Sunday, June 23, 2013

Central Time: En Medio de Todo

Nebraska-- "en medio de todo en el Norte"
by Amelia M.L. Montes (

Where is Lincoln, Nebraska?  This is the question people ask when they find out where I live.  They’ve asked when I am back “home” in California, when I am at a conference, when I am traveling in many other states.  
Storm Clouds in Nebraska
I patiently explain that the state of Nebraska is surrounded by six states:  Wyoming and Colorado to the west, South Dakota to the north, Iowa and Missouri to the east, and Kansas to the south.

I admit that until I moved here, my own geographic knowledge of the Midwest was vague or simply nonexistent.  I remember years ago teaching a class about geography and asking the students:  “How do you know how to get anywhere or where a certain geographic place is?”  
They looked at me blankly and said:  “I just go to the bus or airport sign that says where I need to go.”  "But aren’t you curious," I asked.  "Don’t you want to look at a map?  How can I help you become not only curious, but passionately curious about geographic spaces?"

The Platte River of Nebraska

Years later, I met a former student who told me she had listened to what I said.  She had made sure to travel, to live and work in various places in the U.S. and the world, to understand other people, communities, other perspectives. She had become enamored with maps and the history of places, the migration of people including herself and her family. 

The Sandhills in Nebraska
This is connected to another story.  Some people, like my former student, can travel and work in other places by choice, and some people must travel in order to find work.  The surge in migration of Chicanas and Chicanos, Latinas and Latinos in the Midwest has been significant.  Lexington, Nebraska and West Liberty, Iowa are just two examples of small rural towns who changed almost overnight in population because of the kind of jobs available (usually meat packing). These towns were dying towns, small rural fading spots on the map, now revitalized and growing.  Click here for information on Lexington, Nebraska and click here for information on West Liberty, Iowa. 

Last week I was at The University of Iowa working with an amazing group of Latina and Latino Scholars, working on chapters that will be part of an anthology, Latinos in the Midwest.  This project began with three scholars at The University of Iowa:  Professors Claire Fox, Omar Valerio-Jiménez, and Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez (Professor Vaquera-Vasquez is now at the University of New Mexico but still a member of this consortium).  We are creating an anthology that will place a wide lens as well as a careful focus on the history, communities, testimonios, cultural trends, (past and present), of Latinos in the Midwest. (CLICK HERE for a list of the scholars who are pictured below and included are descriptions of our work.)

Latino Scholars at The University of Iowa Obermann Center for  Advanced Studies

A number of us have come to this work not because we were born and raised here. The majority of us come from the west coast, southwest and eastern areas of the U.S.  We have come here because there is a need.  The population of Latinos has soared and the necessity for scholarship regarding our U.S. Latinidad in the Midwest is great.  Two scholars in our group, however, were indeed born and raised in the Midwest: Professors Theresa Delgadillo, and Lilia Fernández.  Theresa was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and now is Associate Professor at The Ohio State University where she teaches Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino literatures.  

Professor Delgadillo's first book, Spiritual Mestizaje:  Religion, Gender, Race, and Nation in Contemporary Chicana Narrative (Duke UP, 2011), focused on reading representations of religion and changing ideas about religion and spirituality in borderlands Chicana literature and documentary film.  Of late, she has completed a second book (and now under review), entitled Telling Latina Lives:  Oral Histories from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  She also has an article on Latino and Latina Literature in the Midwest and one on photography/popular history books on Latinas and Latinos in the Midwest.  The two articles are (1) "The Ideal Immigrant" in Aztlan:  A Journal of Chicano Studies, 36/1 (2011): 37-67; (2) "Exiles, Migrants, Settlers, and Natives:  Literary Representations of Chicano/as and Mexicans in the Midwest" in Midwest Miscellany XXX (2002): 27-45 (republication of and also available online as JSRI Occasional Paper No. 64. East Lansing, MI: The Julian Samora Research Institute, Michigan State University, 1999. 1-11).  
Associate Professor Theresa Delgadillo

And Dr. Lilia Fernandez who also is teaching at The Ohio State University but in the History Department, has recently published Brown in the Windy City:  Mexican and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago (The University of Chicago Press, 2012).  She is a Chicago native.  David G. Gutiérrez, History Professor at University of California, San Diego writes of her book:  "A work of striking originality, scope, and nuance, Brown in the Windy City provides the most comprehensive treatment of the entwined histories of ethnic Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Chicago.  Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Fernandez's study marks a major intervention in the history of race and racialization, urban history, and interdisciplinary Latino studies scholarship."  

Associate Professor, Lilia Fernandez
Delgadillo's and Fernandez' research and writings are important markers for Latinos in the Midwest—revealing that Chicanas and Chicanos/Latinas and Latinos have been here not recently, but for multiple generations thus significantly creating the Midwest as it is today. 

Last night I thought of all the scholars I worked with last week as I was watching the “super” moon:  a full bright orb.  I knew that millions of other people on this earth were looking, photographing, discussing last night’s moon.  My friends in many Midwestern states were commenting on the moon’s brilliance via twitter and Facebook.  Later (here in the Midwest) we had thunderstorms.  They remind me of summer in Coahuila, Guanajuato, Oaxaca.  Mexico.  Mexico is on central time.  So is the Midwest.  We are CENTRAL.  En medio de todo. 

Amelia Montes on "tiempo central" with el super moon

Super Moon on July 22, 2013

1 comment:

Olga said...

Gracias, Amelia. Can't wait to see/read the anthology Latin@s in the Midwest! Beautiful pictures of Nebraska.