OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Lydia R. Otero

Portrait of Lydia R. Otero

Lydia R. Otero is an Emeritus Associate Professor in the Department of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona. Their scholarship employs space as an analytical tool to explore urban redevelopment and contested landscapes in Tucson, Arizona related to and legitimized by history and white dominance. They specialize in Public History, Latinx Urbanization and Placemaking in Latinx Communities. Otero’s essays on (Re)claiming Place and History, Heritage Conservation and Collective Memory have appeared in various book anthologies and scholarly journals. In 2011, La Calle: Spatial Conflicts and Urban Renewal in a Southwestern City (2010) won a Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association. It focuses on a 1966 urban renewal project, which targeted the most densely populated 80 acres in Arizona. Although Mexican Americans dominated the renewal area demographically, most of the city’s Asian and African Americans also lived there. In this work, Otero focuses on individual and collective memory, and the power of historical narratives to ensure—or resist—social, cultural, and economic dominance. Building on these themes, Otero released In the Shadows of the Freeway: Growing Up Brown & Queer in 2019 which merges personal memoir and the historical archive. The construction of the I-10 freeway in the early 1950s destroyed residences and became a barrier that served to further disrupt, destroy and segregate Tucson’s barrios. Otero interrogates the environmental racism they witnessed and how it affected residents’ quality of life. For their family and neighbors, its effects were oftentimes lethal, resulting in layers of unresolved intergenerational trauma. Otero is currently serving an advisory appointment as “Historian” for the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission. 

OAH Lectures