Center of Mexican American Studies
Center of Mexican American Studies
Center of Mexican American Studies Banner

A Letter from our New CMAS Director

Maggie

Dear CMAS Familia,

It’s a tremendous honor to be named your new director, heading up a unit with a proud legacy and exciting prospects. Thank you for entrusting me with this responsibility. Below, you’ll have a chance to share your thoughts on what CMAS should be doing – please complete the 2-minute survey.

Deepest appreciation to our immediate past director, John Moran Gonzalez, and to associate director Cary Cordova for their dedicated service to our beloved unit. I know I can count on their support as we go forward.

Our world since March 2020 has been full of anxiety and challenges, so much so that CMAS was forced to postpone and even cancel programs. We all wish we could say the uncertainty is behind us, but we’re not there yet. So, my first order of business is to move forward on the Cincuenta Más Uno celebration – in person if conditions permit, or virtually if we must. We will build on some fine events held over the past year.

Since our launch in 1970, CMAS’s place on the 40 Acres has evolved. CMAS now has two sister units: the Department of Mexican American and Latino Studies (MALS) and the Latino Research Institute (LRI). All three units make up Latino Studies. We are no longer solely Mexican American; we have Latina/o professors and students of all ethnicities. Latino Studies can claim 70 undergraduate majors; 16 graduate students in our portfolio program; and nine doctoral students who will earn a Ph.D. in Mexican American and Latino Studies. More broadly, Latino students make up 26.1 percent of UT-Austin’s student enrollment – enough to qualify the university as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, making the school eligible for some federal grants in the coming years.

Fifty-one years ago, the Latino leaders on campus were Carlos E. Castañeda and Américo Paredes. Today we have deans, an associate provost, and several department chairs. We also have several excellent Latino-centered research units sprinkled across our colleges. But the numbers of Latina/o campus leaders – and even faculty – are nowhere near where they should be.

At every milestone, we become more aware of other areas that need attention:

  • Too many students work 30-plus hours a week to support themselves, leaving less time for their studies and for professional development that would open career opportunities.
  • Latina/o professors are pulled in too many directions as they respond to diversity and inclusion efforts on campus and to community needs off campus – all while producing research and carrying full teaching loads.
  • We face a community hungry for a connection to our great university generally, and to CMAS specifically.

We can’t solve all of the challenges overnight. But together we can begin to address them. I have lots of ideas and I am eager to hear from you. (You can submit your ideas here.) Bear with me as I get a better understanding of where we can do the most good. We can accomplish so much together. I look forward to working with our many stakeholders – students, faculty, staff, and community members – to usher in the next 50.

 

Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Mexican American Studies
Professor, School of Journalism and Media, Moody College of Communication


COVID-19 Office Update

Due to COVID-19, the Latino Studies offices will be open from 10am-3pm M–F until further notice. The Latino Research Institute is closed at this time.

The Gloria Anzaldúa Student Lounge will remain accessible to MALS students from 8am-5pm M–F. 

Latino Studies staff are working hybrid schedules and remain responsive on email. To locate our emails, please refer to the Staff List in the navigation to the bottom left.


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.