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Report from “Imagining Latina/o Studies Conference” in Chicago

There I was, humming the melody to Amor, amor by Andy Russell at a panel on Latin@ representation in mass media. Indeed, an innovative technique to engage the audience at an 8am presentation when some in attendance were still functioning in an earlier time zone 2 hours away.

international-latino-studies-conference-700x300This was one of the more than 100 panels encompassing 277 presentations as part of the inaugural International Latina/o Studies Conference. It had been in the planning since the 2012 Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Congress in San Francisco when a group of scholars met informally and envisioned a LASA-like conference focusing solely on US Latin@ issues.

The result was an overwhelming show of support with more than 500 participants addressing multiple aspects of US Latin@ culture. Many of those attending were younger scholars quite active in social media, as the Twitter Archive of #lschi2014 shows.

Current issues like immigration were certainly at the forefront, along with literature, popular culture and even libraries. With barely 3 information professionals and a library intern, our presence was felt throughout the 3 days of presentations beyond a roundtable discussion devoted to archives and libraries.

*At a panel on Latino masculinities and sexuality one of the presenters lamented the absence of an author’s literary archive whose life had to be re-constructed from oral histories of those who knew him. This was an excellent opening to suggest that those histories be deposited in a library and make them available to future researchers.

*The presentation showcasing a decade of La Bloga was another opportunity to insinuate the importance of archiving a born-digital resource when some of the panelists themselves were not sure how to access early postings of the site that has already reached the one-millionth visitor mark.

*At one of the final presentations on alternative venues of cultural activism, it became apparent that one of Stanford’s collections would be most useful to document the history of a recently deceased Chilean activist. By coincidence,an independent filmmaker in the audience also inquired about another part of that archive.

*Above all, the group realized the importance of libraries and would ensure that a permanent space on its future executive board include a librarian.

Planning is already underway for a future conference in two years. The location has yet to be decided but it’s never too soon to seek ways in which libraries and archives can have a presence among those many interesting panels.

A last minute visit to the Art Institute only a few blocks away surprised with an unexpected exhibit on Mexican graphic art. What May Come: The Taller de Gráfica Popular and the Mexican Political Print showcased the Institute’s extensive holdings from one of the best known groups of politically engaged artists in Latin America.

Adan Griego
Curator for Latin American, Mexican American & Iberian Collections
Stanford University Libraries.

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