Academia is Getting Hard

Intellectual masturbation. I first heard this phrase from a student who spoke at a demonstration against police brutality at Meyerhoff Park in UCLA. The student who spoke these words expressed that the gathering would only be productive if the work against these injustices committed on People of Color continued outside that immediate space.  He described the gathering of students as an “intellectual masterbation,” because it revolved around discussion and not enough long-term action. This was some months ago, yet these words stayed with me ever since.

This winter quarter I attended a lecture titled “On the move: The Changing Dynamics of Mexico-U.S. Migration” by Professor Filiz Garip from Harvard University. Her new book addresses the question of why Mexicans migrate to the United States. Professor Garip argues against the heterogeneity placed upon migrants and their reasons for migration.

Her lecture was interesting but the scholars from the audience began to ask many questions pertaining to her data and her methods. This back and forth of question and answer felt so useless. Intellectual jargon kept being thrown around and I began to feel like I was wasting my time.

What is the point of all your criticism, suggestions, and overall discussion? How is this even going to connect back to the people you are actually talking about? What does all this even mean to them?

Intellectual masturbation.

I left that lecture as soon as it was over and felt like I wasted an entire hour and a half of my life.  I proceeded to the Chicana/o Studies Research Center for a Nahuatl Studies workshop that was part of a two-day program. The workshop was hosted by the UCLA Nahuatl Studies group composed of graduate students and faculty. Many of the students and faculty leaders were white, with a couple of male Latinos in attendance.

One graduate student began the workshop by very briefly introducing the document we looked at. She failed to introduce the other students and faculty that belonged to the group, nor the purpose of the group itself. She handed out copies of the document, which the group expressed was not worked on for 6 months. As soon as everyone had a copy of the document, the graduate students and faculty went straight to work. Instead of a workshop I felt like I had intruded into a group working party. I was completely excluded. The group went straight into trying to figure out specific lines and words by using technical methods that I was completely unfamiliar with. So I just sat there, trying to listen and observe their processes.

I felt like everything was their interpretation. Thus, I did not fully trust these sources because they are being translated by outsiders. The irony: here we have a bunch of white people trying to figure out what their ancestors purposely destroyed some hundred years ago.

Intellectual masturbation.

All this Ivy tower privilege disgusts me. I do not want to remain in this space.  Most of the time this knowledge is kept here and not relayed back to the communities it belongs to.

Getty Funds Extensive Latin American Art Project in Southern California

Getty_Center_2The influence of Latin American art in the Southern California scene has always been present, and it seems people are starting to take notice. Recently, The Getty Foundation announced that it will be investing $5 million dollars for its yearly Pacific Standard Time project that will focus on Latin American art and its influence in the Southern California art scene. The Getty Foundation will be giving grants to a variety of Southern California museums and institutions to plan exhibitions that will focus on Latin American art to display in 2017. A great amount of research and resources will be invested in this project, which is something new since focus on Latin American art has not been very prominent in the California area.

Grant recipients will be presenting their Latin American exhibits through a variety of methods and with a variety of focuses as well. Some museums will be focusing on individual Latin American artists, specific time periods, specific countries, movements and many other aspects of the broad Latin American art realm.

UCLA’s very own Chicano Studies Research Center has received a $210,000 grant to have an exhibit at LACMA titled Home. This exhibit will focus on about 30 and more different Latin American artists from the 1950’s to present. Home will focus on the intersectionality of being an American and Latin American and the binary of what home means to such artists. There will be a variety of topics such as that of belonging, nationalism, and the way that Latin American and American methods plays directly into these artists’ pieces.

The Fowler Museum at UCLA has also received $170,000 in funding and will be having an exhibition titled The Roads that Lead to Bahia: Visual Arts and the Emergence of Brazil’s Black Rome. It focuses on African inspired arts of Bahia in Brazil and the manner in which they have had a strong presence in El Salvador. Taking note of the complex national, ethnic, racial, and religious aspect of Afro-Brazilian art in El Salvador and expanding parts of the world will allow the Fowler to further examine the importance of Latin American art at a more international level.

Another Los Angeles recipient will be the Hammer Museum who has received $225,000 in funding to bring an exhibit on Women artists in Latin America from the 60’s to 80’s. This focus has been inspired by the Women’s Rights Movement that will bring about varous artistic media from about 80 artists from 12 countries in the exhibit titled The Political Body: Radical Women in Latin American Art 1960–1985.

 The Getty’s decision to focus on Latin America is great news for the Southern California art scene as there has never been a strong devotion to acknowledging and analyzing the manner in which Latin American Art impacts Southern California. Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA will allow the link between these arts to be made more visible and, most importantly, LA/LA has the potential to create a larger awareness and recognition of how Latino/Latin American art has changed and continues to change the dynamics of Southern California.

Brown Berets visit UCLA

Professor Milo Alvarez moderated a discussion that revolved around the founding of the Brown Beret organization. The panel was composed of founding fathers and members of the Brown Berets David Sanchez and Ralph Ramirez along with Rona Fields.  The discussion took place on May 21, 2014 from 3p.m.-5p.m. in the Chicano Studies Research Library located inside the Haines Hall in the UCLA campus.

In the 1960s, in the midst of the emergence of revolutionary movements across the nation, the Brown Beret organization established itself as the vanguard of La Raza.  The organization was founded by young Chicano militants who wanted to join the social justice causas that were taking place at that moment. Their main focus was cultural nationalism, so they saw any Mexican-American as a potential Chicano. Their main purpose was to stand against institutionalized violence and discrimination, particularly within the educational system.

The Brown Berets gained popularity among the barrio youth throughout the United States, primarily because they promoted the causa Chicana of bringing equality in education. They can be credited with the East Los Angeles walkouts (also known as Chicano Blowouts) that occurred in 1968 as consequence of unequal conditions in Los Angeles Unified School District high schools, particularly those with students of color. By extension, they are also credited for the establishment of the Chicano Studies programs across the nation.

Mayra Jones


The organization also expanded from its demands for educational reform to anti-war demonstrations. By creating a movement within the movement, the Brown Berets’ Chicano Moratorium, was able to educate Chicano communities from 1969 through 1971, about the dangers of the Vietnam War for Chicanos serving in the Armed Forces.

During the Brown Berets movement, members focused on the issue of educational reform and anti-war sentiment. Even though the organization was composed of a diverse body of Chicanos and non-Chicanos, they often faced oppression and infiltrations by government agencies not only for their racial and ethnic background but also for their political views. During the discussion, some of the members stressed that not all of them were socialists, and differences of political views were present, but despite those differences, they always prioritized their focus to the issues of inequality.

The members in the panel were able to discuss several issues and influences. Among those influences, many expressed that the African-American movements of the time were very crucial in their organization. In particularly, the Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as the Black Panther movement proved to be inspirational and also cautionary tales to the Brown Berets.

Women’s roles were also addressed during the discussion, leading to different perspective from an all-male panel (with the exception of a female professor who was participating via Skype but who was not a member of the Brown Berets). Ultimately, after Professor Alvarez addressed the sexism that many women members expressed they experienced, a member in the panel attributed the success of the movement to the work of women from free clinics to the front lines. They were described as being the “brick and mortar” of the organization.

The panelist and Brown Beret member, David Sanchez, stated that he is running for the 40th Congressional District that encompasses East Los Angeles along other adjacent cities. He asked for the support of the audience in his new endeavor. Sanchez also stated that his main focus was the promotion and continuity of Chicano Studies programs in Los Angeles County.

Mayra Jones

SnapFotos: Gustavo Arellano talks about “Taco USA”


Gustavo Arellano's book "Taco USA."

Gustavo Arellano talks with one of his readers.

The audience listens to an excerpt from "Taco USA."

Arellano talks about the history and culture of Mexican food in the US.

An audience member listens to Arellano introduce his new book.

People gather at the CSRC to hear Gustavo Arellano speak about his new book.

You can visit this website for Gustavo Arellano‘s book tour dates.




Chicano Studies Research Center Holds Annual Open House

Photo by Helga Salinas.

UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC) held its annual open house at the Fowler Museum.

The event this year was dedicated to Chon Noriega, the director of the CSRC, in celebration of his 50th birthday, 10th year as director, and 15th year as editor of “Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies.”

The open house was held in the Fowler Museum courtyard where the guests mingled around the fountain meeting old friends and catching up with fellow artists while eating Mexican cuisine such as enchiladas, quesadillas and flan.

The Fowler presently hosts two exhibitions from the CSRC’s L.A. Xicano project, “Mapping Another L.A.: The Chicano Art Movement” and “Icons of the Invisible: Oscar Castillo.”

After much praise and anecdotal accounts of how individuals met and were introduced to Chon Noriega, he gave a few words describing the importance of increasing visibility of Chiana/o Studies, and Chicana/o art within the community. This has been a primary motivation for the L.A. Xicano project across Los Angeles museums, which include Autry National Center and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Noriega also commented on the need for Chicana/o art to take up space within a community as a method of gaining credibility.

The Chicano Studies Research Center open house was a celebration of Chon Noriega’s work as director, and it concluded like all celebrations, with a cake imprinted with the CSRC logo.

Chicano Studies Research Center Reopens

Chantal Rodriguez speaks at the CSRC re-opening. Photo by CSRC.

After 40 years of piles of papers, white walls, aged computers and limited space, the Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC) decided it was time for a well-deserved change. On March 8 they revealed their newly remodeled site in an event to celebrate their re-opening.

The library’s importance is not limited to its updated appearance.  “[The CSRC] disseminates knowledge to the public; it’s not just functional but a breathed culture,” said library director Chon Noriega.

With newly-painted red walls displaying original art pieces from Chicano artists, books, and new computers, the library can clearly represent the progression of Chicano studies.

Pro Bono architect Fred Fisher, with the help of a young Chicana architect Victoria Padilla- Lima, helped to plan the remodeling of the library. The color red gives one the sense of being in a Chicano library and feeling welcomed, Padilla-Limas explained.

The CSRC currently holds 1/3 of California’s Chicano collections, including original US and Mexico audio recordings.

The Chicano Archive Series has four books in print, including two books by a Loyola Marymount professor Karen Mary Davalos, a speaker at the opening event, whose research was principally done in this library.

A graduate student in the theater department at the time, Chantal Rodriguez, described how the library helped her launch her career. She confessed her hardship at the beginning of the program to unable to find a niche were she felt she belonged.

However, an offer to write a book about Chicano theater changed her life. She published her book in 2011 titled  “The Latino Theatre Initiative/Center Theatre Group Papers, 1980-2005.” Now Rodriguez teaches at the California Institute of the Arts.

Raul Pacheco, co-founder of musical group Ozomatli, spoke about the importance of the role of activism in the arts and that a place like this library helped to preserve this.

Many students and researchers have found their home and life’s work here with this renovation only continuing that tradition. “Most students see the library as a home away from home, now there’s an upgrade to that home,” said Lizette Guerra, CSRC libriarian.

20 Years of Building Hope Through Jobs

Father Gregory Boyle speaks at the Chicano Studies Research Center on Jan. 26. Photo by Chicano Studies Research Center.

Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, spoke of his gang intervention experience at the Chicano Studies Research Center on Jan. 26, as he promoted his first book, “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.”

He began his mission as a priest looking for a safe spot for neighboring youth and now Father Boyle is an award-winning speaker, gang consultant to various agencies, and member of the National Gang Center Advisory Board.

Growing up in the Los Angeles area in a large Irish-American family, Father Boyle knows the dangers youth face in gang involvement. He accredits his family support system as the reason for not joining the gang life. “I never would have joined a gang, but that doesn’t make me morally superior,” said Father Boyle.

After receiving his master’s in English from Loyola Marymount University, he received a Master of Divinity from the Weston School of Theology and a Master of Sacred Theology from the Jesuit School of Theology. After doing missionary work outside of the United States, he returned to Los Angeles in 1992 and established Homeboy Bakery, an independent nonprofit organization that provides former gang members with a safe environment and skills to join the workforce. It has expanded to Homegirl Café and Catering, Homeboy Silkscreen and Logo Service, and Homeboy Maintenance. The organization offers services including counseling, free laser tattoo removal, and skill development workshops.

As the largest gang intervention center in the United States, he admits that he and the organization have had their share of difficulties financially, as well as with the public and the police. He has had to endure bomb and death threats, receive hate mail, see his bakery burn in 1999, and survive leukemia, but he still holds strongly onto his mission. “There is no ‘us’ or ‘them;’ it is an illusion,” said Father Boyle in relation to how people may be reluctant to relate to gang members.

The book, which took 20 years to write, is meant for a broad audience. He describes the novel as talking about what matters, “It is a string of stories bound together using vague themes. It is about the lethal absence of hope,” said Father Boyle.

Rather than promote his achievements at the reading, he did as he has done throughout his 20-year career: promote understanding. “Knowing my truth is your truth; your truth is the gang member’s truth,” said Father Boyle.

Father Boyle, “the Ghandi of the Gangs”

“Father Boyle, the Ghandi of the gangs.” To some this may seem an exaggeration, but to others this is exactly what Father Boyle represents, because he truly was a form of relief and a hope to a better future for gang members.  Homeboy Industries is an organization created by Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit Roman Catholic priest.  Homeboy Industries assists former gang-involved youth and the recently incarcerated to become contributing members of the community.  This free program enables counseling, education, tattoo removal, and job training and placement to provide an opportunity for young men and women to redirect their lives for a better future.

Father Gregory Boyle came to speak about his book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, at UCLA on January 26th, an event provided by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.  The small room where his speech was to be given was packed with people curious about what he had to say, and they had their full attention on him.  He told stories about his reasons for creating Homeboy Industries, how the company came to be, and what it meant to many of the gangsters.

About the industry, Father Boyle says, “We didn’t start, we just evolved.”

He believed in the industry, and that is why he had hope in pursuing the company despite much of the hate that had arisen upon establishing the company.

Father Boyle made sure his audiences kept full attention on him.  He spoke about being asked to do baptisms, quinceñeras, weddings, and (jokingly) exorcisms.  Never turning away an individual who walked into his office, he teared as he recalled individuals to whom he had reached out to and to whom he could have made a difference if they had only stepped foot in his office.

There was a group from Homeboy Industries, whom he had the opportunity to take as speakers at the White House Conference on Children and Youth in 2005.  It was a symbol of their achievement of how far they had come, where they were now sipping white wine with First Lady Laura Bush.  “Anything worth doing is worth trying” is a motto Father Boyle lives by to this day.

Father Boyle says the “chips have fallen into place,” as Homeboy Industries and Homeboy Bakery have expanded to sell their chips and salsa at various Ralphs locations in Southern California. I have yet to try some of these chips, but I am sure they are delicious, as Father Gregory Boyle strives to create the most authentic taste of home in a bag of chips.


For your benefit, Homeboy Industries Contact Info:

130 W. Bruno St.

Los Angeles, CA 90012-1815

(323) 526-1254