The Chican@ and Latin@ Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison celebrated National Hispanic Heritage month by hosting a presentation featuring three authors of the new book “Building Sustainable Worlds: Latinx Placemaking in the Midwest” on Sept. 22.
The presentation was led by speakers Delia Fernandez-Jones, J. Gibran Villalobos and Claire Fox. They discussed their research and current projects on Latinx communities in the Midwest.
The main topics discussed at the event were placemaking and sustaining communities. Each speaker conducted research in different ways to expand their knowledge of Latinx communities in the Midwest specifically. They then used their findings to start projects and continue to develop Latinx groups.
Theresa Delgadillo, UW-Madison professor of English and Chican@ and Latin@ Studies, and Rubén Medina, UW-Madison professor of Spanish, Portuguese and Chican@ and Latin@ Studies, were in attendance and contributed to organizing the event.
Delia Fernandez-Jones, an Assistant Professor of History at Michigan State University, is a historian of Latinx history and uses her knowledge to enable better place making in Michigan. She specifically focuses on using pan-ethnic identity to build economic, political and social rights for the Latinx community.
During the presentation, she spoke about her family history and her pan-ethnic identity as a Mexican and Puerto Rican. One of her current projects is working to place bilingual history markers at important Latinx historic sites in Michigan.
“Sustainable placemaking is to keep the tradition going,” said Fernandez-Jones. “Gatherings are more than community formations, they are home to all.”
Villalobos centers his focus around the arts as the National Engagement Manager for the Institute of Museum and Library Services located in Washington D.C. He also spent time as an assistant curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
His current project is helping create the National Museum of the American Latino. This project will capture the contributions of the Latinx communities in the United States using history, art and culture. During the presentation, he shared the importance art has in culture and community.
“The youth are placemakers,” Villalobos said, underscoring that their art and engagement in a creative climate can continue to develop the Latinx community.
In Villalobos’ opinion, it is important that Latinx culture be represented “through arts across the United States,” which is where his passion for art stems from.
Claire Fox, professor of English, Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Iowa, uses her studies of the placemaking of Latinx communities to better communities throughout Iowa.
Fox’s research revolves around small communities in Iowa. She specifically studies the placemaking done in small gateway communities. She spent time attending Latinx festivals and getting to know the locals in Hampton, Iowa.
When attending their Gran Festival she was “amazed by the energy, especially later in the evening when it was mostly the Latinx community.”
Her ongoing project uses the research she does in small towns to help the University of Iowa develop a better program for their Latinx communities.
The Chican@ and Latin@ Studies program will be hosting two more presentations with different speakers, more information can be found on their website.
The rest of National Hispanic Heritage month holds a plethora of events happening on campus. The next event on Tuesday, Sept. 27 will feature an art gallery and student-led performances outside the Multicultural Student Center at the Red Gym.