Recordando a Nuestros Maestr@s: Horacio N. Roque Ramírez by Eddy F. Alvarez

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Horacio N. Roque Ramirez gave me permission to be a joto and be unapologetically proud of it. In the first class I TAd for him in graduate school at UCSB, he introduced me (and himself) to the students as a “professional joto.” We all laughed. I was embarrassed and shy about it at first, but soon grew to own it. The joto identity and struggle became part of my academic and personal journey and my involvement in NACCS and now AJAAS. He also reminded me of the urgency of telling queer and trans Latina/o stories of resilience, loss, life and death, those stories often relegated to the margins. I remember when I turned in my first draft of my Master’s qualifying paper, he gave it back to me, to my dismay, with TONS of critical comments and edits and wrote, “This paper is about Bamby Salcedo-not Foucault.” At a time when I was enamored with every sexy theory I came across, he reminded me of the importance of staying grounded in the oral history narrator’s life. He was traditional in that way. His teaching and training were stern and rigorous and loving, and I owe to him so much of who I am today as a writer, a scholar and professor.

I met Horacio N. Roque Ramírez at the Sherman Oaks Galleria in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles in the spring of 2006. I had been admitted to the PhD program in Chicana and Chicano Studies at UCSB, scheduled to start that fall, and he wanted to meet me in person, congratulate me, and create a plan for the upcoming year. The Galleria, which had changed drastically since the 1994 Northridge earthquake was now less of a mall and more an outdoor shopping center with a walkway in between the stores and restaurants. I can’t remember if I waited for him on the steps of the galleria facing Ventura Blvd. or if I was sitting outside a café. What I do remember is how funny and friendly, and buena gente he was. I remember how generous he was with his advice, and how he wanted to learn more about me. He asked me about my family, their migration histories, how many siblings I had, and I think we talked about my republican Cuban grandmother, which led to much joking and risas. Horacio was excited about my then proposed project on Chicanos and HIV prevention and his excitement relieved some of the anxiety I felt about the journey I was about to begin.

Horacio received the UC President’s Postdoc and would be at UCLA my first year as a graduate student. During our conversation that day while sipping on cafecito, he let me know that even though he wouldn’t physically be around, he was committed to helping me survive my first year. And that he did. I’ve shared this story a hundred times, but it is so relevant and shows the level of commitment Horacio had for his students and his work. During that first year in graduate school, he made sure to call me often, meet with me in Los Angeles whenever I was there and in Santa Barbara when he was in town for business. Even though he was on leave, I often received more attention than other graduate students whose advisors were actually around. He checked up on me. He made sure I was okay. He took care of me. That nurturance I received from him early on sustained me for a long time. Years later when his mental and physical health deteriorated and he wasn’t around as much, I knew he still had my back and I remembered how generous he had always been with me. Horacio loved his work, and his students, and the communities he served. He was a living manifestation of Gloria Anzaldúa’s call to “Do work that matters, vale la pena.” Horacio showed me what that meant in the way he mentored me, from that sunny day at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, to the tough but loving feedback he’d give me on my writing, to the emails he sent me and my friend Cristina Serna, only months before he passed, telling us to take care of ourselves emotionally, mentally and physically because the academy didn’t show us how to do it. Gracias, Horacio, for all the wisdom you shared with me, and for showing me what it meant to do meaningful work. Horacio believed in me from day one and I am so thankful for the nine years I was able to have him in my life. Presente, profesor. Que viva la joteria!

Eddy F. Alvarez received his Ph.D. in Chicana/o Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Africana and Latino Studies at SUNY Oneonta, as well as a founding member of the queer Chicana/o, Latina/o organization AJAAS, the Association for Jotería, Arts, Activism and Scholarship.

Genealogy of a Field: Cultivating an Anzaldúan Editorial Spirit in the El Mundo Zurdo Collections by Larissa Mercado-López

These past few years, I have had the privilege of co-editing three collections of essays drawn from papers presented at El Mundo Zurdo: An International Conference on the Life and Work of Gloria E. Anzaldúa. Since its inception, I have been an active member of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa, first as a member of the organizing committee, and now the national advisory committee; through my involvement I have not only seen the conference grow in its attendance, but I’ve also witnessed the rapid growth of the fields of Anzaldúa and borderlands studies as scholars from across the disciplines have used Anzaldúan theories to bring decolonial approaches to their work and fields. These edited collections, thus, are critical not only for making accessible the work that is happening now, but for documenting the genealogy of the growth of a field that has permeated nearly every academic discipline.

In the spirit of transparency, our process looks like this: about a month after the conference, we contact all the El Mundo Zurdo participations and send them a call for papers. In our call, we ask that contributors expand their conference papers to more fully develop their ideas so that the collection is rigorous and reflective of the exchanges that occur during the conference sessions; because the sessions often produce productive dialogue and new insights, we hope that authors will include these new perspectives into their pieces. Next, the three co-editors divide the essays, ensuring that each essay has two readers; the third reader acts as the tie-breaker, when needed. As we read, we look for the inclusion of key criteria, including:

  1. Does the piece center Anzaldúa, as opposed to occasionally referencing her, weaving quotes from her works, or using other theorists to legitimize her theories?
  2. Does the essay expand the author’s field or the field of borderlands studies in ways that are meaningful and innovative?
  3. If the piece is a testimonio, is it grounded in or structured by Anzaldúan thought?

Once decisions are made, we contact the authors, and those whose essays were accepted are given the closely edited files for revision. After revisions are resubmitted we review once more and then send to the publisher for publication.

At the core of the process of choosing, editing, and publishing the essays is the question: What would Anzaldúa do? By asking ourselves this question, we have made decisions to work very closely with authors to radically restructure and revise essays instead of rejecting them and to accept more pieces that are less traditionally academic but that embody the genre and methodological mestizaje of Borderlands. The end result is collections of work by community and university scholars across the ranks and the disciplines that push the boundaries of our disciplines and that, importantly, add to the body of scholarship that is forming the foundation of Anzaldúa studies. Guided by an Anzaldúan editorial spirit, we have worked to ensure that the essays accurately represent Anzaldúa’s ideas; that contributors are diverse; that the chapters broaden and innovate the field, and that at the core of each contribution—and each editorial decision—is an effort to promote social justice and effect transformational change.

The collections, however, would not exist without the continued support of feminist press, Aunt Lute: A Multicultural Women’s Press, who had the initial intellectual foresight to publish Borderlands. As we near the 30th anniversary of the publication of Borderlands, Aunt Lute continues to be at the helm of a movement to preserve and innovate Anzaldúan scholarship. At El Mundo Zurdo 2015 in Austin, Texas, Aunt Lute co-founder and friend of Anzaldúa, Joan Pinkvos and I discussed the slow sales of the collections. Our conversation led me to think of some ways to reframe their significance.

In addition to my previous statements about the collections as part of the genealogy of Anzaldúa studies, I want to emphasize the ways in which the anthologies challenge the boundaries of the neoliberal academy; additionally, I want to explain how we work to ensure that they “count” towards tenure and promotion, a critical issue, especially, for women of color. Within the neoliberal academy, tenure and promotion committees consider collections drawn from conference papers to be “conference proceedings”; typically they are not considered “rigorous” and, in many cases, are not given the same weight as peer-reviewed journal articles. However, similar to the process for journal articles, each essay goes through two levels of review, and sometimes a third; additionally, the reviewers/editors are Anzaldúan scholars who have been approved by the founder of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa and the organizing committee.

Anticipating resistance from tenure and promotion committees, faculty up for promotion have proactively sought our help coming up with language that describes the emergent field of Anzaldúa studies and that situates their work at the helm of the field’s growth. To further support their cases, we have written letters that attest to the rigor of the review process and to our credibility as editors, and the letters have been successfully accepted. Rather than their essay look like a deviation from their discipline, their essay is reframed as an elemental piece of the foundation of an emergent and rapidly developing field.

It should go without saying that these collections are indispensible for serious scholars of Anzaldúa and borderlands studies. Conference attendees often comment on the freedom they feel to center Anzaldúa’s theories in their conference papers, particularly scholars whose fields are hostile to women of color, queer, and other intersectional theories and methodologies, a perception that is supported by the lack of Anzaldúa-centered scholarship published in major journals. Published every eighteen months and averaging twenty articles each, outside of special issues of journals, these collections contain the most recent and cutting-edge scholarship on Anzaldúa. Thus, it is imperative that serious scholars of borderlands and mestizo studies read and own these anthologies to honor the scholarship that is being produced now and to inform their own work.

Recently, an article was published that listed the top 100 women whose works most often appeared in syllabi at universities across the U.S. Anzaldúa was one of only two Chicanas on the list (in addition to the brilliant Sandra Cisneros) and appeared at #96. Considering how central her work is to many of us, and how foundational her work is to the fields of feminist studies, Xicanx/Chicanx studies, folklore, etc., it came as a surprise to many that she is so low on the list.

Having said that, I am issuing a call to action:

  1. Purchase the El Mundo Zurdo collections for your personal library
  2. Ask your university, department, and community libraries to purchase the collections for their stacks
  3. Cite the contributors in your work; not only does this refer readers of your work to the larger body of scholarship, but for some faculty, citations count toward tenure and promotion.

I am extremely humbled to have served as co-editor alongside Sonia Saldívar-Hull, Antonia Castañeda, Jackie Cuevas, and Domino Pérez, all of whom have taught me what it means to work and collaborate in the spirit of Anzaldúa. I look forward to future collections of El Mundo Zurdo and to new generations of Anzaldúa scholars doing the work that matters, that expands, and that transforms.

Larissa Mercado-López is an Assistant Professor in the Women’s Studies Program at California State University, Fresno

You can purchase the titles via Aunt Lute

Celeste De Luna on Anzaldúa & Art-making

By Celeste De Luna
Our Lady of the Checkpoint by Celeste De Luna

My work as an artist is influenced by Gloria Anzaldúa’s work on auto-historia as a tool to understand and deconstruct oppressive paradigms in my physical/spiritual/psychic environment. By processing and making images, I have been able to create change in myself and help decolonize space from within it. This is evident in my Compass series of artworks, which helped me make sense of the Rio Grande Valley as a liminal space, my conflicted feelings, as well as my place in it.

North: Las Garritas is a work about the Northern-most limits of leaving the Rio Grande Valley. There is an unspoken anxiety that many people feel when approaching the checkpoint. For myself, I often wondered what this feeling, as irrational as it seems, was about. There are multiple factors at work in these anxieties, but inherited ideas about citizenship, worthiness, and not appearing “suspicious” played a big part in my own feelings. I can remember being with my family, crossing checkpoints and international bridges, and the idea we had to behave “correctly” and appear American enough to cross over without bringing about undue attention to ourselves. I can remember my parents’ unspoken shame and fear.

Our Lady of the Checkpoint is an image I created as an extension of North: Las Garritas. Looking at this work, I can re-create my anxiety in a safe space and analyze it. What am I doing? I am praying all goes well. Who do I pray to?

Which Virgin, the vendida* Guadalupana? The ineffective* Virgin de Los Lagos? No, I think, I need a special one, a Virgin of the checkpoint. For a minute, I’m at a standstill. And then….I see her shimmering in the heat, blinding me with her reflective blanket, emanating barbed wire rays and a razor wire halo around her head. She is standing in front of the checkpoint shelter, which becomes her capilla and the cameras are the all seeing eyes of not God, but the government. She came straight from one of the detention camps, I think. THIS is the appropriate Virgin for this place.

My work has transitioned from painting to more print work in the past few years. Influenced by Mexican printmakers and 60s Chicano protest posters, I’m intensely attracted to the political print. Printmaking has offered me a way to ease up on perfectionistic tendencies in paint. Creating multiple images and learning from my mistakes has helped me let go. Old prints can become collages or can be painted on whereas paintings were more precious. Prints can be traded, sold, given as gifts. They are truly more accessible. Carving into a wood block or linoleum piece has helped me become a better draftsperson. The act of engaging with a drawing cut by cut, line-by-line becomes an exercise in patience and is meditative. Each cut is a tiny artwork in itself.

One of my favorite things about Anzaldúa’s writings are the glyphos she creates to interpret her ideas. I wanted to share a few drawings inspired by the writing in her new book Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro. Thanks for looking!

*The use of the word vendida to describe Our Lady of Guadalupe refers to the widespread use of her image for commercial purposes and is not meant offensively.

*The use of the word ineffective to describe the Virgen de San Juan de Los Lagos is referencing heruse as a patron border saint of immigrants.

El Cenote- glypho based on Luz En Lo Oscuro/Light in the Dark
El Cenote- glypho based on Luz En Lo Oscuro/Light in the Dark
Mitote- glypho based on Luz En Lo Oscuro/Light in the Dark
Mitote- glypho based on Luz En Lo Oscuro/Light in the Dark
Nos/Otras- glypho based on Luz En Lo Oscuro/Light in the Dark
Nos/Otras- glypho based on Luz En Lo Oscuro/Light in the Dark

 

The Parasite or Program- glypho based on Luz En Lo Oscuro/Light in the Dark
The Parasite or Program- glypho based on Luz En Lo Oscuro/Light in the Dark

Be sure to check out more of Celeste De Luna’s artwork!

Or stop by La Peña in Austin for her solo exhibition, “One Thousand Cuts.” March 1st-31st. Artist Reception on March 26th.

Bienvenid@s!

On behalf of the SSGA, welcome to our relaunched blog! Our inaugural monthly blog post proudly features contributions from Xicana/Tejana artist and educator Celeste De Luna, SSGA committee member and professor Larissa Mercado-López, and queer Latin@ scholar and professor Eddy F. Alvarez.

Future posts will include contributions by community activist-scholars, artists, and writers. We will also have featured guest editors. As the November 2016 El Mundo Zurdo conference approaches, you will also find our CFP and other conference information listed. In addition to the blog, we also have a fb page and an instagram account. Reading, painting, or writing about Anzaldúa? Snap a pic and share it with us! We especially look forward to conference participant pics!

Finally, I’m honored to introduce myself as the new SSGA blogmaster. I’m Magda García, and have been part of the SSGA for the past seven years, from my time as an undergrad and MA student at the University of Texas at San Antonio to now as a current Ph.D. student in the Department of Chicana/o Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I’m originally from the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, and my current research focuses on affect, spatial poetics, and South Texas Chicana cultural productions.