Reflections of a Puerto Rican Teaching US Latina/o Literature in the Midwest

In a time when students, especially at high school level, hardly ever learn about literature or history other than the predominantly Anglo-Saxon curriculum school boards approve, we owe educators like Professor Marisel Moreno much more than words can say for promoting Latino studies. The end result may vary from stripping young minds off of unconscious bias to strengthening the fact that Hispanics/Latinos have had ties to this continent, and the U.S., longer than some are afraid to credit or recognize.

Here is an excerpt from her ‘Reflections of a Puerto Rican Teaching US Latin@ Literature in the Midwest” recently published on La Respuesta.

“Teaching U.S. Latina/o literature – whether diaspora Puerto Rican, Dominican-American, Salvadoran-American, Mexican-American, etc. – at an institution where the majority of the student body is white and middle/ upper class, has carried a significant responsibility. In many cases, I am the first  – and oftentimes the last -“Latina” (not to mention Puerto Rican) professor my students will have during their undergraduate career.

We can try to explain what it is to be a migrant farm worker, but it won’t come close to the impact that the works of Puerto Rican author Fred Arroyo or Chicanos Tomás Rivera and Helena María Viramontes often have. We can try to explain the toll that racism and prejudice can take on individuals, families, and societies, but it suffices to read Piri Thomas’ Down These Mean Streets to gain a better understanding of these societal problems. We can try to teach about the repercussions of United States foreign policy in Latin America, but nothing compares to hearing the echoes of victims’ voices that we find in the poetry of Salvadoran William Archila and Guatemalan Víctor Montejo.

In other words, literature is an instrument that allows us to better understand the “other” and ourselves; and it allows us to reflect and dialogue about topics that are typically controversial, uncomfortable, or even painful.”

 

Marisol Moreno

Marisel Moreno is an Associate Professor of US Latina/o Literature at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of Family Matters: Puerto Rican Women Authors on the Island and the Mainland.

 

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Pa’lante Latino showcases current events in the arts, entertainment, politics, and culture as it affects our community. Above all, we are ferocious advocates of the contributions that Hispanics/Latinos have made to the United States and feature articles based on historical facts to reaffirm our relevance.Please feel free to email us at info@palantelatino.com
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