Elevating the Voices of Latinx Anthropologists

ALLA reflects on the current moment, Latinx anthropology, awards, mentoring, and programming for Raising Our Voices.

On September 30, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus participated in a virtual discussion on the effects of the pandemic on Latinxs. During the discussion, Dr. Peter Hotez, a dean at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said that the coronavirus is causing “the historic decimation” of the Latinx community. I have been haunted by these words. While Hotez likely did not intend to situate the current pandemic within a larger legacy of state-sanctioned violence against Latinxs, he inadvertently invokes past and present colonial terrors responsible for the decimation—both fast and slow—of countless people across Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. Moreover, I am reminded that colonial histories of Indigenous genocide and African enslavement in the Americas are not only antecedents to the current “decimation,” but rather persisting realities in which the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. Given these truths, it is hard to feel hopeful. Yet I am comforted by the presence and work of Latinx anthropologists and those who are committed to Latinx anthropology. I especially take solace in Latinx anthropology that seeks to question and challenge processes of colonialism, nationalism, and racism both within anthropology and in the broader world, in order to make Latinx lives more livable. Our work is more important than ever, as is gathering in community—even if only virtually.

I especially take solace in Latinx anthropology that seeks to question and challenge processes of colonialism, nationalism, and racism both within anthropology and in the broader world, in order to make Latinx lives more livable.

Given this context ALLA is thankful for the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of its members during Raising Our Voices. We have the honor of recognizing three finalists for the 2020 ALLA Book Award. All three manuscripts make timely and important contributions to understandings of Latina/o/x experiences in the United States or in transnational communities linked to the U.S..

1st Place: Miguel Díaz-Barriga and Margaret E. Dorsey. 2020. Fencing in Democracy: Border Walls, Necrocitizenship, and the Security State. Duke University Press.

2nd Place: Ismael García-Colón. 2020. Colonial Migrants at the Heart of Empire: Puerto Rican Workers on U.S. Farms. University of California Press.

Honorable Mention: Simone Delerme. 2020. Latino Orlando: Suburban Transformation and Racial Conflict. University Press of Florida.

Picture of Lisa Moore Cuéllar
Image description: A woman with long, wavy brown hair smiles at camera wearing earrings, necklace, and a striped shirt. 
Caption: Picture of Lisa Moore Cuéllar.
Lisa Moore Cuéllar

We excitedly applaud Lisa Moore Cuéllar, winner of the Graduate Student Paper Award.  Cuéllar’s paper is entitled “Mujeres Latinas en Acción: Anti-Oppressive Practice through Panethnic Matching.” Mujeres Latinas en Acción, founded in 1973, is the oldest Latina-led organization in the United States. Although the Pilsen-based nonprofit agency currently has six programs, Cuéllar’s research examines their domestic violence workers’ anti-oppressive practice. The paper relies on theories from social work and Latino studies to show how culture matters to anti-oppressive practices and coalition building among Latinas. The judges report that the paper powerfully and “ethnographically demonstrates how Latinidad, despite its many limitations, can be critically mobilized to overcome interpersonal and structural violence.” !Felicidades, Lisa!

Additionally, we are privileged to share that Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez made history as the first and only Latino to receive the American Anthropological Association’s Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology. This prestigious honor is presented to scholars whose careers demonstrate extraordinary achievements that have well served the anthropological profession, and who have used anthropology for the benefit of others. Leo Chavez was awarded the Malinowski Award from the Society of Applied Anthropology, which recognizes efforts to understand and serve the needs of the world’s society through social science.

Picture of Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez
Image description: A grey-haired man stands in front of a table with books on it. He has glasses on, and is wearing a suit and a striped tie.
Caption: Picture of Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez
. Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez

Our Mentoring Program, chaired by Cecilia Vasquez, PhD candidate at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, received a record number of applications this year. While they cannot meet in person as usual during our AAA Annual Meeting, four faculty members have committed to mentoring four graduate students throughout the year, as all participants build community and make meaningful contributions to the discipline.

We are also pleased to announce that ALLA is sponsoring the following two sessions during Raising Our Voices. Both consider some of the most pressing questions of our time with regards to anthropology, academia, and activism:

“‘Dark’ and ‘Good’ Anthropology of Borders: Life and Death in the Trump Era. Cochairs: Margaret Dorsey, Miguel Díaz Barriga. Participants: Gina Guillermina Núñez-Mchiri, Sarah Luna, Gilberto Rosas. Tuesday, November 10, 6:15 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. ET

“The Movement for Reproductive Justice: Reading Pat Zavella on Intersectionality, Human Rights, and the Politics of Inclusion.” Chair: Patricia Zavella. Participants: Gina Pérez, Rebecca Martínez, Ana Aparicio, Cindy Cruz, Iris López. Wednesday, November 11, 6:15 – 7:15 p.m.

Lastly, we share some words from our president, María L. Cruz-Torres, and look forward to being in community with you soon.

Colleagues, I want to express my sincere appreciation as outgoing president to all of you for your persistence, patience, and unwavering support in the midst of these terrible circumstances. We nevertheless accomplished much inclusive of the awards garnered by our members for our amazing scholarship, community participation, and mentoring of those arriving to our craft of anthropology. Our publication records by members are second to none and for our awards 11 major monographs were submitted each of great merit and excellence. Our graduate students are well on their way to completing their programs and all of us must be ready to assist them to transition into the academy. Colleagues, thank you for allowing me to serve as president, and our future looks bright and we will overcome whatever comes our way.

Andrea Bolivar is assistant professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at University of Michigan.

Cite as: Bolivar, Andrea. 2020. “Elevating the Voices of Latinx Anthropologists.” Anthropology News website, October 26, 2020. DOI: 10.14506/AN.1525

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Want to comment? Please be aware that only comments from current AAA members will be approve. AN is supported by member dues, so discussions on anthropology-news.org are moderated to ensure that current members are commenting. As with all AN content, comments reflect the views of the person who submitted the comment only. The approval of a comment to go live does not signify endorsement by AN or the AAA.