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Vol 56 No. 16 | Dec. 2004
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35 Year AnniversaryChicano and Latino Studies Marks 35 Years

Chicano and Latino Studies (CLS) marks its 35th anniversary at CSULB in 2004 with speakers, events, and a growing awareness of the role of Hispanics in 21st century America.

"This department has always felt the need to be advocates for issues relating to Latinos on this campus," said CLS chair Victor Rodriguez, a member of the university since 2000. "This year, we want to reconnect in a clear way with our past history as scholars and activists." With eight full-time faculty and 120 majors, CLS has grown out of the activist politics of the 1960s to become a window on the Latino experience in the United States. "I see young people wanting to be connected," said Rodriguez. "There is a feeling of alienation among Latinos who may be connected electronically but feel they are disconnected personally. A lot of our students want to make sense of who they are, not by what society has told them but by finding their roots in history and culture."

The department is planning a series of speakers, banquets, and seminars to observe their 35th birthday. UCLA's Juan Gomez Garcia spoke in November in his role as the patriarch of Latino historians. UC Irvine's Vicki Ruiz will discuss the role of women in the Latino labor movement, and the program co-sponsors with Women's Studies two speakers from their "Queer Series" about the role of sexuality in Latino culture. In March 2005, the program will bring to campus sociologist Eduardo Bonilla Silva to discuss the role of Latinos in changing the racial hierarchy of the United States.

"We are trying to bring to the campus a number of speakers who have contributed, from a Latino perspective, to mainstream discourse, not only on Latino experiences, but also what it means to be an American," he said.  

Chicano and Latino Studies also hopes to sustain its ambitious international studies plan that has sent CSULB students over the last three years to Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico. "In fact, we hope in the new year to send a dozen CSULB students to Puerto Rico's Sacred Heart University, a private liberal arts campus founded in 1880, to explore the impact of youth culture, Afro-Caribbean culture on Caribbean Latino identity," he said. "It is part of our effort to offer the Caribbean perspective on politics and immigration."

One reason for the revival in CLS enrollment is the demographic explosion of Latinos in the United States' population. "There might be an impression that the Latino profile exists only in border states such as Texas and California," he explained. "But as I offer anti-racism training series across the country, I have found a large Latin presence in such places as the Cascades School District in the Pacific Northwest, St. Paul, Minn., Nashville, Georgia and North Carolina, which has one of the largest Latino populations in terms of growth."

The ultimate goal of Chicano and Latino Studies at CSULB is to establish the department as an academic and activist community on campus. "This department has had an important impact on CSULB," concluded Rodriguez. "The success of our outreach, our international studies, and our academic research has only encouraged us to reach further."  
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