As the semester comes to a close, I am taking this opportunity not only to introduce myself but to also reflect on my first semester as the Director of Latinx, Latin American, and Caribbean Studies (LLACS) at Northeastern University and to look ahead to the upcoming year.
Over the past three and half months, it has been an absolute delight to meet, speak with and listen to LLACS faculty, staff, and students, and to get a sense of the history and place that LLACS has held and continues to enjoy in the Northeastern community for over twenty-six years. Founded in 1997, LLACS was borne out of a sense of urgency from faculty who were interested in not only understanding the injustices that plagued Latin America, the Caribbean and their diasporas, but to also engage in humanizing research and policies to support justice in these regions and communities.
This urgency has not diminished. Over the last decade, crises including mass shootings of Latinx peoples in Orlando, El Paso, and Uvalde, colonial disasters such as the devastating Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the 2021 earthquake in Haiti and their aftershocks, systematic police and military violence against poor people of color, especially Black and indigenous peoples, COVID-19, and other dysfunctions including corruption, further illuminated the structural inequalities that continue to shape the lives of Latinx peoples living across the Americas and the Caribbean. The responses have included unprecedented political and social movements including Las Vidas Negras Importan (across the Americas), #RickyRenuncia (Puerto Rico) and el Estallido Social (Chile), but also immigration across the region that has often been met with heavy-handed responses.
But what is the role of a university and more specifically, a program such as LLACS to address these issues? As a Chicana feminist, I have grappled with this question for nearly thirty years and have worked towards ensuring that programs like LLACS exist and inform the intellectual life of colleges and universities that are committed to social justice and community-building. That was my belief as an undergraduate student advocating for the hiring and retention of Chicanx Studies professors in the mid-1990s and that is my position now. Along with considering simple demographic realities and destinies that place Latinx communities as the second largest racial/ethnic group in the US and Latin American and Caribbean peoples approaching 10% of the global population, by drawing on this principle, that 21st century universities cannot fulfill their missions without programs that are committed to social justice and change, I am excited to lead LLACS into a new era that builds upon the exciting research, teaching and service that has long defined the program but also expands, envisions and enacts new partnerships and directions of study, collaboration and engagement with communities across the Americas and Caribbean. These synergies across scholarship, experience, and advocacy are the future of LLACS.
Our faculty and students are engaging in research and initiatives that aim to understand and address a variety of topics of import to the Americas and Caribbean and their peoples, including understanding literary and artistic production surrounding the World Cups held in Chile in 1962, and in Mexico in 1970 and in 1986 (Dr. Daniel Noemi Voionmaa), exploring relations between descendants of African enslavement and Asian Indenture in the Southern Caribbean (Trinidad & Guyana), and on how relations between these communities are refashioned among immigrant communities in North America (Dr. Anjanette Chan Tack), and uncovering the history of Afro/Latinx stand-up comedy in New York City and improving access to legal services for mostly Central American immigrant youths arriving to legal deserts in Southern Massachusetts (Dr. Isabel Martinez), and much more.
Through critical lenses, LLACS faculty draw from the arts, humanities, and social sciences to create scholarship but also to teach students about the ways in which sociopolitical, economic, historical and cultural processes including imperialism, colonization, neoliberalism, globalization, racism, and war have and continue to shape the experiences of communities and peoples in the Americas and the Caribbean as well as their responses to these forces. Our inter and multi-disciplinary approaches of study and teaching draw upon local, national, transnational and global frameworks to engage students in rigorous inquiries of the region and diasporas. A minor in LLACS will prepare you for understanding regional trends, as well as these populations in the Western Hemisphere and beyond.
In the upcoming weeks, we are launching the LLACS website, and it will include more information about initiatives that we are undertaking, including U-LAMP, or the Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project, next year’s Latinxs and Comedy Speaker Series, as well as other projects that our faculty are undertaking. When they are launched, please subscribe to our social media, sign up for our listserve, and of course, feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about the program. Our email address is LLACSProgram@northeastern.edu. Thank you!
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