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Latino Studies celebrates 50 Years of Teaching during the 10th Annual La Mujer Celebration. 

On Saturday, April 21 Latino Studies participated in La Mujer, an annual celebration of womxn in the arts presented by the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. Watch a recap of our two panels down below. 

La Chicana Then and Now: 50 Years of Teaching at UT Austin is a virtual conversation and Q&A with current and former educators of MAS 311 Ethnicity and Gender: La Chicana to discuss the history and evolution of La Chicana and its consumption by each new generation of students.   

Moderated by Maria Cotera. Featured panelists include Olivia “Evey” Chapa, Patricia Garcia, and Lilia Rosas.

How do we save our history? How do we ensure future generations know of our struggles and successes? Watch a discussion on the importance of documenting and archiving the Latinx community in Austin and beyond.  

Moderated by Maria Cotera. Panelists include longtime activist, Martha Cotera (LLILAS Benson Mexican American Papers) and Alan Garcia from @ATX_Barrio_Archive 

Dear Familia,

There is an old dicho that goes, “El hombre propone, Dios dispone.” That sounds like all of 2020 for everyone as our communities struggle through the pandemic. No less so for Latino Studies, with campus offices shut down, in-person programming suspended, and almost all classes on Zoom. With the University indicating that Spring semester will very much look like the Fall, I must regretfully announce that the MOVIDAS conference, the planned centerpiece of our fiftieth anniversary celebration, will be postponed until Spring 2022, by which time the pandemic will hopefully be long distant in the rear-view mirror. 

I say regretfully because fifty years of Latino Studies on campus is a huge achievement, even for institutions as long-lived as Universities. Fifty years of representing the experiences and knowledge of Mexican American and other Latino communities in Texas, who had long been excluded in significant numbers from the state flagship prior to 1970. Fifty years of speaking truth to power, and thereby fighting for equity, inclusion, and democracy. Fifty years of working for the success of all students, but especially Latinx students, for whom Latino Studies has been a cultural oasis and a space of affirmation. Put differently, the presence of Latino Studies means that Latinx communities truly matter in the University’s business of knowledge-production. 

To be sure, there has been much change over the fifty years since the Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS) was founded through the joint efforts of students, faculty, and community activism. Back then, CMAS operated on a shoe-string budget out of an office on the far edge of campus. Now, CMAS has been joined by the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies (MALS) and the Latino Research Institute (LRI), jointly housed in the Gordon White Building just north of the Tower since 2014. Back then, core courses were taught by a handful of faculty and graduate students in the field; now, the 11 tenure-line faculty of MALS are joined by over 50 CMAS Faculty Affiliates in teaching courses and mentoring students. 

While much change has occurred, not enough has occurred in some instances. In 1970, Latinos, almost exclusively Mexican Americans, were 18% of the Texas population (5% nationally); now, Latinos comprise 39% of the Texas population (19% nationally), mostly Mexican Americans but with significant increases in Puerto Rican and Central American populations. Only this fall did UT Austin’s Hispanic undergraduate population cross 25%; Latinx faculty numbers remain dismal at only 7%. Dr. Karma Chávez, Chair of MALS, and Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, Director of the LRI, and I are working together as the leadership team of Latino Studies to represent these issues within the College of Liberal Arts and the University as a whole. The various committees that we’ve joined, often in a leadership capacity, include the COLA Diversity Committee, the Provost’s Committee on Race, Equality, Equity, and Diversity (CREED), and the Provost’s HSI (Hispanic-Serving Institution) Transition Task Force. The latter will help guide UT in the fostering of Latinx student success as a Hispanic-serving institution, and not just a Hispanic-enrolling one. 

We have much to show, and celebrate, for fifty years of Latino Studies on the Forty Acres. That's why we're still planning to hold several virtual events this coming spring in lieu of the conference. Keep an eye out in late January for the debut of an in-house project, a new digital exhibit that spotlights historical moments, on campus and off, that greatly impacted the evolution of our organization. In addition, throughout the spring we'll be announcing a variety of events and initiatives that honor our diverse interests and prolific academic legacy. 

The pandemic will hopefully subside by Spring 2022, and we’ll work to hold the in-person conference and celebration then. We're looking forward to Cincuenta Mas Uno, when we'll finally reunite with all the students, alumni, staff, faculty, and community members who have made Latino Studies the vital and essential space that it has been for the past fifty years.