Census numbers tell it all. There were 3.5 million Mexicanos living in the Midwest in 2010 with present research projecting that the numbers continue to increase. We are now, in 2014, nearing the 4 million mark. Given these numbers, the idea of Latinos living in the Midwest can no longer be viewed as unusual, especially because the numbers are increasing. It is because of this Midwest Latina and Latino presence that three professors at The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), were committed to hosting a weekend for academics, poets, fiction writers, community organizations, to come and have a conversation about the various aspects of Latinidad in the Midwest.
|Left to Right: Dr. Miguel Carranza, Director of the Latina/Latino Studies Program;|
Co-Chair of conference, Theresa L. Torres; Co- Chair of Conference, Norma Cantú
Thanks to the Co-Chairs of the conference: Professors Norma Cantú, and Theresa L. Torres, as well as the Director of the Latina/Latino Studies Program, Dr. Miguel Carranza. Their commitment to "doing the work that matters," brought many faculty and students from various areas of the Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico) and from Monterrey, Mexico. They came together to share their Midwest research, writing, personal experiences within and outside of the university.
The success of this past weekend’s NACCS Midwest FOCO conference was also a testament to the many academic Latina and Latino programs/departments, and community organizations that presently exist or have been recently established. At UMKC, the Latino program is fairly new, yet already organized enough to bring NACCS to its campus. At Kansas State University, Dr. Yolanda Broyles-González has established the Department of American Ethnic Studies.
|Faculty from the new Department of American Ethnic Studies|
(left to right): Dr. Norma Valenzuela, Dr. Yolanda Broyles-González, Dr. Isabel Millán
In addition to posting the census numbers of Latina/Latino growth in the Midwest, Dr. Rogelio
|Dr. Rogelio Sáenz, Dean of the College of Public Policy (University of Texas, San Antonio)|
Sáenz, in his keynote speech last Friday, described more detailed numbers which reveal a primarily young Midwest population. (Dr. Sáenz is Dean of the College of Public Policy at University of Texas, San Antonio.) Because the majority of Latinas/Latinos in the Midwest are young, there are opportunities for them to influence local, state, national elections and the societal institutions present in their regions, many years into the future. But they need education, and support.
|Dr. Nancy "Rusty" Barceló|
Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barceló echoed Dr. Sáenz’s comments by calling Ethnic Studies and Latina/Latino Studies programs to assist in the changing demographics, to forge an agenda “to increase our presence and our visibility. Community engagement is making a comeback,” she said, “and Latino studies is at the center. We need to revisit our obligations and work toward societal change.”
In addition to the more academic keynote talks, Alberto López Pulido (Chair of Ethnic Studies at the University of San Diego) and Rigo Reyes, (a founding member of the Amigos Car Club in San Diego) showcased their film: EverythingComes from the Streets, a documentary on low rider culture which is also present in the Midwest. An example is the “Slow and Low: Community LowriderFestival” that occurs in Chicago, Illinois.
Award-winning poets also gave readings: Xanath Caraza (who teaches at UMKC); Natalia Treviño (recently received her MFA at The University of Nebraska’s MFA Program and she is now a professor at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio, TX); and Minerva Margarita Villarreal (who traveled from Monterrey, Mexico).
|From left to right: Poets Minerva Margarita Villarreal, Natalia Treviño, Xánath Caraza|
There were a multitude of panels by students, professors, and community organizers. One such panel was a roundtable entitled, “Chicana Testimonios: Growing up Chicana in Kansas: Three Generations of Experience.” All three women are from Topeka, Kansas, and described a rich history, culture, and specific issues concerning Latinidad in that area. They also discussed their efforts in providing new organizations to enrich the diversity of needs among the various generations. For example, Christina founded the Tonantzín Society to educate and support Latino art and culture, with a focus on Mexican/Chicana/Chicano culture.
|Three Generations of Topeka, Kansas Mujeres|
From left to right: Valerie Mendoza, Graciela Beruman, Christina Valdivia Alcalá
I was very happy to bring two graduate students to the conference from our University of Nebraska-Lincoln English Department: Bernice Olivas (Composition and Rhetoric) and Visnja Vujin (American Literature/Chicana and Chicano Studies). Bernice and Visnja are presently either primarily studying and teaching Latina/Latino and Chicana/Chicano literatures or incorporating it into their main area of study. They gave excellent papers on pedagogy and Gloria Anzaldúa.
|From the University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Graduate student, Visjna Vijun, |
Professor Amelia Montes, Graduate student, Bernice Olivas
This is only the beginning! The Midwest NACCS FOCO is now a vibrant entity and plans are already in the works for the next one. Hoping to see you next year and wishing you a great week!
I leave you with poems from our conference poets who read this weekend: Minerva Margarita Villareal; Natalia Treviño; and Xánath Caraza.
Poem by Minerva Margarita Villareal (translation by Amelia M.L Montes)
La casa que construiste fue arrasada
Vi cómo sucedió
cómo se desprendían paredes y ladrillos
El techo voló
|Left to right: Minerva Margarita Villareal, Dr. Norma Cantú|
Dr. Cantú reads Minerva's poem in English;
sobre los huesos
y el paisaje entre la hierba abrió
echó raíces bajo las plantas de mis pies
y esta casa mojada por la lluvia
esta casa azotada por el viento
y materia que crece
Esta casa soy yo
The house you constructed was devastated
I saw how it happened,
how the walls and bricks cracked open.
The roof flew
and the grassy landscape exposed,
threw roots under the plants of my feet.
I am anchored
and this wet house, wet because of rain,
this house whipped by the wind
made into powder
and matter that grows,
I am this house.
Poem by Natalia Treviño from Lavando La Dirty Laundry
Centered above her king-sized bed
in Nuevo Leon, a large crucifix, a resin-bloodied
crumpling Body of Christ—the only art
hanging from her smooth plaster walls.
A lamination of Mary, Mother of Sorrows tucked
across and below the frame of her vanity. Wedding
gifts for all new brides, decorations surrounding the spirit
in the bedroom. As if the dimensions of the body
nailed at the limbs would lead new husbands
to handle the living curves of their brides.
As if a slain nude, thorned at the crown above her
head, could help rigid legs relax, for fire.
Poem by Xánath Caraza from Sílabas de Viento (translation by Sandra Kingerly)
Llueve en la América profunda
Llueve en el corazón
Se abren los trigales con el viento
Desde las nubes grises
Se desprenden gotas
Que alcanzan las espigas
Las mueve, las alimenta
Llueve en las praderas
Sopla el viento en la Esmeralda tierra
Se provoca la tormenta
En los maizales
Sonidos huecos de lluvia entre las hojas
El viento corre entre los dorados campos
Los doblega y levanta en un eterno vaivén
Siento la humedad en la piel
(Iowa City, octubre de 2012)
It is Raining
It is raining in deepest America
It is raining in the heart
Wheat fields open with wind
From gray clouds
Moving them, feeding them
It is raining on the meadows
Wind blows on emerald land
In corn fields
Hollow sounds of rain on husks
Wind runs between golden fields
Bending and lifting them back and forth
I feel damp skin
(Iowa City, October 2012)