press, October 2013), which includes photography by Robert Kaiser, poetry by Levi Romero, and an introduction by Luis Valdez. From the publisher:

Un lugar sagrado, a sacred place where two or more are gathered in the name of community, can be found almost anywhere and yet it is elusive: a charro arena behind a rock quarry, on the pilgrimage trail to Chimayó, a curandero’s shrine in South Texas, or at a binational Mass along the border. Sagrado is neither a search for identity nor a quest for a homeland but an affirmation of an ever-evolving cultural landscape. Embedded at the heart of this remarkable book, in which prose, photographs, and poems complement each other, is a photopoetic journey across the Chicano Southwest.”

In an article by Tonya Suther for the New Mexico State University News Center, Herrera explained that he “wanted to show that despite fences and laws, the flow of culture could not be restricted.” He added: “You can’t stop culture; it permeates borders.”

Praise for Sagrado:

Sagrado’s three talented artists represent the best in contemporary Chicano poetry, art and history. One of the most important books I’ve read recently.” –Rudolfo Anaya, author of Bless Me, Ultima

“These poems are photos, these photos are poems, and together with the historical testimony that reads delicious as cuento, they are prayers said on behalf of others. A book to teach with or to teach ourselves things we forgot. Wise, heartfelt, generous, grace-filled, and, above all, created with love. And everybody knows whatever is made with love siempre sale bonito. A thousand and one blessings to the artists for this labor from el corazon.” –Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street

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