Last spring, the Department of Modern Languages partnered with APU’s Sigma Delta Pi chapter and the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) Southern California chapter to present the first annual Juan Bruce-Novoa lecture series highlighting the experiences of Chicanos (Americans of Mexican heritage) and Latinos (those of Latin American descent in the United States).
Presented by APU faculty members from three disciplines, the three lectures explored the Chicano/Latino cultures in America through the lenses of literature, art, and history. More than 600 faculty, staff, students, and guests attended the lectures, gaining a greater appreciation for the rich diversity that exists on APU’s campus, in the Los Angeles area, in California, and around the world.
In her lecture, Katie Manning, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of English, examined the life and literary work of Sandra Cisneros, a world- renowned Chicana author who uses creative writing to explore Chicano identity in the United States. G. James Daichendt, Ed.D., professor in the Department of Art and Design, lectured on the newfound appreciation for Chicano graffiti and street art in Los Angeles, an art movement that expresses the Chicano culture through a vibrant urban form. Verónica A. Gutiérrez, MFA, Ph.D., assistant professor of Latin American history, described how she overcame childhood shame of her culture and eventually embraced her heritage as a Latin American historian. A trained creative writer, Gutiérrez also shared short stories about her past. “I wanted to reach students who struggle to find the value in their cultures,” said Gutiérrez. “The Chicano culture in the United States is diverse, and it is important to recognize its richness. Studying these minority groups through three different facets—literature, art, and history—immerses us into the Chicano/Latino experience and facilitates cross-cultural understanding.”
As organizer of the lecture series, Marcela Rojas, MFA, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages and president of the AATSP Southern California chapter, saw a real need for campus events celebrating diversity. “At APU, 18 percent of students come from Chicano or Latino backgrounds, representing the largest minority group on campus,” said Rojas. “This lecture series provided the opportunity to hear the voices of these rich cultures, opening conversations between all cultures as we recognize that while we live in a diverse community, we are all united as people made in the image of God.”