Congratulations to Dr. Abigail Rosas on her recently published book- South Central is Home…
Dr. Carlos awarded Best Book in Latino Politics
The Latino Question: Politics, Labouring Classes and the Next Left has been chosen for the 2019 Best Book in Latino Politics Award for the American Political Science Association.
Renowned writer, activist Cherríe Moraga comes to Cal State Long Beach for lecture, workshop
Universidad de la Familia with Dr. Jose Moreno, Spring 2019
Every semester, students bring their parents to attend a Saturday lecture on Latinas/os and Education with profe Jose Moreno.
Early Education Advocate
UCI alumnus puts humanities in action
by Valerie Elwell
Dr. Rigoberto (Rigo) Rodríguez came to the University of California, Irvine as a late admit in the winter of 1988. The admission letter arrived after more than 20 college rejection letters had depleted his hope of ever attending college.
“I went to four different high schools and I remember thinking ‘Who is going to make sense of these transcripts?’ I didn’t know what kind of potential I had but I was happy UCI saw some in me,” Rodríguez says.
Rodríguez (’93 B.A.s in comparative literature and Spanish literature, ’99 M.A. urban & regional planning) didn’t even know where Irvine was at the time. Born in Salinas, California into a Mexican farmworker family, he was the youngest of thirteen children and one of the first generation in his family to go to college. He knew almost nothing about the process for getting into college and what to do when he actually got there. Despite those barriers, he hopped on a bus with $8 in his wallet and a plastic bag of his clothes.
“I had just enough money to get a taxi cab to bring me [to UCI]. I just showed up the Saturday before the semester started. The staff member was shocked that I didn’t have a place to stay but she found me a spot in Mesa Court, got me a student I.D. and got me settled,” he says.
Humanities in action
It continued to be a steep learning curve over the next few years, but what Rodríguez saw modeled persistently in UCI’s School of Humanities and what continues to inspire his own work today, is the commitment by the faculty to put the humanities in action.
The one who embodied that quality the most and whose influence cuts across the trajectory of Rodríguez’s personal and professional life is Julia Lupton, UCI professor of English and co-director of the UCI Shakespeare Center.
It was a course on Greek and Roman mythology taught by Lupton that changed him. He recalls her enthusiasm and persistent challenging of the class with “why do you believe that?” and “what is the context?” He found her classes so fun and engaging that he actually felt guilty at times. He was supposed to be “working,” but it didn’t feel like work.
“As a child of a farmworker, you associate work with sweat and backaches and your hands being dirty. As a first-gen student, it was a culture shock but mediated by the professors who were role modeling things that I didn’t quite understand and helping me work through the transition,” he says.
At the end of that quarter, Lupton encouraged him to apply to the Humanities Honors program and then she acted—walking him over to the professor who was running it that year and getting him signed up.
“Julia was able to identify that I had this deep interest and curiosity. It was a small group—maybe eight of us in the program—but we were intense, debating, almost shouting at each other and I loved it. We were like a family,” Rodríguez says.
It gave him the confidence to branch out into philosophy, feminist theory, and Chicanx/Latinx studies—to ponder life’s big questions while also coming to terms with his own identity and history.
Lupton’s lesson—it’s not just about ideas, it’s also about actions—continued to resonate. He became involved with student organizations on campus—editor for La voz mestiza (the Chicano/Latino campus newspaper) and then the co-chair of M.E.Ch.A. (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan)—an organization for Chicanx/Latinx students.
From there, Rodríguez helped form a coalition with the Black Student Union, the American Indian Council and the Asian Pacific Student Association that coalesced into E.S.C.A.P.E. (Ethnic Studies Coalition Against Prejudicial Education). They fought for the establishment of the African American, Native American, Asian American, and Chicano/Latino studies programs at UCI and succeeded. During that time, he also served in the student government as vice president for academic affairs and then as president his senior year.
“I wanted to make sure that the university heard us—that we needed and wanted departments that would house courses and opportunities in this area of knowledge about our communities and our experiences,” Rodríguez says.
Humanities out there
As he was nearing graduation and intending to become a literature professor, the Los Angeles riots began. They ignited his curiosity about the social structures that contributed to the uprisings and he changed course to become a community organizer for the non-profit Delhi Center in Santa Ana. Over time, Rodríguez realized that many of the neighborhood issues he was dealing with—streets, parks, safety, schools—revolved around the use of space—how it’s regulated and how its structure can impact our everyday lives and opportunities.
This inspired him to return to UCI, this time to pursue a master’s degree in urban and regional planning. Despite being on a different side of campus and outside of the humanities, he crossed paths again with Lupton. At the time, she was developing an innovative early education curriculum called Humanities Out There (HOT) and introducing Greek and Roman mythology to second and third-graders at Heninger Elementary in Santa Ana. The students would write about the characters but also tell their own stories through the narrative structure of the mythology.
“I basically got trained on it and developed a program evaluation framework for her to collect data, measure effectiveness and improve outcomes for the students. I was amazed. She was taking the humanities—the concepts I was exposed to in college—to these young kids in Santa Ana. Again, I thought, she walks her talk. And that really reinforced for me the importance of early education and taking the humanities out to the places you would least expect,” says Rodríguez.
This is where the student becomes the teacher—having been nearly rejected from every college he applied to, Rodríguez now had a B.A. and M.S. and later earned a Ph.D. in urban geography from USC. In 2006, he joined California State University, Long Beach and has been a faculty member of Chicano and Latino Studies ever since. He currently serves as board president of the non-profit Delhi Center and as vice president on the Santa Ana Unified School District Board of Education. These roles allow him to be an advocate for early education and to provide internships and service-learning for college students similar to the ones Lupton modeled for him.
“I look back on that special action admission letter and I never thought I’d achieve what I did. That was an opportunity given to someone who otherwise would not have had access and I think that’s the power of public education and the essence of my experience at UCI,” Rodríguez says.
Beach Scholarships Important dates:
Spring 2018-19 Applications Open: November 1, 2018 to February 15, 2019
CSU System Wide Scholarships Open: February to April
For the Maria Pacho Scholarship, please visit the following link: https://csulb.academicworks.com/opportunities/4031
Conquest? What Conquest?
Linguistics Celebrates UNESCO International Mother Language Day Feb 21
CalRep’s “Dreamers” gives perspective on DACA
CalRep’s “Dreamers” gives perspective on DACA
The play draws from real life experiences to tell a larger story of DACA recipients…
By Samantha Diaz, CSULB Daily 49er Arts and Life Editor • February 18, 2018
Following the lives of a group of students, “Dreamers: Aqui y Alla,” gives an insider perspective of growing up as a DACA recipient under the Trump administration. Photo: courtesy of Keith Ian Polakoff.
True accounts were brought to stage in “Dreamers: Aqui y Alla” to explore today’s political and social climate of being a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipient. California Repertory Company’s latest play, directed by Andrea Caban and Julie Granata-Hunicutt, follows a handful of DACA recipients through their struggles living under President Donald Trump’s administration.
The play was made in collaboration with the California-Mexico Studies Center to create an authentic retelling of student’s experiences of visiting their home country and seeing their family, then returning back to the United States.
The story begins with a group of Deferred Action recipients learning about the program and what it could mean for them; the chance to legally work, being able to attain an ID and driver’s license. We see the joy and excitement in each character’s lives as they consider their life in a new light. The emotion is quick to falter, as they realize the amount of paperwork they have to come up with and the daunting hoops they have to jump through to even be considered for the program. This gives us a glimpse into the reality of being a dreamer that is often brushed under the figurative rug.
The play spends a significant amount of time establishing this reality, showing the audience the lengthy application process and fees, the characters having to notify their employer of their status and the emotional toll it takes on each individual. Most of the students are excited about their prospective changes, but one man named Francisco expresses his fear to the lawyer about giving all of his information to the U.S. government.
While these issues are presented, actors recite passages from actual Deferred Action recipients about their experience with the bill, weaving in these real accounts with those acted out on the stage.
The play travels through years and presidencies, giving us a perspective on what it’s like to be a Deferred Action recipient through the constantly changing political landscape.
We see more of an intersection between the story and reality as the characters embark on a trip to Mexico to visit their family using the Advanced Parole system, drawing directly from actual trips taken by the California-Mexico Studies Center, which worked with CalRep to produce the play. The parole system allows dreamers to travel to return to the U.S. after travelling abroad.
The bulk of the story is taken up by this journey as we follow the students travelling across the border, and the respective struggles each person deals with as a result. One woman is meeting her father for the first time, another visiting her mother who lives in poverty, realizing there’s nothing she can do to help her.
This also provides the emotional drive for the play, as we watch families reunite and come to terms with their situation. You can hear the quiet sniffles of the students slowly realize that this unfamiliar place is their home as well as America. They belong here and there; aqui y alla.
After spending time with their families, it’s time to make the trek back across the border. We feel the fear and anxiety as the room is flooded with sounds of metal detectors and men shouting orders. This comes to a climax when one of the students is taken into a separate process where she is interrogated and moved around while her peers must wait in uncertainty.
There seems to be a glimpse of hope once the students return to their families. They have a new sense of cultural appreciation and belonging, they feel as though they’ve discovered a new part of themselves. This feeling is cut short when a sound bite of the news of Trump formally announcing the end of DACA – which happened just Tuesday night – is played, and the students have a new fear to face.
Rather than focusing on the bad news, the play makes the choice to call the audience to action, telling them what steps they can take in the next couple of months to make a difference. One woman declares, “they call us dreamers, as if that’s all we’re ever supposed to do, but at some point action needs to follow.”
The call to action is presented in a less conventional method, we take a momentarily leave from the characters and are taken to a town hall meeting with U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal. Here we watch the audience ask Lowenthal questions about the fate of the bill and what we can do to help as Californians. He claims that although we are a largely blue state, we will be the battleground for the DACA fight in the upcoming months, and urges the audience to volunteer in any way possible.
We never truly return to the characters and their stories — because it’s still taking place. Three of the actors explain that they went on the actual trip to Mexico with the Deferred Action recipients, saw their experiences and pain as “privileged individuals who were born here [America].” The audience is hit with the realization that this story goes beyond the small theater; the lives that are affected by this bill are people who sit with us in classrooms and plays, people who act in those plays.
The breaking of the fourth wall presents an effective way of humanizing the issue of DACA, showing us that each of these stories — 800,000 across the nation — are more than statistics, it’s different for every person.
The play makes it a point not to come back to the character’s stories, emphasizing that these lives are still hanging in the balance dependent upon votes and political decisions.
The creative stage decisions bring together all the details of the play by making the characters and issue stand out more than the setting and costumes. A mostly empty stage is brought to life by a few dozen boxes the actors rearrange throughout the play to accommodate each scene.
“Dreamers” is a rare breed of media that uses the perspective and experiences from Deferred Action recipients to create a moving conversation, one that is nowhere near finished.
“Dreamers” will be playing at the Cal State Long Beach Studio Theater through Feb. 25. There will be an Inside Look with the collaborators Feb. 22 following the show.