Chasing Che and the New Global Latin America

This post is published in conjunction with the American Historical Association conference in Denver, taking place January 5-8.When sharing this post on social media, please be sure to use the hashtag #AHA17!


The opening of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States and continued changes to current Cuban sanctions is just an example of how Latin American countries can impact our global culture, economy, and politics. Yet the impact is usually not so apparent.

Matthew C. Guttmann and Jeffrey Lesser–editors of Global Latin America, part of the new Global Square Series–introduce how Latin American countries have, for quite some time, been global players.

The puzzle that inspired Global Latin America was, Why did we find Che Guevara’s image everywhere we went in the world? Why was a Latin American revolutionary of the 1950s and 1960s so popular among so many people around the globe in 2016? Why was Che easily the most famous Latin American outside the region? Sure, images of the bearded face and beret were often devoid of deep meaning, but there was his image, and we wanted to make sense of it. Trying to understand global Che led us to the larger meanings of global Latin America. …

Che Guevara image on man's cap, Shanghai, 2013. Photo: Matthew Gutmann.
Che Guevara image on man’s cap, Shanghai, 2013. Photo: Matthew Gutmann.

We are often more familiar with the impact of the world on Latin America than with the impact of Latin America on the world. The three C’s Conquest, Colonialism, and Christianity provide a tortured, if better-known story, about how some parts of the world have exercised control over other parts. … Although the significance of Latin America for the rest of the world is not new or sudden, it is ever more apparent. The impact that Latin America has had in the other direction, even though unmistakable, has never been as familiar a narrative. This volume, like the others in the Global Square series, seeks to remind us that regions are not just victims but also global players.

Latin America in 2016 is home to emerging global powers. In 2016, even despite massive downturns economically, Brazil had the seventh largest economy in the world and Mexico was poised to break into the top ten. Latin America is tightly bound to regions from Asia to Africa, from the Middle East to Europe, through commerce and trade, migration, and the arts. In political and economic terms, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico are world leaders, part of the Group of 20 (G20) countries that have greatly expanded membership beyond the old geopolitical leadership of Europe, Japan, and the United States.

In Realpolitik, Latin American leaders from Argentina’s Carlos Menem to Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez have proposed that they are uniquely able to help to resolve global problems, from conflicts in the Middle East to energy to climate change to participatory democracy. Heavy manufacturing in Latin America is reshaping global auto, weapons, and airplane industries. Environmental measures in the enormous Amazon region, positive and negative, are central to global discussions of climate change. Truth commissions formed to document the abuses of past dictatorships in Latin America have become vital reference points for similar efforts from South Africa to Rwanda to Cambodia. …

GutmannLesser.GlobalLatinAmericaGlobal Latin America is for students, business leaders, policy makers, and global travelers interested in better understanding Latin America’s deep entanglements with and influence on our interdependent world. Chapters by academics, politicians, activists, journalists, scientists, and artists shine light on Latin American history, society, and culture. For those who want to appreciate the diversity and global relevance of Latin America in the twenty-first century, this volume collects some of the top scholarship and social analysis about global Latin America today and historically.

 


Assassination of a Saint: The US Trial for the Killing of El Salvador’s Oscar Romero

by Matt Eisenbrandt, author of Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Óscar Romero and the Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice

9780520286801Óscar Romero was known as the voice of the voiceless. During a time of great repression and violence in El Salvador, from 1977 to 1980, he was the Catholic archbishop of the nation’s capital and a leading figure in Central America. Romero gained admiration throughout the world because he had the courage to speak out in favor of the millions of Salvadorans without money or power who suffered terribly at the hands of the autocratic military. In specific and strident terms, he denounced Salvadoran soldiers for torturing and killing innocent civilians, and he criticized the economic elites – known as the oligarchs – for underwriting the violence. For that, Romero was murdered on March 24, 1980, while saying mass in a chapel on the grounds of a hospital for cancer patients.

The shooting of Archbishop Romero made headlines around the globe and helped spark a twelve-year civil war in El Salvador that left over 75,000 people dead. Although a single gunman fired the fatal bullet, the plot to assassinate Romero sprang from a death squad network of military leaders, wealthy businesspeople and former soldiers. The U.S. government had played an important role in the development of these paramilitary forces in El Salvador, and several Salvadorans implicated in the death squads lived in or traveled to the United States. Some developed relationships with influential figures in Washington.

Starting in 2002, as a young attorney with the Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA), I had the honor of investigating Romero’s murder and participating in a lawsuit against one of the killers, Álvaro Saravia. CJA became involved in the case because Saravia was living freely in California, and a key part of the organization’s mission is to take legal action against human rights violators found in the United States. During the case, my colleagues and I, working with Salvadoran partners, met with members of the group that murdered Romero, spoke to witnesses about the funding of the death squads, and eventually won a $10 million verdict against Saravia. My new book, Assassination of a Saint, tells the story of our investigation and lawsuit and explains the complex historical context that led a group of men in a heavily Catholic country to murder the most prominent figure in the Catholic Church.

This will be an important year for Romero’s legacy. After decades of inaction, the Vatican has now declared Romero a martyr, and Pope Francis appears set to canonize Romero as a saint in 2017. The Salvadoran Supreme Court has also invalidated a long-standing amnesty law, opening the possibility that conspirators still living in El Salvador could one day face accountability there. While the authorities have yet to pursue a prosecution, and the country continues to suffer widespread violence and corruption, the historic developments in San Salvador and Rome provide a measure of hope for the future and reinforce Romero’s enduring message of peace and justice.


Matt Eisenbrandt is a human-rights attorney who has devoted his career to finding legal means to prosecute war crimes. In the early 2000s, he served as the Center for Justice and Accountability’s Legal Director and a member of the trial team against one of Óscar Romero’s killers. He is an expert in the field of U.S. human-rights litigation and now works for the Canadian Centre for International Justice.


Integrating Current Events in Your Courses: Immigration and Latino Studies

Latinos have been integral in the shaping of the U.S. yet their identity is constantly brought into question.

In the wake of the November presidential election and the impending inauguration of Donald Trump, how can you integrate discussions on immigration—particularly from Latin American countries—into your classes?

Help your students understand the effects of today’s political climate. Find new titles for your courses on Immigration or Latino Studies below and click on each title to quickly and easily request an exam copy. Review our exam copy policy. And feel free to email us with questions–we’re here to help!

Select Titles for Your Courses on Immigration and Latino Studies

Almaguer.NewLatinoStudiesReader

The New Latino Studies Reader: A Twenty-First Century Perspective edited by Ramon A. Gutierrez & Tomas Almaguer

“[This reader] brings together the most innovative scholarship being generated within history and the social sciences and is surely to become a standard within Latina/o studies courses.” —Raúl Coronado, inaugural President of the Latina/o Studies Association

“They integrate historical, social scientific and cultural studies approaches, which is rarely done in readers.”—Patricia Zavella, UC Santa Cruz

 

Gonzales.LivesInLimbo

Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America by Roberto G. Gonzales

“Superb. . . . An important examination of the devastating consequences of ‘illegality’ on our young people.”—Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her

“It will stand as the definitive study of the undocumented coming of age in our midst. It is a book every teacher, every policymaker, indeed every concerned citizen should read and ponder.”—Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco, coeditor of Latinos: Remaking America

 

GutmannLesser.GlobalLatinAmericaGlobal Latin America: Into the Twenty-First Century edited by Matthew C. Gutmann and Jeffrey Lesser

“A superb sampling of the cutting edge in connecting approaches across subfields, such as gender studies, Latin American Studies, ethnic studies, and area studies.”—Jerry Dávila, University of Illinois

“The volume is the perfect book for class use in a variety of settings.”—Miguel Angel Centeno, author of State Making in the Developing World

 

 

Boehm.Returned

Returned: Going and Coming in an Age of Deportation by Deborah Boehm

“[Deborah Boehm] challenges sterile depictions of deportations in the media and political debates. This urgent book is a must read.”—Cecilia Menjívar, author of Immigrant Families

“A stellar and nuanced ethnographic exploration of the impact of deportation on Mexican families on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. It is a critical addition to existing work on transnationalism and migration, and required reading for academics and policy makers.”—Susan J. Terrio, author of Judging Mohammed

HighCreatives_ads_rev22 Higher Education


On Shopping Malls and the Politics of Access

by Arlene Davila, author of El Mall: The Spatial and Class Politics of Shopping Malls in Latin America

This guest post is published in conjunction with the American Anthropological Association conference in Minneapolis. Check back regularly for new posts through the end of the conference on November 20th.

UC Press is proud to be part of the AAUP’s fifth annual University Press Week. Check out our blog and social media channels through Nov. 19th (plus follow hashtags #ReadUp #UPWeek), and learn how we, along with 40 of our scholarly press colleagues, work diligently to publish vital works benefitting educational, specialized research, and general interest communities.

9780520286856Since the publication of El Mall, I have been asked what turned me to examining shopping malls and shopping cultures in Latin America, a question that is always loaded with significance.  It often assumes that shopping and shopping malls are irrelevant subjects of study for anthropologists and scholars, or that consumer culture is a vain or superfluous topic, or even that Latin Americans are exempt from the dreams and pulls of global consumer culture. I end these conversations thinking that all the talk around globalization, neoliberalism, mediated lives and materiality notwithstanding anthropologists and interdisciplinary scholars have not fully come to terms with the powerful pull of consumption and consumer cultures throughout the world and with the need to fully engage these topics in our research.

In the twenty or so years that I’ve been researching and writing about consumer culture and the political economy of culture I’ve found that cultural studies on these subjects still focuses overwhelmingly on the United States and Europe, while anthropologist are still shy to take on subjects that would compromise the “authenticity” of their anthropological field sites or topics of research.  Why study shopping malls, or fashion, or commercial media when these cultural phenomena seem indistinguishable from our cozy experiences in our very own consumer landscapes?-goes the thinking.  The fact is that I myself was not immune to these concerns when I embarked on this study.  I wrote about shopping malls not because I had purposefully set out to do so, but because I found myself in the “belly of the beast” – sharing my previous work on Puerto Rican consumer culture in a trade organization meeting of the International Council of Shopping Centers in Medellin – invited by a former interviewee.  It was he who felt I needed to write about shopping mall cultures and who despite my warnings that whatever I wrote would be from a critical perspective –opened my eyes to the booming world of shopping malls developers, contractors, pundits and more.  Soon I learned that this impenetrable business that seemed to materialize all the workings of neoliberal capitalism and remained so intimidating in its scope and reach was ripe for analysis.

Those of use who strive to study up and expose the political economy of institutions, industries and how capitalism works know full well that access is not always easy to get.  Corporate culture is all about confidentiality agreements, closed door meetings, proprietary research, and inaccessibly priced meetings and conferences that keep many of us at bay from knocking at the doors of powerful stakeholders of capitalism.  But with access comes responsibility to follow up and crack up the worlds of industry and neoliberal capitalism with fine tuned ethnographic research.  The result is a book that shows the why and how shopping malls are one of the most powerful engines of social transformations in Latin America, shaping how cities are organized and even how local fashionistas define class and identities on their daily lives.  Most humbly, the result is a reminder of the same lesson I learned when writing Latinos Inc. years earlier:  That capitalism is made up of relationships and that studying up is more necessary than ever in these age of rapid neoliberalization.  Once again, the “mundane” yet shining space of consumer culture surpassed my own expectations of what questions could be asked, and what issues were most relevant within this industry, from urban design to the topic of informal economies and even fast fashion.  In all, I’m very glad I heard the call the mall, and just delved in!

When sharing on social media, please be sure to use the #AAA2016 hashtag!


Arlene Dávila is Professor of Anthropology and Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. She is the author of numerous books, including Barrio Dreams and Latinos Inc..


How Donald Trump’s “Locker-Room Talk” Perpetuates Sexual Violence Against Women

By Jerry Flores, author of Caught Up: Girls, Surveillance, and Wraparound Incarceration

This guest post is published in advance of the American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans. Check back every week for new posts through the end of the conference on November 19th. #ASC2016 #Election2016

Recently, a video of presidential candidate Donald Trump making sexist, lewd, and offensive comments about women flooded media coverage. In the video, Trump can be heard saying, “I just start kissing them [women]. Just kiss—I don’t even wait. And when you are a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Whatever you want. Grab them by the pussy. Whatever you want.” A reporter laughed aloud at these statements.

“Locker-Room Talk”

After the release of this video a slew of women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Mr. Trump. Even more problematic is that videos and quotes have also emerged. With this new information the resounding theme of the hyper-sexualization of women, the use of sexist language and the objectification of women’s bodies are exceedingly clear. In response, Trump apologized and referred to this type of language as “locker-room talk.” He also affirmed that he holds the utmost respect for women. Despite these statements, Mr. Trump’s discussion of women reflects the larger hyper-sexualization of women in a patriarchal society that largely ignores this type of sexual misconduct. There is no place where this is more painfully apparent than in the narratives of marginalized young women (especially women of color) featured in my book Caught Up.

Flores.CaughtUp

Sexual Abuse at the Hands of Those We Trust

In this book, I address how the schools and detention centers in Southern California are collectively punishing young Latina girls in new and dynamic ways. For this project, I interviewed over 30 young women and included twenty more via group interviews or ethnographic fieldwork. The ubiquitous sexual abuse of young women was the largest and most pervasive theme I heard during my two years of research. Interview after interview, I heard young women recount instances of this type of abuse at the hands of immediate and distant family, neighbors, students at school, current and ex-romantic partners, institutional actors, priests, human traffickers or by complete strangers.

Another major theme in my research was the relative impunity with which these men continually victimized the young people in my study. From stories of gang sexual assault at the hands of boys told by “Feliz” or stories of being molested by multiple neighbors over the course of various years like “Ray,” sexual violence was ubiquitous in the lives of young women.

Consequences

Additionally, while local, state and federal governments always seemed to have the resources to punish young women, they often lacked the ability to provide resources to help youth cope with their prior and current sexual assault. As a person who is concerned with the well being of these young women, my wife, mother, cousins, and all women, I wonder how Trump’s type of “locker-room talk” emboldens and perpetuates the ongoing assault and abuse of young women, and rape culture as a whole. I also wonder what message it sends to men of all ages when they hear how Mr. Trump has allegedly victimized so many women and gotten away with it. This is even more shocking since Donald Trump is a presidential candidate that has the support of large segments of the U.S. population.

As an academic, feminist and victim of childhood sexual assault, I hope that we as a society can find a way to stop the continued attack on women and more broadly on all marginalized and oppressed groups. I also hope that we come to our senses and realize that a person who preys on the weak and exploits their privilege to do so is not someone we want as our president.


Flores.author.photo-croppedJerry Flores is a Ford Foundation Fellow, University of California President’s Postdoc, and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program at the University of Washington, Tacoma.


An Immigrant’s Identity

The upcoming presidential election has once again brought immigration issues to the forefront of national discussion. From Donald Trump’s border wall to the near-daily stories we hear of racial profiling, candidates and citizens alike are discussing how the lives of Latin American immigrants in the U.S. are complicated by immigration law and reform.

An Identity for Work 

Sarah B. Horton, author of They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and Illegality among U.S. Farmworkers discusses in her book the impact of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) on immigrants’ daily lives.

kidneys.hortonScholars of immigration law denaturalize migrant “illegality” by direct­ing our attention to how it is legally produced. Indeed, federal and state policies—specifically, IRCA and the exclusion of undocumented migrants from unemployment insurance—enable and encourage iden­tity loan. The passage of IRCA in 1986 criminalized the employment of undocumented workers, making it illegal for employers to knowingly hire such workers. With the aim of reducing employment as an incen­tive for migration, IRCA requires employers to personally inspect each employee’s documents proving their identity (usually a mica, or green card) and their eligibility for work (a seguro, or Social Security card). Employers must record this information on a federal I-9 form and keep a copy for three years. Although IRCA imposes sanctions on employers who violate its provisions, it contains a loophole that protects employ­ers from such penalties: it does not require them to verify the authentic­ity of employees’ documents. As a result, employers are considered to be complying with the law as long as the documents they accept “appear on their face to be genuine.” Thus while IRCA has done little to curb the employment of undocumented workers, it has created a thriving black market for fraudulent work-authorization documents.

In a Huffington Post article titled “The Hole in Trump’s Wall,” Horton discusses the issues in Donald Trump’s border wall plan. His plan includes mandating e-Verify for all employers. Horton notes that Trump’s “plan does not address the role of employers in getting around immigration laws and providing workers with the documents they need. In fact, just like employer sanctions before it, E-Verify is likely to worsen workplace conditions for all those who work in industries dominated by undocumented workers.”

Forms of Identification

Angela Stuesse, author of Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep Southwent deep into Mississippi’s chicken processing plants and communities, where Latin American migrants, alongside an established African American workforce, continue to work in some of the most dangerous and lowest-paid jobs in the country. Stuesse writes:

Scratching Out a Living StuessePermitted to obtain a driver’s license, I didn’t worry that at a traffic stop I might lose an entire month’s earnings to fines or be detained or deported. I might be pulled over because of my out-of-state license plate, but not likely because of my fair skin and hair. With a social security number, I had a bank account and thus didn’t have to worry that my only savings could be stolen from underneath my mattress. Despite my concerns that I would have a hard time finding affordable rental housing in Forest, I was ultimately able to find a two-bedroom house on an acre of land for far less than most poultry workers pay to share a dilapidated trailer. These privileges of race, class, and citizenship were palpable as I went about my daily life in Mississippi, fighting alongside others in their struggle to access such basic human rights as dignity on the job, a living wage, minimal health and safety protections, affordable housing, and the ability to help their families thrive.

In another Huffington Post article, both Stuesse and Horton discuss the dangers of “Driving While Latino” and the impact of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA), which enables “state and local police to investigate, arrest and detain any noncitizen they believe has violated immigration laws—a responsibility previously reserved for federal immigration authorities alone. … This has created a gauntlet of immigrant policing that stretches across the country and operates through the intensified surveillance of immigrants as they go about their daily lives.”

What are your thoughts on current immigration reform?


Horton.photoSarah Bronwen Horton is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Denver. To learn more about Sarah, please visit http://www.sarahbhorton.com/.

 

 

Stuesse-Author-Photo-2014-146x150Angela Stuesse is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Learn more about Dr. Stuesse here: www.angelastuesse.com/bio/


Columbus Day, Then and Now

In reference to Columbus Day and as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize Hispanic and Latino Americans’ current contributions–and current struggles–in the United States. Learn more at #HispanicHeritage Month and #ColumbusDay.


Every year on Columbus Day, Americans celebrate Christopher Columbus’s landing in the New World on Oct. 12, 1492. The holiday was established in 1937. But many have begun to question the prevailing views of this day, opening the doors to discuss how it ignores the enslavement and mass murder of thousands of native and indigenous groups.

Some Latin American countries now choose to celebrate Día de la Raza (Day of the Race), celebrated on October 12 of each year. And in Spain, the holiday has been changed to Día de la Hispanidad (Day of Hispanity) or Fiesta Nacional de España  (National Day of Spain) to recognize Spain’s history, monarchy, and military.

The recognition of the cultural meaning of Columbus’s “discovery” of the New World and the shift in its meaning is being introduced to a new generation of people and students so all can gain a truer understanding of Latin American and Latino American culture.

Almaguer.NewLatinoStudiesReaderIn 1491, on the eve on the Columbian voyages, there were some 123 distinct indigenous language families spoken in the Americas, with more than 260 different languages in Mexico alone. Perhaps as many as 20 million people were living in the Valley of Mexico in 1519, in hierarchical, complexly stratified theocratic states. But there were no Indians. Christopher Columbus invented them in 1492 by mistakenly believing that he had reached India, and thus calling them indios producing the lexical distinction we now use to refer to the Caribbean as the West Indies and to India as the East Indies. Inventing Indians was to serve an important imperial end for Spain, for by calling the natives indios, the Spaniards erased and leveled the diverse and complex indigenous political and religious hierarchies they found. Where once there had been many ethnic groups stratified as native lords, warriors, craftsmen, hunters, farmers, and slaves, the power of imperial Spain was not only to vanquish but to define, largely reducing peoples such as the mighty Aztecs into a defeated Indian class that soon bore the pain of subjugation as tribute-paying racialized subjects.

From Ramón A. Gutiérrez and Tomás Almaguer’s The New Latino Studies Reader: A Twenty-First-Century Perspective, Chapter 1, “What’s in a Name?” by Ramón A. Gutiérrez. 

Many now see this day as an opportunity to reaffirm their culture, share the value of their cultural identity, and an equal relationship amongst all peoples.

GutmannLesser.GlobalLatinAmericaAt a time when the commemoration of the Fifth Centenary of the arrival of Columbus in America has repercussions all over the world, the revival of hope for the oppressed indigenous peoples demands that we reassert our existence to the world and the value of our cultural identity. It demands that we endeavor to actively participate in the decisions that concern our destiny, in the building-up of our countries/nations. Should we, in spite of all, not be taken into consideration, there are factors that guarantee our future: struggle and endurance; courage; the decision to maintain our traditions that have been exposed to so many perils and sufferings; solidarity towards our struggle on the part of numerous countries, governments, organizations and citizens of the world. That is why I dream of the day when the relationship between the indigenous peoples and other peoples is strengthened; when they can combine their potentialities and their capabilities and contribute to make life on this planet less unequal, a better distribution of the scientific and cultural treasures accumulated by Humanity, flourishing in peace and justice.

From Matthew C. Gutmann and Jeffrey Lesser’s Global Latin America: Into the Twenty-First Century, Chapter 12, “Nobel Lecture” by Rigoberta Menchú Tum


The Political Spirituality of Cesar Chavez: Crossing Religious Borders

by Luis D. León, author of The Political Spirituality of Cesar Chavez: Crossing Religious Borders

As part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize Hispanic and Latino Americans’ current contributions–and current struggles–in the United States. Learn more at #HispanicHeritage Month.

This post was originally published on November 12th, 2014.

I grew up in California’s East Bay Area, in San Lorenzo. Even while my family was suburban, and not involved in farm work (my paternal grandmother and grandfather were farm laborers), Cesar Chavez loomed large in my cultural and political ecology. He once spoke at my high school. He seemed to be speaking for us, the Latina/os, at a time when I was aware of only negative and stereotypical media images of brown bodies. When I took a Chicano history course as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley I learned that Chavez was primarily a labor leader. As a doctoral student conducting primary source research in the Chicano archives at UCSB I discovered another Chavez—a distinctly spiritual and religious leader. I knew then that I wanted to uncover and tell that part of his story.

My hope is that scholars will discover a different Chavez, one who defies conventional classification, and encounter also a fresh way of narrating his work—one not insistent upon modernist notions of truth and subjectivity. The book is neither a history or biography, the focus is on the mythology—that is the myths he created about himself and those that were manufactured around him. I recognize that it is important to be factual about the research, but really I am writing about the record itself, rather than his actual life. In the words of Ruth Behar: “There is no true story of a life, after all. There are only stories told about and around a life.” Story telling is a political act, and Chavez was adept at telling very effective stories.

One of the turning points in the research was learning that Chavez was active in the struggle for LGBT civil rights. In 1987 he was one of the Grand Marshalls for the second annual march on Washington D.C. for Lesbian and Gay Rights. At the ceremony culminating the protest, he addressed a crowd of 200,000 people, claiming that his movement had been supporting gay rights for over 20 years. His activism on behalf of the LGBT community has been elided from the historiography; I came upon it through research in newspapers.

I consider my book as a contribution to an ongoing conversation. There is much remaining to be told about the late labor leader.

Luis D. León is Associate Professor in the department of Religious Studies at the University of Denver and author of La Llorona’s Children: Religion, Life, and Death in the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands.


Reaching for Their Dreams—Eight Years On

As part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize Hispanic and Latino Americans’ current contributions–and current struggles–in the United States. Learn more at #HispanicHeritage Month.


By Barbara Davenport, author of Grit and Hope: A Year with Five Latino Students and the Program That Helped Them Aim for College

RealityChangers.photo.DavenportGrit and Hope tells the stories of a handful of first-gen Hispanic students who wrote their college applications in the midst of the country’s worst recession and of Reality Changers, the program that helped them get to college. Eight years on, many of Reality Changers’ graduates have chosen work that enables them to help disadvantaged youth the way that Reality Changers helped them. Here’s what three of them are doing now:

  • Theresa was named a Gates Millennium Scholar and graduated from UC Riverside. She worked as a tutor at Reality Changers, and this fall started a masters program in multicultural community counseling and social justice.
  • Mercedes left UC Riverside two quarters short of graduation, tripped up by the residuals of trauma and early deprivation. She works now as director of recreation in a skilled nursing facility. Not graduating eats at her. Her daughter Alma is nearly four years old. Mercedes wants better opportunities for herself and, even more, she wants to be a good role model for Alma. She’s saving money and laying the groundwork to go back to school and finish. Once she graduates, she wants to tutor for Reality Changers, and maybe even lead a cohort of students.
  • Jesse went to Harvard and then taught in Mexico for a year on a Fulbright teaching fellowship. Now he’s based in a San Francisco high school, serving as Dream Director for the Futures Project, helping disadvantaged students realize their dreams.

Davenport.GritAndHopeFounder Chris Yanov designed Reality Changers as a social and psychological scaffolding that would support students and provide a sense of family. “Congress is the thing that makes Reality Changers different from all other tutoring programs. We aren’t here just to raise our grades. We’re a family,” Yanov says. The sense of family was the heart of the program; it held students and was what they valued most. They could launch into the unknown waters of college secure that they had the support of peers and staff who had gone the distance with them. Reality Changers has woven through their lives, scaffolding their efforts and enlarging their sense of what was possible.

A majority of alumni continue to feel a strong connection to the program that helped them change their lives. Their alumni network helps them keep in touch and learn about new initiatives in the program. They volunteer for fundraising events. They come on program nights to talk with the current seniors; some come every week to tutor.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with Reality Changers students.
Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with Reality Changers students.

They’ve learned that Reality Changers couldn’t change their most difficult realities: not their immigration status nor illnesses, nor family problems. It couldn’t dissolve other people’s prejudices, couldn’t prevent the losses that inevitably come in the pursuit of ambitious goals. Still they call their experience in Reality Changers life-changing. It encouraged them to raise their expectations of what they believed they could do, and it opened opportunities they didn’t know existed. They all speak of their commitment to give back to their families and their community. Every one of them says that Reality Changers enabled them to transform their lives and continue to reach for their dreams.


Davenport.Barbara
Barbara Davenport
 is a writer and psychotherapist in San Diego. has written for the Christian Science Monitor, Stanford Magazine, and alternative
weeklies in San Diego, where she lives. For more about her, please visitwww.barbaradavenport.com.


¡Celebra!: Books for National Hispanic Heritage Month

Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month! From September 15 to October 15, we recognize Hispanic and Latino Americans, celebrating the heritage, the culture, and the important role these diverse peoples play in the history of the United States.

This month, we’ve prepared a selection of books across disciplines to showcase the unique experiences of Hispanic and Latino Americans. Happy #HispanicHeritage Month, and happy reading!


Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America
Roberto G. Gonzales 

This vivid ethnography explores why highly educated undocumented youth share similar work and life outcomes with their less-educated peers. Mining the results of an extraordinary twelve-year study that followed 150 undocumented young adults in Los Angeles, Lives in Limbo exposes the failures of a system that integrates children into K-12 schools but ultimately denies them the rewards of their labor.

“Superb. . . . An important examination of the devastating consequences of ‘illegality’ on our young people.”—Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her

 

The New Latino Studies Reader: A Twenty-First-Century Perspective
Ramon A. Gutierrez, Tomas Almaguer (Editors)

The New Latino Studies Reader is designed as a contemporary, updated, multifaceted collection of writings that bring to force the exciting, necessary scholarship of the last decades. Its aim is to introduce a new generation of students to a wide-ranging set of essays that helps them gain a truer understanding of what it’s like to be a Latino in the United States.

“Two of the leading scholars in the field forged this reader in the teaching trenches. This collection represents the perfect balance between cutting-edge scholarship and touchstone essays.”—Natalia Molina, author of How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts

 

Sal Si Puedes (Escape If You Can): Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution, With a New Foreword by Marc Grossman
Peter Matthiessen

Sal Si Puedes is less reportage than living history. In its pages a whole era comes alive: the Chicano, Black Power, and antiwar movements; the browning of the labor movement; Chavez’s fasts; the nationwide boycott of California grapes. A new foreword by Marc Grossman considers the significance of Chavez’s legacy for our time. As well as serving as an indispensable guide to the 1960s, this book rejuvenates the extraordinary vitality of Chavez’s life and spirit, giving his message a renewed and much-needed urgency.

“Cesar Chavez is gracefully revealed by Peter Matthiessen as a curiously private public figure who is in love with people.”—Chicago Tribune

 

Grit and Hope: A Year with Five Latino Students and the Program That Helped Them Aim for College
Barbara Davenport

Grit and Hope tells the story of five inner-city Hispanic students who start their college applications in the midst of the country’s worst recession and of Reality Changers, the program that aims to help them become the first in their families to go college. Told with deep affection and without sentimentality, the students stories show that although poverty and cultural deprivation seriously complicate youths’ efforts to launch into young adulthood, the support of a strong program makes a critical difference.

“Reality Changers is absolutely a model, not just for the city, not just for the state, but for the country.” —Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

 

The Political Spirituality of Cesar Chavez: Crossing Religious Borders
Luis D. León

While there is much debate and truth-seeking around how he is remembered, through investigating the leader’s construction of his own public memory, Luis D. León probes the meaning of the discrepancies. By refocusing Chavez’s life and beliefs into three broad movements—mythology, prophecy, and religion—brings us a moral and spiritual agent to match the political leader.

“Cesar Chavez treated religion as he treated so many topics of importance in his life: as something to be willed into contribution to a higher good… Luis León has written a book equal in grace, compassion, and subtlety to its subject.” —Kathryn Lofton, Professor of Religious Studies, American Studies, History, and Divinity at Yale University

 

From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement
Matthew Garcia

Based on little-known sources and one-of-a-kind oral histories with many veterans of the farm worker movement, this book revises much of what we know about the UFW. Matt Garcia’s gripping account of the expansion of the union’s grape boycott reveals how the boycott, which UFW leader Cesar Chavez initially resisted, became the defining feature of the movement and drove the growers to sign labor contracts in 1970. Garcia also presents in-depth studies of other leaders in the UFW, including Gilbert Padilla, Marshall Ganz, Dolores Huerta, and Jerry Cohen.

“A thorough history of the rise and fall of Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers labor union… Meticulous and timely.”—Kirkus Reviews

 

Latinos, Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People, Updated Edition, with a New Preface
Arlene Dávila

Both Hollywood and corporate America are taking note of the marketing power of the growing Latino population in the United States. Yet the increasing visibility of Latinos in mainstream culture has not been accompanied by a similar level of economic parity or political enfranchisement. In this important, original, and entertaining book, Arlene Dávila provides a critical examination of the Hispanic marketing industry and of its role in the making and marketing of U.S. Latinos.

“A work derived from prodigious fieldwork that sets a standard for the ethnography of cultural institutions in their varied corporate forms and market participations. Latinos Inc. provides a rich, fascinating, and fresh empirical venue for theories of identity and ethnicity in the U.S.”—George Marcus, author of Ethnography Through Thick & Thin