Chicano/Latino Studies: A department engaged with the community

By Rafael Tarrago

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month — which runs from September 15 through October 15 each year — we are highlighting the University of Minnesota’s Department of Chicano Studies. The department was born in 1971, following a 1970 demonstration by Hispanic students, who demanded its creation so that courses on history and culture from a Chicano world view would be taught. 

At the time of the protests, the Hispanic population in Minnesota was small but growing.  For example, five years after the demonstration, there were 18,000 Mexicans settled in Minnesota — up from 7,000 50 years earlier, according to They Chose Minnesota, a population history of the state. 

As of 2010 there were 249,284 Mexican-descent Chicanos and Latin American-descent Latinos in Minnesota. The Minnesota State Demographic Center projects this will increase to 551,600 by 2035.

One of the oldest Chicano Studies departments

Today, the Chicano and Latino Studies Department — renamed in 2012 to reflect changing demographics both locally and nationally — is recognized as one of the oldest Chicano Studies departments in the United States and has a growing faculty and a solid program. Chicano Studies faculty throughout the years have contributed scholarly articles and books to the literature in Chicano history and racial and cultural theory.

Over the years, the department has continually demonstrated its commitment to working with the community that is its subject of study: Chicanos and Latinos in the University community and in the state at large.

For example, staff members in the department support CASA SOL, a cohort of first year Chicano/Latino students living together in one residence hall, taking departmental studies classes fall and spring, and creating a community based on their lives as Latino students.

The department also has long been a key organizer and/or supporter of PASO AL FUTURO — a bilingual, bicultural celebration of those students when they graduate.

The Department of Chicano and Latino Studies fosters student engagement with the Chicano/Latino community outside the University with community engaged courses that bring students into the community as partners. One such course is the Migrant Farmworkers course.

UMN students, community partners working together

Through the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies, University of Minnesota students work with community partners at many levels. Some of these partners are:

  • The Academia Cesar Chavez in St Paul’s East Side, a K-8 charter school
  • El Colegio in South Minneapolis, a 9-12 charter school, and
  • The Hiawatha Academy network of five charter schools in South Minneapolis. All have majority Latino enrollment.

These U of M students travel to these schools to tutor or work on specific projects or programs. In addition, students from the partner schools come to campus to learn about higher education and about Chicano/Latino history and identity.

Mira mi Corazon is an annual scholarship fundraiser and community gathering organized by the Department of Chicano/Latino Studies and El Colegio, bringing together faculty and staff, students, families, and community partners.

More information about Chicano Studies

In 2008, the University Archives created a Department of Chicano Studies Archive where reports, programs of events, flyers, and other ephemera related to the organization and activities of the department are preserved. 

For more information about this department or to find Chicano/Latino resources from the Libraries, please contact Rafael Tarrago at r-tarr@umn.edu

2 COMMENTS

  1. Can I ask how a public institution of education funded by all taxpayers is justified in singling out a particular ethnicity/culture for recognition and special, exclusive treatment?

    And, if the “U” thinks this is justifiable, when are we slated to have Jewish Heritage Month, European Heritage Month and Asian Heritage Month?

    • The article highlights the University of Minnesota’s Chicano Studies department, one of the oldest academic departments of Chicano Studies in the United States. The University of Minnesota has a great number of academic departments, including African American and African Studies, American Studies, American Indian Studies, Jewish Studies, Religious Studies, and many more.

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