The Latino Midwest

October 11-13, 2012

Co-Directors: Claire Fox, English; Omar Valerio-Jiménez, History, and Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez, Spanish and Portuguese

The Latino Midwest examined the history, education, literature, art, and politics of Latinos in the Midwest in light of the demographic changes experienced by states in this region with growing Latino populations. A central concern of this Symposium was the role of international migration in shaping Latino Midwestern communities.

Keynote speakers included José E. Limón (Professor of English and American Studies and Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame) and Vicki Ruiz (Dean of Humanities and Professor of History, UC Irvine). The University Lecture Committee hosted our third major speaker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Dominican writer, Junot Díaz. Hancher presented our fourth confirmed participant, the singer-songwriter Lila Downs, who closed the symposium with a concert at the Englert Theatre at 7:30 pm on October 13th. 

About the Speakers

A reading by Junot Díaz, whose work includes the short story collection Drown and the novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which will occur on the second day of the conference, Friday, October 12, which is also the UI’s annual Paul Engle Day. 

Vicki Ruiz, Dean of Humanities and Professor of History at University of California-Irvine, will deliver the opening keynote, "Of Poetics and Polictics: The Border Journeys of Luisa Moreno," focusing on the life of Luisa Moreno, a Latina immigrant who became a labor and civil rights activitst in the 1930 and 40s. Ruiz, who has published numerous books and articles on the history of Latinas/os, women, labor, immigration and the American West, will also give a workshop for graduate students and faculty, "Citizen Restaurant:  American Imaginaries, American Communities" with focus on racial/ethnic food-scapes as an exploration of belonging and difference in everyday U.S. Society. Her undergraduate talk, “Big Dreams, Rural School: Mexican Americans and Public Education, 1870-1950",  will examine several struggles to advance public education, including the landmark California desegregation case, Mendez v. Westminster (1946), in which several Latino families in the Westminster School District of Orange County filed a lawsuit to end the segregation of Mexican American children into separate, unequal, and underfunded “Mexican schools.”

José E. Limón will deliver a keynote address titled "Al Norte Toward Home: Texas, the Mid-west and Mexican-American Critical Regionalism."  Limón is the author of a forthcoming book, Américo Paredes: Culture and Critique (University of Texas Press, 2012), about the legendary Tejano writer, performer and scholar, Américo Paredes, who conducted fieldwork and ethnography in Chicago, as well as in the Texas-Mexico border region.  Limón will also participate in a graduate student/faculty workshop, “Critical Regionalism: A Conversation with José E. Limón and Cheryl Herr,” to discuss with Herr (English, CLAS) their respective use of the concept of “critical regionalism.” In his undergraduate talk, “The Day the Music Died: Latino Youth, Race, and Rock-n-Roll,” Limón will discuss the cultural memory and musical history surrounding the 1959 airplane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa that claimed the lives of musicians Buddy Holly, the “Big Bopper,” and Ritchie Valens.

Hancher will present the Mexican-American singer-songwriter Lila Downs on the final night of the conference. She performs her own compositions, as well as Mexican traditional and popular music. She has recorded songs in indigenous languages such as Mixted, Zapotec, Maya, and Nahuatl.  

Noted Latin American author and filmmaker Alberto Fuguet (a Guggenheim fellowship recipient and author of thirteen books), who will come to campus in Fall 2012 under the auspices of an Ida Beam award

Before and after the Symposium, the Iowa Women’s Archives will have an exhibition highlighting its Mujeres Latinas Project in the North Lobby of the UI Main Library. The exhibit will be the site of an opening reception after Vicki Ruiz’s keynote address, which will highlight the importance of collecting oral histories of Latinas to understand their role in labor, civil rights, and community organizations.

Many of the linked Symposium events are still in the planning phases, but so far, they include a World Canvass program dedicated to the Symposium topic,  workshops for area school teachers regarding incorporating Latino studies into K-12 curricula, and readings and visits to area schools by writers and scholars interested in the Latino Midwest. The UI Museum of Art has proposed to mount an online exhibition of the work of Cuban artist and UI alumna, Ana Mendieta, and to dedicate a year-long arts education program to Latino and Latin American art. 

PDF iconView full schedule and list of speakers, panelists

Thursday, October 11, 2012 (All day) to Saturday, October 13, 2012 (All day)
Obermann Center for Advanced Studies
Co-director , The University of Iowa , English and Spanish & Portuguese
Claire F. Fox joined the English Department in 2001. Her teaching and research interests include inter-American cultural studies, Mexican and U.S.-Mexican border arts and culture, visual culture studies, and cultural policy studies.
Co-director , The University of Iowa , History
Omar Valerio-Jiménez is an Associate Professor in the History Department. His first book, River of Hope: Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands (Duke University Press, forthcoming in February 2013), combines his research interests in the histories of Chicana/os, the American West, and borderlands. The book explores state formation and cultural change along the Mexico-United States border during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Co-director , University of Iowa , Spanish & Portuguese
Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese at the University of Iowa, specializing in Chicano/a and Mexican literatures and cultures. His current research focuses on cultural production from the US/Mexico borderlands. Aside from his academic work, he is also a writer and has published stories in international literary journals as well as in major anthologies on contemporary literature in the Americas.