In research and in teaching, my goal is to create an interdisciplinary version of Latino and Latin American Studies, two fields that currently operate quite distinctly from one another. For me, the history of Latinos in the U.S. neither begins nor ends at the border with Mexico. In fact, my research has led me to the conclusion that in order to understand Latinos in the United States, we need to have a better understanding of their Latin American contexts and histories. Moreover, to understand contemporary Mexico, for example, it is absolutely essential to know more about the experiences of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. and their continued relations to their Mexican families, communities and nation.
In my courses, I incorporate different types of sources, including an array of primary and archival material, literature, film, and online resources. I do this not only to expose students to different points of view, but also to question how history is "made," how it is preserved, interpreted, and continuously contested. In other words, my courses explore the dynamic qualities of history, and seek to show students that history is never simply "in the past" and that interpretation is never complete. I also focus my courses on "hidden" histories-the stories that have been ignored or overlooked. By uncovering these histories-those of women, minorities, workers-students gain a larger view of the world and the contributions that different groups of people can make to a society.
I chose the field of History as my specialty because it thrives on the principle of diversity, the continual search for new perspectives and fresh evidence, the contestation over new voices, narratives, interpretations. In my teaching, History is not only a body of knowledge, but a way of critically thinking about and acting within the world. The fundamental lesson I seek to convey to my students is the value of seeking out and embracing attempts to raise questions from different points of view over being fearful or suspicious. My approach to teaching is one in which students learn to think for themselves, to look beyond the obvious and the immediate, and to ask essential questions. Moreover, I feel that it simply not responsible to teach history without such a commitment to local communities, for that would be to miss the most important lesson of all: knowledge, through its construction, validation and dissemination, has critical political and social meaning and is thus worth seeking, challenging and deepening. Embarking on such an intellectual journey is one important way students can make the best of their time in college. More importantly, it is through this process that students learn about themselves and their role in society.
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