Is Media the Basis of Democracy or Hegemony? Toward a More Nuanced Understanding of Newspapers, and Television as Primary Sources in Latinx History

Endorsed by the Immigration and Ethnic History Society (IEHS)

Friday, April 16, 2021, 3:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Type: Panel Discussion

Tags: Immigration and Internal Migration; Latino/a; Media and Communications


The free press has long been considered crucial in sustaining democracy by keeping Americans informed. Nonetheless, media outlets have often held divergent messages about democracy and the inclusion of people of color in American society. This panel considers how historians working on themes around Mexican American and Latinx histories locate and analyze understudied newspapers, alternative publications, and Spanish-language television reporting. It will also discuss different media forms as primary sources can fill in historical gaps, and ponder as well how those sources can complicate our understanding of key historical periods in Mexican American history.

Session Participants

Chair: Shana Bernstein, Northwestern University
Shana Bernstein is Clinical Associate Professor of Legal Studies and American Studies, and Director of the American Studies Program at Northwestern University. After receiving her Ph.D. in history at Stanford she held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Latinx Studies at Northwestern University before joining Southwestern University’s history department as an Assistant, and later Associate, Professor. She is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians and has received grants and fellowships from institutions including the Mellon Foundation, the Huntington Library, the Stanford Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History, among others. Her first book, Bridges of Reform: Interracial Civil Rights Activism in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles (Oxford University Press, 2011), reinterprets U.S. civil rights activism by revealing its roots in the interracial efforts of Mexican, Jewish, African, and Japanese Americans in mid-century Los Angeles, and showing how the early Cold War facilitated, rather than derailed, some forms of activism. She has published articles including in the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, the Pacific Historical Review, and the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal. Bernstein is currently working on a book, Strawberry Fields Forever? A Consumer, Worker, and Environmental History of the Most Toxic, Profitable, and Unsustainable Crop in America

Panelist: Jorge N. Leal, University of California, Riverside
Jorge N. Leal is a cultural and urban historian whose research examines how transnational youth cultures have reshaped Southern California Latina/o/x communities in the late twentieth century. He received his B.A. in Journalism & History and M.A. in History at California State University, Northridge. Dr. Leal earned his doctorate in U.S. History at UC San Diego.
Dr. Leal is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar and Teaching Fellow in the History and the American Studies and Ethnicity Departments at the University of Southern California.

Panelist: Alina R. Mendez, University of Washington
Alina R. Méndez specializes in Mexican American history with a focus on migration, labor, and relational racial formation. She received her PhD in US History from UC San Diego and BA in Latin American History from UC Berkeley. Her dissertation, titled “Cheap for Whom? Migration, Farm Labor, and Social Reproduction in the Imperial Valley-Mexicali Borderlands, 1942-1969,” was the recipient of the 2018 Chancellor’s Dissertation Award for the Division of Arts and Humanities at UC San Diego and the 2019 Herbert G. Gutman Prize for Outstanding Dissertation from the Labor and Working-Class History Association. Dr. Méndez is currently revising her dissertation into a book manuscript. Her research has received support from the Ford Foundation, the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, the Fulbright Program, the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States, and the Archie Green Fund for Labor Culture and History.

Panelist: Carlos Francisco Parra, University of Southern California
Carlos Francisco Parra is a doctoral student in the University of Southern California’s Department of History where he is researching the development of Spanish-language TV in metropolitan Los Angeles in the latter twentieth century. Broadly speaking Parra’s research focuses on the cultural, political, and economic development of the U.S.-Mexican border as well as the formation of Latina and Latino identities in the borderlands. Prior to his doctoral work, he attended the University of Arizona (B.A. in Secondary Education) and the University of New Mexico (M.A. in History) and also served as a public high school history teacher in his home community in Nogales, Arizona.