Fall 2023 Chicano & Latino Studies Department Newsletter

Dear alumni and friends,

I am delighted to join the Department of Chicano & Latino Studies (CLS) at the University of Minnesota. CLS is a vibrant department whose history is legendary, whose faculty and staff are passionate and committed to, as the CLS goals state, “support and increase the presence of Chicanos and Latinos in the intellectual, political, and social professions, both within and beyond the Midwest,” which then “promote cultural affirmation, social justice values, and community service.” This is key to the mission of our department which “demand(s) that the university work for our people” (El Plan de Santa Barbara). We must continually demand this of ourselves through our intellectual/academic work, our teaching and service to the communities of Minnesota. 

We are guided by our Chicanx/Latinx studies commitment to scholarly examinations of race, ethnicity, gender, and culture in our communities, at the state and national level, and internationally. Chicanx/Latinx studies is also grounded in social justice and community empowerment. I think of these two areas metaphorically: this framing that guides me sits at the confluence of two important rivers or streams of action and thinking. The two waterways continually overlap. There is the theoretical framework that becomes our research (our publications), which then runs parallel with our community action in social justice.

The communities here in Minnesota have a long-standing history with the Department of Chicano & Latino Studies. The interconnected relationships with community leaders and among the schools are important to help each entity grow and develop, which in turn assists the students. For example, our ties are strong with Academia Cesar Chavez in St. Paul (pre-K through 8th grade) and El Colegio High School in Minneapolis. These are schools responding to the need for community-based, education-centered schools that combine academic excellence with a holistic approach to community well-being. We work with these schools and communities to build the best possible preparation for these students so they may continue their education. We hope that many of them will join us in CLS when the time comes to think about college. The University of Minnesota is well-known as one of the most comprehensive land-grant research universities and there are many opportunities here for students and faculty to develop their research and to make community connections.

My own story is not unlike many of these students’ backgrounds. My parents emigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles, California. There, the household they created mirrored their specific regional Mexican cultures and language. I was fortunate to have a full immersion in Mexican culture and language while also learning and understanding US/Southern California culture and language. Because we lived so close to the border, we often visited family in Mexico. Growing up bilingual and bicultural gave me the opportunity to develop keen observational skills necessary to live in multiple worlds and perspectives. This led me to double-major in English (literature/creative writing) and Spanish (literature) in college. My passion in these areas never waned. In graduate school I continued to study American literatures with specific fields in US Latinx literatures along with creative writing. I feel fortunate to have made this my career: to study, write, and teach in the areas of Chicanx and US Latinx literatures from the nineteenth century to the contemporary period. Throughout the years, I’ve seen my students graduate and establish their careers in law, medicine, the corporate world, in state and national government positions, and in academia.

This is why we want to connect with you. My story may be your story as well. It’s so important to “give back” by serving as a resource for our students. 

Warm regards,

Amelia María de la Luz Montes

Professor and chair

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