Home >> News >> 700


Printer-friendly version
An interview with Associate Professor Ana Patricia Rodriguez as Latino Heritage Month comes to an end.
Q: What are some contributions to the UMD campus by the Latino community?

Associate Professor Ana Patricia Rodriguez: The Latino community has made many contributions to UMD over the last decades.  Latin@ students on campus provide valuable services to the university and the outlying communities. Latin@ students regularly tutor, mentor, and visit schools. They give countless hours of volunteer time to local organizations such as CARECEN (Central American Resource Center), CASA de Maryland, clinics, schools, community centers, and other public services.

On campus, they participate in student organizations like the Latino Student Union (LSU), Student Government Association (SGA), and a host of others. They provide peer mentoring to one another through La Familia, the only peer-mentoring program on campus. In 2007 and 2008, Latin@ students, staff, faculty, and their allies mobilized to support the founding of the U.S. Latina/o Studies minor, the first of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Now, we have a thriving U.S. Latina/o Studies program housed in the American Studies Department. An almost invisible Latin@ community of workers in facilities management, dinning, and housekeeping, of course, keeps the university running, day-in-day out. I truly believe that Latin@s are an important part of the foundation of the University of Maryland.

Q: What are some of your contributions?

Associate Professor Ana Patricia Rodriguez: Over the last 13 years that I have been at UMD, I have been at the ground level of building Latina/o Studies at UMD. I was one of the first faculty hired to teach U.S. Latina/o Literature and Culture because the Department of Spanish and Portuguese had the vision, in 1998, to support the creation of U.S. Latina/o Studies at UMD. It would take almost a decade, in 2007 and 2008, for the U.S. Latina/o minor to be finally approved by the Administration. Also, under the old GenEd program, I regularly taught Spanish 223 U.S. Latina/o Cultures, the first core class focused entirely on U.S. Latina/o content.


I've also developed a number of Latin@ and Central American content courses in the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, and in the U.S. Latina/o Studies Program. I've mentored and advised many students with special interests in Latin@ and Central American issues. Many of them have gone on to work in local service organizations like CASA de Maryland, CARECEN, Identity, among others, as well as schools, businesses, government, and other entities.


In research, I've published work on local Latinidades in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area, especially focusing on Central American migration and presence in the region. I've collaborated with various groups, including other area universities, the Smithsonian Institution, Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., the National Park Service, etc. I've been happy to develop partnerships with organizations and local artists that have materialized into collaborative, community-based research projects such as the performance of "Los 30" by Quique Avilés, for which my students in Spanish and USLT collected, transcribed, and wrote oral histories of Latina/o immigrants in the metropolitan area, as well as "Latinia, UMD," another performance collaboration between Avilés and my students. For "Latinia, UMD," my USLT students produced videos, prezis, and live performance pieces based on the narratives of their lives.  Over 160 people attended the May 5, 2011, performance of "Latinia, UMD," including 50 students from Lewisdale Elementary School, who were part of a larger outreach program.


I've also developed with students a D.C. Latino Tour (with both bus and virtual components) of Latino contributions, landmarks, and sites in and around the metropolitan area, which the NPS is offering as part of its Hispanic Heritage Month programming in October 2011.

Q: Is there a contribution that you are particularly proud of that
you can describe for us?

Associate Professor Ana Patricia Rodriguez: I am most proud of the collaboration projects I've developed for students with local U.S. Salvadoran artist and activist Quique Avilés. In particular, a highlight of my work at UMD has been the production of "Los 30," a collaborative project involving the collection of oral histories of Latino immigrants in the metropolitan area produced by my students and incorporated by Avilés into his performance of "Los 30" at UMD, Gala Theatre, and D.C. Arts Center in 2010.  "Los 30" refers to the 30 years of official migration of Salvadorans to the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area, from 1980 to 2010. The oral history student project was a means to document this history that is little known to most people, although Salvadorans are the largest Latino group in the metropolitan region. As a person born in El Salvador and raised in the United States and whose research specializes on the Central American diaspora in the United States, I am personally and scholarly invested in this project and continue to work on documenting the narratives of Salvadorans and other Latin@s in the United States. For "Los 30," my students and I not only worked with Avilés, but also we were trained in oral history methods by Dr. Olivia Cadaval, a Folklorist and Curator with the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution.

Q: Why is Latino Heritage Month important for UMD and the surrounding community?

Associate Professor Ana Patricia Rodriguez: Latino Heritage Month is important for UMD and the surrounding community because it recognizes the historical presence of Latin@s in the United States, dating back to the 1513, when Ponce de León explored what is now Florida. It is amazing that in the 21st century, Latin@s are still perceived by the mainstream as "foreigners," when people tied to the Spanish-speaking world have inhabited the continental territory of the U.S. since the 16th Century. The Month recognizes not only their long-lasting presence in U.S. territory, but moreover their continued contributions to the United States today.

Q: How does it feel to have been recognized for your contribution to the UMD community with the La Raza award?

Associate Professor Ana Patricia Rodriguez: I am honored to be recognized with La Raza award especially because it is an award coming from students.



Date of Publication: 
Tuesday, September 25, 2012