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Bienvenidos

When Ashley Soto (A.B. ’20) first arrived on campus, she experienced what she describes as culture shock. “I’m Afrolatinx, low-income, a first-generation student, and raised by a single mom, from a very vibrant Latinx community in Grand Rapids, Michigan,” Soto says. She was looking for a place on campus where she felt at home.

After attending an orientation offered by U-M’s Assisting Latin@s to Maximize Achievement (ALMA) , she found it. “The Latinx community here embraced me with open arms,” Soto says. Through ALMA, Soto kept hearing about the Latina/o Studies Program, one of four ethnic studies programs within the Department of American Culture. Soto kept hearing about a class on Latinx art and the way it interpreted everyday experience, using everything from lowrider culture to iconography of the U.S.-Mexico border as texts. The class, “Latina/o Art and Aesthetics in America,” was taught by Professor William Calvos-Quirós, and it’s where Soto fell in love with the Latina/o Studies Program.

The Latina/o Studies Program’s commitment to inclusion makes for a welcoming academic and social home as well as an innovative interdisciplinary program. The program offers courses cross-listed in art, history, literature, women’s and gender studies, film, television and media, history, political science, medicine, theatre, and social justice. The program is Boricux, Guanacx, and Chilangx, from the Mexico-Arizona border, the Central American isthmus, Los Angeles, Phoenix, outside of Chicago, and New York City. The people of Latina/o studies are Spanish-speaking, Portuguese-fluent, and speakers of Spanglish; first-generation, Indigenous, Black, “ni de aquí, ni de allá,” and, “we’ve been here forever.”

Soto went on to take Latina/o studies classes on archival research, the history of U-M, social work, and activism, and she became involved with the Latinx student organization La Casa. And though she graduated with a major in organizational studies and a minor in community action and social justice, Soto credits the Latina/o Studies Program as the force that helped her find purpose within these fields.

The courses Soto took in Latina/o studies mapped beautifully onto her degree in organizational studies and to internships with Hispanic Center of Western Michigan and the LSA Opportunity Hub. “They helped me figure out where identities fit in with structures and organizations, and to think about the perspectives that are left out and the problems that occur when that happens,” Soto says. “More inclusive is smarter. Inclusivity helps us solve problems.”

 

 


 

American Culture is home to four of the University's ethnic studies programs: Arab and Muslim American Studies, Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies, Latina/o Studies, and Native American Studies. Each of these constituent programs serves communities of affiliation and interest through academic minors, a range of community and service-learning courses, and internships. 

Bienvenidos

When Ashley Soto (A.B. ’20) first arrived on campus, she experienced what she describes as culture shock. “I’m Afrolatinx, low-income, a first-generation student, and raised by a single mom, from a very vibrant Latinx community in Grand Rapids, Michigan,” Soto says. She was looking for a place on campus where she felt at home.

After attending an orientation offered by U-M’s Assisting Latin@s to Maximize Achievement (ALMA) , she found it. “The Latinx community here embraced me with open arms,” Soto says. Through ALMA, Soto kept hearing about the Latina/o Studies Program, one of four ethnic studies programs within the Department of American Culture. Soto kept hearing about a class on Latinx art and the way it interpreted everyday experience, using everything from lowrider culture to iconography of the U.S.-Mexico border as texts. The class, “Latina/o Art and Aesthetics in America,” was taught by Professor William Calvos-Quirós, and it’s where Soto fell in love with the Latina/o Studies Program.

The Latina/o Studies Program’s commitment to inclusion makes for a welcoming academic and social home as well as an innovative interdisciplinary program. The program offers courses cross-listed in art, history, literature, women’s and gender studies, film, television and media, history, political science, medicine, theatre, and social justice. The program is Boricux, Guanacx, and Chilangx, from the Mexico-Arizona border, the Central American isthmus, Los Angeles, Phoenix, outside of Chicago, and New York City. The people of Latina/o studies are Spanish-speaking, Portuguese-fluent, and speakers of Spanglish; first-generation, Indigenous, Black, “ni de aquí, ni de allá,” and, “we’ve been here forever.”

Soto went on to take Latina/o studies classes on archival research, the history of U-M, social work, and activism, and she became involved with the Latinx student organization La Casa. And though she graduated with a major in organizational studies and a minor in community action and social justice, Soto credits the Latina/o Studies Program as the force that helped her find purpose within these fields.

The courses Soto took in Latina/o studies mapped beautifully onto her degree in organizational studies and to internships with Hispanic Center of Western Michigan and the LSA Opportunity Hub. “They helped me figure out where identities fit in with structures and organizations, and to think about the perspectives that are left out and the problems that occur when that happens,” Soto says. “More inclusive is smarter. Inclusivity helps us solve problems.”

 

 

 

La Fountain y La Lola

Professor Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes is core faculty in Latina/o studies as well as in women’s and gender studies and Romance languages and literatures, and he exemplifies the rich eclectic expertise that’s a hallmark of Latina/o studies. While he began his academic career with a more traditional literature focus, he quickly became comfortable analyzing cultural forms from film to parades to comic books and their relationship to social and historical factors.

La Fountain-Stokes recently completed a project on Puerto Rican drag and trans performance, and is beginning another on Puerto Rican performance art. “I’m as interested in what’s happening in the Puerto Rican archipelago as much as I am interested in diasporic populations within the United States,” he says. “I see my critical work eminently in conversation with other fields.”

La Fountain-Stokes writes poetry and fiction as well as cultural analysis that engages social science frameworks. He’s also an internationally-celebrated drag artist who explores issues of identity and politics in his delightful performances as poetry aficionado and home chef Lola von Miramar.

La Fountain-Stokes is inspired by the challenging interdisciplinary work his students are doing in Latina/o studies, projects on topics as wide-ranging as technology and the use of drones on the US/Mexico border, the representation of the border within the horror film genre, and the transgender experience in Cuba. He notes that students seek out Latina/o studies from all over LSA and U-M because they know it’s a program where fertile collaborations take place.

“It’s exciting, broad, expansive, and challenging,” La Fountain-Stokes says. “Students frequently force faculty to have to learn more. For example, I am a Caribbeanist. But students pushed me to begin integrating and accounting for the specificity of the Central American experience, and because of the current political context, it felt irresponsible not to. Latina/o studies is in constant growth and expansion. It makes no sense not to evolve, transform, and account for the reality as we see it.”

 

La Fountain y La Lola

Professor Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes is core faculty in Latina/o studies as well as in women’s and gender studies and Romance languages and literatures, and he exemplifies the rich eclectic expertise that’s a hallmark of Latina/o studies. While he began his academic career with a more traditional literature focus, he quickly became comfortable analyzing cultural forms from film to parades to comic books and their relationship to social and historical factors.

La Fountain-Stokes recently completed a project on Puerto Rican drag and trans performance, and is beginning another on Puerto Rican performance art. “I’m as interested in what’s happening in the Puerto Rican archipelago as much as I am interested in diasporic populations within the United States,” he says. “I see my critical work eminently in conversation with other fields.”

La Fountain-Stokes writes poetry and fiction as well as cultural analysis that engages social science frameworks. He’s also an internationally-celebrated drag artist who explores issues of identity and politics in his delightful performances as poetry aficionado and home chef Lola von Miramar.

La Fountain-Stokes is inspired by the challenging interdisciplinary work his students are doing in Latina/o studies, projects on topics as wide-ranging as technology and the use of drones on the U.S./Mexico border, the representation of the border within the horror film genre, and the transgender experience in Cuba. He notes that students seek out Latina/o studies from all over LSA and U-M because they know it’s a program where fertile collaborations take place.

“It’s exciting, broad, expansive, and challenging,” La Fountain-Stokes says. “Students frequently force faculty to have to learn more. For example, I am a Caribbeanist. But students pushed me to begin integrating and accounting for the specificity of the Central American experience, and because of the current political context, it felt irresponsible not to. Latina/o studies is in constant growth and expansion. It makes no sense not to evolve, transform, and account for the reality as we see it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comadres

One of the students contributing to this evolution is Juri Sanchez, who graduated from U-M’s Masters in Social Work Program in December 2019. As a social worker, she’s interested in drawing connections between Central American migration and policy in order to gain a deeper understanding of the real ways that policies, histories, and visual and media cultural representation of Central Americans actually impact lives—connections that would better help her serve this community.

Sanchez approached the Latina/o Studies Program and began an independent study with Associate Professor Colin Gunckel, who also holds an appointment in the Department of Film, Television, and Media. Sanchez began the independent study with the idea that she would write a paper on the history of Salvadoran migration.

As she pursued these histories, however, her research project became at once more capacious and more specific. “As I studied the readings, I started noticing the visual production that was being used. As someone who studies visual culture, Colin was thrilled, and he guided me into archival research, where I came across poster collections, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador aid newspapers from the 1980s, and more.”

As Sanchez dug into the archives, she paid particular attention to how women were being portrayed. Some aid media, for example, was written in English, for a white audience, and employed unhelpful stereotypes. Sanchez analyzed the movement’s visual production and target audience, and began drawing comparisons to the Black Panther and Chicanx social justice movements.

Sanchez’s interest in the history of social justice protest, and how Central American migrant women fit into those narratives, led her to more archive work, this time collecting oral histories from elders to contribute to an enormous Latina/o Studies Program project—Chicana Por Mi Raza, a digital archive of the Chicanx and Latinx social justice movement, created by former LSA faculty and Latina/o Program Studies Director Maria Cotera. Sanchez researched the networks of solidarity that undergird histories of protest and policy, and in her discoveries ensured that Central Americans were well-represented in this vast digital archive.

Maria Guardado, a Salvadoran woman who was kidnapped by the Salvadoran military, tortured, left for dead, managed to escape, was “reborn” in a refugee camp in Mexico, and became an activist for migrant rights in both Mexico and the United States, is one of these stories. Guardado passed away in 2015 in Los Angeles, and left her personal archive of art, poetry, political testimony, and protest materials with her comadre Dorinda Moreno.

When California lifted shelter-in-place, Sanchez and Moreno finally had the opportunity to meet in person after months of phone conversations. They ate pupusas and discussed the exhibit that Dorinda is planning to showcase her late friend’s work, and Sanchez set to the task of digitizing the traces of Guardado’s remarkable life.

“There are so many stories about women in El Salvador and Central America that we don't know about,” Sanchez says. “I pursued this because social movements cause policy changes, but we often ignore the people who worked to push the needle.”

Comadres

One of the students contributing to this evolution is Juri Sanchez, who graduated from U-M’s Masters in Social Work Program in December 2019. As a social worker, she’s interested in drawing connections between Central American migration and policy in order to gain a deeper understanding of the real ways that policies, histories, and visual and media cultural representation of Central Americans actually impact lives—connections that would better help her serve this community.

Sanchez approached the Latina/o Studies Program and began an independent study with Associate Professor Colin Gunckel, who also holds an appointment in the Department of Film, Television, and Media. Sanchez began the independent study with the idea that she would write a paper on the history of Salvadoran migration.

As she pursued these histories, however, her research project became at once more capacious and more specific. “As I studied the readings, I started noticing the visual production that was being used. As someone who studies visual culture, Colin was thrilled, and he guided me into archival research, where I came across poster collections, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador aid newspapers from the 1980s, and more.”

As Sanchez dug into the archives, she paid particular attention to how women were being portrayed. Some aid media, for example, was written in English, for a white audience, and employed unhelpful stereotypes. Sanchez analyzed the movement’s visual production and target audience, and began drawing comparisons to the Black Panther and Chicanx social justice movements.

Sanchez’s interest in the history of social justice protest, and how Central American migrant women fit into those narratives, led her to more archive work, this time collecting oral histories from elders to contribute to an enormous Latina/o Studies Program project—Chicana Por Mi Raza, a digital archive of the Chicanx and Latinx social justice movement, created by former LSA faculty and Latina/o Program Studies Director Maria Cotera. Sanchez researched the networks of solidarity that undergird histories of protest and policy, and in her discoveries ensured that Central Americans were well-represented in this vast digital archive.

Maria Guardado, a Salvadoran woman who was kidnapped by the Salvadoran military, tortured, left for dead, managed to escape, was “reborn” in a refugee camp in Mexico, and became an activist for migrant rights in both Mexico and the United States, is one of these stories. Guardado passed away in 2015 in Los Angeles, and left her personal archive of art, poetry, political testimony, and protest materials with her comadre Dorinda Moreno.

When California lifted shelter-in-place, Sanchez and Moreno finally had the opportunity to meet in person after months of phone conversations. They ate pupusas and discussed the exhibit that Dorinda is planning to showcase her late friend’s work, and Sanchez set to the task of digitizing the traces of Guardado’s remarkable life.

“There are so many stories about women in El Salvador and Central America that we don't know about,” Sanchez says. “I pursued this because social movements cause policy changes, but we often ignore the people who worked to push the needle.”

 

 

 

 

 

Making Connections

“I’m Tejana, grew up in El Paso. This program has anchored me,” says Ashley Lucas, associate professor in the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance and the Residential College, and affiliated faculty with the Latina/o Studies Program. “The scholarly attention to Latina/o studies in this program is really vital,” Lucas says, “and being affiliated with the Latina/o Studies Program, the focus being drawn to Latinx students, channels a lot of exciting connections.”

Lucas is known for the exciting connections she draws between performance and social justice in her “Latina/o Theatre for Social Change” class, as well as the work that she does in Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) and the PCAP Brazil Exchange Program, which takes students to work with incarcerated populations in Brazil—all projects that include many colleagues, collaborators, and students from Latina/o Studies Program.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lucas’s courses with Latina/o studies, PCAP, and the Brazil Exchange will be changing shape this year. The adapted curriculum looks like letter-writing, weekly activity packets, visual arts, zines, collaborative plays to be performed on Zoom, all of which can be shared with the families of incarcerated people. Instead of visiting Brazil, Lucas and her students will be exchanging letters with the Brazil prison theatre programs in Rio de Janeiro and Florianópolis. “We need the connection and the solidarity in this political moment,” Lucas says.

Raíces + Receipts

“The critique and defense against white supremacy has always marked Latina/o studies as a field,” La Fountain-Stokes says, in discussing the roots of the program, and its current conversations. Latina/o studies and La Casa became support networks after anti-Latinx racism on campus in 2016 and 2017. “Violence and discrimination and bias have intensified, and COVID-19 has disproportionately affected working class and undocumented Latinx,” La Fountain-Stokes says.

“Activism and support are very much at the heart of the program,” La Fountain-Stokes says. The Latina/o Studies Program was established in 1984 through the activism of students and faculty, and with the support of the Black Student Union.

“Latinx activism has deep roots at U-M,” Soto says. As part of her Latina/o studies coursework, Soto helped to create an archive of the history of Latinx students at U-M for the ¡Presente! Project, gathering vital stories that had been left out of other conversations about the history of the university.

The first Latinx student at U-M was José Celso Barbosa, an Afro-Latinx from Puerto Rico, who studied medicine from 1877 to 1880. His children and grandchildren went on to attend U-M as well. The discovery gave Soto a feeling of belonging. “Finding our history and representation and impact in the archive—this is what we are still fighting for. We’ve been saying it for thirty years. Now, we have receipts!” Soto laughs.

Since graduating, Soto’s been focused on her goal of entering higher education through organizational studies, and she recently accepted a position as Representative at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. “I want to do advocacy work for first-generation students of color,” she says, “And I want my leadership to be representation for students.” The community resolve that she found in Latina/o studies, as well as the problem-solving perspective that she honed there, will guide her. “No matter what anyone says, if you see that something’s missing, speak up, create something, that will allow for that voice to be heard,” Soto says. “I love learning.”

 

 

Making Connections

“I’m Tejana, grew up in El Paso. This program has anchored me,” says Ashley Lucas, associate professor in the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance and the Residential College, and affiliated faculty with the Latina/o Studies Program. “The scholarly attention to Latina/o studies in this program is really vital,” Lucas says, “and being affiliated with the Latina/o Studies Program, the focus being drawn to Latinx students, channels a lot of exciting connections.”

Lucas is known for the exciting connections she draws between performance and social justice in her “Latina/o Theatre for Social Change” class, as well as the work that she does in Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) and the PCAP Brazil Exchange Program, which takes students to work with incarcerated populations in Brazil—all projects that include many colleagues, collaborators, and students from Latina/o Studies Program.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lucas’s courses with Latina/o studies, PCAP, and the Brazil Exchange will be changing shape this year. The adapted curriculum looks like letter-writing, weekly activity packets, visual arts, zines, collaborative plays to be performed on Zoom, all of which can be shared with the families of incarcerated people. Instead of visiting Brazil, Lucas and her students will be exchanging letters with the Brazil prison theatre programs in Rio de Janeiro and Florianópolis. “We need the connection and the solidarity in this political moment,” Lucas says.

Raíces + Receipts

“The critique and defense against white supremacy has always marked Latina/o studies as a field,” La Fountain-Stokes says, in discussing the roots of the program, and its current conversations. Latina/o studies and La Casa became support networks after anti-Latinx racism on campus in 2016 and 2017. “Violence and discrimination and bias have intensified, and COVID-19 has disproportionately affected working class and undocumented Latinx,” La Fountain-Stokes says.

“Activism and support are very much at the heart of the program,” La Fountain-Stokes says. The Latina/o Studies Program was established in 1984 through the activism of students and faculty, and with the support of the Black Student Union.

“Latinx activism has deep roots at U-M,” Soto says. As part of her Latina/o studies coursework, Soto helped to create an archive of the history of Latinx students at U-M for the ¡Presente! Project, gathering vital stories that had been left out of other conversations about the history of the university.

The first Latinx student at U-M was José Celso Barbosa, an Afro-Latinx from Puerto Rico, who studied medicine from 1877 to 1880. His children and grandchildren went on to attend U-M as well. The discovery gave Soto a feeling of belonging. “Finding our history and representation and impact in the archive—this is what we are still fighting for. We’ve been saying it for thirty years. Now, we have receipts!” Soto laughs.

Since graduating, Soto’s been focused on her goal of entering higher education through organizational studies, and she recently accepted a position as Representative at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. “I want to do advocacy work for first-generation students of color,” she says, “And I want my leadership to be representation for students.” The community resolve that she found in Latina/o studies, as well as the problem-solving perspective that she honed there, will guide her. “No matter what anyone says, if you see that something’s missing, speak up, create something, that will allow for that voice to be heard,” Soto says. “I love learning.”

 

 
 
Illustrations by Julia Lubas

 

 

 

 


 

American Culture is home to four of the University's ethnic studies programs: Arab and Muslim American Studies, Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies, Latina/o Studies, and Native American Studies. Each of these constituent programs serves communities of affiliation and interest through academic minors, a range of community and service-learning courses, and internships. 

 

 

Illustrations by Julia Lubas
Illustrations by Julia Lubas

 

 


 


 

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Starting college looks a lot different this year for first-year students like J.J., with many courses and activities meeting online. The LSA Annual Fund provides support for tuition, room, and board, as well as the technology and tools necessary to connect to classes and campus. Your support means LSA students won’t miss a beat.


 

 

 

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Release Date: 10/26/2020
Category: Faculty; Alumni; Research; Students
Tags: LSA; Department of Film, Television, and Media; Women's and Gender Studies; Residential College; Romance Languages & Literatures; Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program; American Culture; LSA Opportunity Hub; Organizational Studies; LSA Magazine; Humanities; Prison Creative Arts Project; Latina-o; Julia Lubas; Colin Gunckel; Gina Balibrera; Levi Stroud; Natalie Condon; Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes; William Calvo-Quirós; Ashley Lucas