November 2010 Newsletter (archive)

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November Spotlight: Institute Fellow Alex E. Chávez

In this issue of New Horizons we turn the spotlight on Institute Visiting Fellow Alex E. Chávez. Chávez earned his PhD in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2010 with a concentration in folklore and public culture and holds doctoral portfolios in both Mexican American studies and cultural studies. His current research project is a multi-site ethnographic case study conducted in Mexico and the United States over the course of seven years and funded by both the National Science Foundation and Ford Foundation. He explains:

I interrogate the vexed relationship between Mexican migration to the US and the re-imagining of community across borders through a focus on oral poetry and the practice of huapango arribeño folk music. I detail how huapango arribeño's poetic narratives key in on the subjectivities of undocumented immigrants and in fact disrupt the discursive and militarized constructions of the US-Mexico border that reproduce strategies of containment and deportability designed to disenfranchise and exclude them. The culturally mediated lexicon of nation and citizenship, I argue, is embedded in a web of public discourse, poetic narrative, media, and performance where unauthorized migrants expressively confront the moral economy of a nation-state that accepts them as expendable laborers, but not as citizens with equal human and civil rights.

His research interests explore more broadly what he terms the "transborder imaginary," the prism through which the social life of Latino music-practice, language-use, and performance are envisioned. He focuses on Mexican/Latino folklore and music-cultures, public and popular culture of Greater Mexico, the anthropology of US-Mexico migration, and Borderlands theories of postcoloniality and critical theory.

Chávez is presently co-teaching "Introduction to Latinos in American Society" with Institute Director Gilberto Cárdenas. In Spring 2011 he will be teaching "Ballads to Hip-Hop: Music, Culture, and Society in Mexican America," a course designed to introduce students to important historical and stylistic musical developments understood as aesthetic dialects part of the cultural experience of ethnic Mexicans in the United States.

As a university professor one should strive to make learning a process of discovery, inclusive, rigorous, and transformative. This requires that I help students cultivate the methodological skills and intellectual tools necessary for both theory and practice in anthropology. This means having them realize how focused analyses of cultural phenomena broaden our understanding of a range of relevant concepts: identity formation/politics in their varied ethnic, racial, and gendered iterations, citizenship/democracy, and social change. If I am able to develop students' personal interpretive frameworks and call into question their taken-for-granted social atlases, as an anthropologist I have achieved my mission.

In addition to his academic work Chávez is also an accomplished musician with performance experience in diverse styles ranging from R&B/Soul to regional Mexican son music. He has recorded and toured with his own music projects, composed documentary scores, and collaborated with various artists including Charanga Cakewalk/Lila Downs, Ocote Soul Sounds (Martin Perna of Antibalas), David Garza, and Fandango Sin Fronteras. His band, Maneja Beto, just celebrated the national release of their latest record Escante Calling (Lengua Marron/Cosmica Records).



The Institute calendar of events is continually updated, so please be sure to check for up-to-date event information at


Father Groody Honored with Catholic Charities Centennial Award

Rev. Daniel Groody, CSC, director of the Institute's Center for Latino Spirituality and Culture and associate professor of theology, was honored with a Catholic Charities USA Centennial Medal in an October 19 presentation ceremony. Fr. Groody was selected for this award because of his scholarship and teaching related to the Church's pastoral response to immigrants, the spirituality of immigrants, and a theology of migration. Groody has studied, served, and accompanied immigrants at the US-Mexico border and other borders in Latin America, as well as at the borders of Morocco and Spain, Malta and Libya, Slovakia and Ukraine, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In accepting this award Groody expressed his hope that this award would give impetus to all those who work on behalf of migrants and for immigration reform.


ILS Visiting Fellow Awarded Ford Foundation Grant

A research team that includes Institute visiting scholar Daniel Martinez has received funding from the Ford Foundation in excess of $100,000. The research project will gather quantitative and qualitative data over the coming year from people who have had recent undocumented border crossing experiences and have been returned to Mexico by US authorities. Martinez's co-principal investigators from the University of Arizona include Scott Whiteford, professor of Latin American studies, and Jeremy Slack, a graduate student in geography. The study builds upon Martinez's dissertation work and his Migrant Border Crossing Survey within the Arizona-Sonoran border, which produced the framework and lines of inquiry for this border-wide study.


Latino Poet/Editors Gather for Retreat

Letras Latinas partnered with the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois, in mid-October to host eight Latino and Latina poets from around the United States for a week-long residency/retreat at Ragdale House. The week culminated with "Ocho Poetas," a group reading and reception, which also served as a platform to announce the creation of the "Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize." The poets spent time working on their creative projects, but also convened to discuss the challenges of being both literary artists and literary editors. This new initiative was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Groody on the Theology of Migration

Fr. Daniel Groody presented his film and accompanying lecture "Dying to Live: A Theology of Migration" at St. Joseph University, Hartford, Connecticut, on October 7 and the lecture "Foundations of a Theology of Migration" at St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, on October 10.


Cárdenas Inaugural Speaker for the Americo Paredes Commemorative Lectures Series

Institute Director Gilberto Cárdenas was the inaugural speaker for the Americo Paredes Commemorative Lectures Series at the University of Texas-Brownsville. The lecture, entitled "Imágenes y Memoria: A Visual Narrative of Mexican Migration," was presented on October 12.


Richman Presents in Washington DC

Institute Academic Director Karen Richman spoke on the topic of "Cultural Differences and Financial Education" at the Third Annual Financial Literacy Leadership Conference on October 25-26, 2010, in Washington DC. The conference was hosted by the Society for Financial Education & Professional Development, Inc.


Institute Fellow Publishes Book

Visiting faculty fellow Oscar Celedor Angon recently co-authored a book entitled Educación e ideología (Education and Ideology) with Dionisio Llamazares Fernandez and Raquel Tejón Sánchez. The 2010 book, published by Dykinson in Madrid, is an examination of religious and cultural rights in the sphere of public education in Spain.


Advisory Council Member Named to "100 Influentials" List

Institute Advisory Council member Phil Fuentes of Chicago, Illinois, was selected for Hispanic Business magazine's "100 Influentials" list of leaders in the public and private sectors. Fuentes serves on the Board of Directors of the City of Chicago Regional Transportation Authority and owns a chain of restaurants in Chicago and Cicero.


Latina Conference Held at Saint Mary's College

On October 23 the Institute cosponsored the Latina Conference 2010, which celebrated women's entrepreneurial spirit. The conference included workshops, business networking opportunities, and a health fair. Institute office manager Idalia Maldonado was the primary organizer of the event through her role as board member of the Hispanic Leadership Coalition.


Notre Dame Lead Academic Sponsor of NSHMBA Conference

Notre Dame's Mendoza School of Business was the principal academic organization at this year's National Society of Hispanic MBAs conference held in Chicago October 20-23. The Institute was proud to support and participate in this effort. Institute Associate Director Allert Brown-Gort and Assistant Director Douglas Franson were members of the planning team and participated in the conference.


Artist Ricardo Manuel Díaz Donates Papers

Papers documenting the work of Cuban-American painter and sculptor Ricardo Manuel Díaz were donated to the Julian Samora Library by the artist. The papers include exhibition catalogs, invitations, as well as newspaper and magazine articles.


On-Campus November Events

Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos Festivities

This year's Day of the Dead celebration on campus will feature an ofrenda by internationally known artist Artemio Rodriguez and a discussion and performance by anthropologist and Institute Fellow Alex E. Chávez, "Serenading the Afterlife: The Sacred and Profane in Vinuete Music of Central Mexico," with special guest Juan Rivera of Sones de México. This event will take place on Monday, November 1, from 5:30 to 8:00 pm, in the Great Hall of the Hesburgh Center. For more information please visit or call 574-631-3796.


ILS Hosts Special Exhibition on the Mexican Revolution

To commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution the Institute will feature a two-part exhibition held simultaneously at the Institute's Galería América and Crossroads Gallery in downtown South Bend. The exhibition on Chicano views of the Mexican revolution will open at Galería América, while Crossroads Gallery will feature art from the Mexican perspective. These will open on November 4, 2010, and run through January, 2011. The exhibitions have been developed in conjunction with the class "The Mexican Revolution: One Hundred Years of Images and Interpretations" being taught this semester by Professor Jaime Pensado and Institute Associate Director Allert Brown-Gort. The exhibitions are curated by Pensado, Brown-Gort, and Notre Dame graduate student Kathleen Kole.


Salvadoran-born poet comes to Notre Dame

Letras Latinas, the Institute's literary program, partners with the Henkels Lecture Series and the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and the Department of Romance Languages and Literature to present William Archila, who will read from his noted collection of poems, The Art of Exile. The event will take place in 202 McKenna Hall at 4:00 pm on Monday, November 8. A book signing and reception will follow in the west lounge of the Institute's Julian Samora Library, 204 McKenna Hall.


Student Workshop: How to Enhance Your Study Abroad Experience

Join Professor Javier Esguevillas over coffee to learn how to enhance your studies abroad program by adding résumé-building academic and research excursions. Professor Esguevillas has 12 years of experience in student exchange programs and hopes to be a resource to further enrich students' experience abroad. Examples include but are not limited to attending seminars organized by multilateral institutions, participating in research projects with other institutions, participating in social and development projects with NGO's or national institutions. The workshop will take place on Friday, November 12, 4:00-5:00 pm in the west lounge of the Institute's Julian Samora Library, 204 McKenna Hall.


Cafecito with Professor Ricardo Ramirez

Please join the Institute for an informal talk, or "cafecito," with Professor Ramirez, visiting associate professor in the Department of Political Science. Ramirez comes to Notre Dame from the University of Southern California. His research interests include state and local politics, political behavior, and the politics of race and ethnicity, especially as they relate to participation, mobilization, and political incorporation. His current projects include field experiments on the effects of elite mobilization efforts of Latino voters and on the role of gender and ethnicity on career paths in state legislatures since 1990. The cafecito will take place on Tuesday, November 30, at 10:30 am in the west lounge of the Institute's Julian Samora Library, 204 McKenna Hall.


Off-Campus November Events

CMCI Hosts White Paper Series Symposium

The Institute's Center for Metropolitan Chicago Initiatives (CMCI) will host a symposium on its White Paper Series entitled Latinos in Chicago: Reflections of an American Landscape Tuesday, November 9, 8:00 am-12:00 pm. The White Paper Series is a result of the Latino Research Collaborative, an initiative funded by the Chicago Community Trust and the Arthur Foundation which established four interdisciplinary teams of researchers from five partner institutions: DePaul University, National-Louis University, Roosevelt University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Notre Dame. The researchers will share their findings in the areas of civic participation, education, urban change, and work & the economy and discuss topics of future research on Metropolitan Chicago's Latino community. The symposium will take place at the University of Notre Dame Executive MBA Offices, Santa Fe Building, 224 South Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. Event capacity is limited. Please RSVP at or call (312) 432-4791.


Palabra Pura

Letras Latinas partners with the Guild Complex to present poets Carlos Cumpian and Luivette Resto, who will both perform their work on Wednesday, November 17 at 7:30 pm at Décima Musa located at 1901 S. Loomis in Chicago, Illinois. For more information visit


Latino Art Now! Conference

The Latino Art Now! Conference will take place November 10-13, 2010, at the Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center for the Arts and Education, Los Angeles. Through dialogue in roundtables and workshops and the presentation of academic scholarship, the conference examines the contemporary state of Latino Art in the United States and the cultural forces that are presently shaping it. It is a leading national forum for artists, art professionals, educators, scholars, critics, and art dealers. For more information about the conference or to register, please visit or contact Maria Elena Bessignano at 574-631-3481 or