Confronting Crises with Vicki L. Ruiz: The Future of Latina History in Uncertain Times

Thursday, April 20, 2023, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Type: Lightning Round

Tags: Latino/a; Public History and Memory; Women's History


Taking the opportunity of the recent publication of past OAH President Vicki L. Ruiz 's "most influential essays," as published in Latina Lives, Latina History: Influential Essays by Vicki Ruiz (Routledge, 2021), this proposed lightning session focuses on the past, present, and, most significantly, the “Future of Latina history in Uncertain Times.” Given Ruiz’s focus on Latina history, we believe that Los Angeles is the ideal space in which to assess the impact of her scholarship, for Latinas form part of the largest ethnic and racial group in the City of Angels. In history and contemporary society, Latinas have been, and remain, foundational to the region's early conquest and colonization in the 18th and 19th centuries and, more recently in the 20th century, to the growth and development of its environs as a result of continuous waves of immigration and settlement. No strangers to adversity, they have weathered many crises in their lives, families, and communities, including U.S. conquest in 1848, repatriation in the 1920s and 1930s, and fight for civil rights in the 1960s and 1970s, among other less well-known moments. Primarily of poor and working-class origins, Latinas have also formed an essential backbone to the region’s farm and industrial labor, domestic and service economies, and in volunteer, community-based organizations. As Ruiz has demonstrated, Latinas have worked, too, across ethnic and racial lines on the shopfloor and in public and private spaces. Connections and challenges with other women of color, including African American, Asian American, and Native American, remain fundamental to understanding the diverse histories of these women. Our goal is to identify and discuss how Ruiz's work has shaped emerging scholarship, curriculum, and public histories and propose the ways in which we can integrate the new and future histories into well-entrenched "bodies of knowledge," such as those in the classroom, in public, and in higher education, not only to disrupt outdated and inaccurate histories but also to create and generate usable histories for the future. To discuss the ways in which Vicki Ruiz's work has shaped the field of Latina history and what themes, approaches, and insights still need interrogating and developing at all levels of educational spaces, the session incorporates a diversity of participants, including public historians, community college and state school instructors, and academics of different ranks, from assistants to full professors. To explore how Latinas' lives have intersected with other women of color, panelists also include specialists in Asian American histories as well as American and Ethnic Studies. Finally, given our desire to make this an interactive and iterative process, we plan to spend at least 40 minutes fielding and answering questions. This will allow the panelists the opportunity to engage in timely conversations about Latina history and to network with those interested in the future of the field.

Session Participants

Chair: Miroslava Chávez-García, University of California, Santa Barbara
Miroslava Chávez-García is Professor in the Department of History at UCSB and holds affiliate status in the Chicana/o Studies, Feminist Studies, and Latin American and Iberian Studies. She is currently the Faculty Director of the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program. Author of Negotiating Conquest: Gender and Power in California, 1770s to 1880s (University of Arizona Press, 2004) and States of Delinquency: Race and Science in the Making of California’s Juvenile Justice System (University of California Press, 2012), Miroslava’s most recent book, Migrant Longing: Letter Writing across the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (University of North Carolina Press, 2018), is a history of transnational migration, gender, courtship, and identity as told through more than 300 personal letters exchanged across the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. In 2020, Migrant Longing was named a 2019 Choice Outstanding Academic Title and in 2019 it received the Barbara “Penny” Kanner Award from Western Association of Women’s Historians (WAWH). In 2017, Miroslava also received the Judith Lee Ridge prize for “Migrant Longing, Courtship, and Gendered Identity in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands,” published by the Western History Quarterly in Summer 2016. In the same year, that essay was also awarded the Bolton-Cutter Award from the Western History Association for the best article on Spanish Borderlands history.

Chair: Laura Kathryn Muñoz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Laura K. Muñoz is an assistant professor of History and Ethnic Studies at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She previously held the Joe B. Frantz Associate Professorship of American History at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi—a Hispanic and Minority Serving Institution in her hometown. She is a former National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow and a recent recipient of the American Historical Association’s Gilbert Award for the Best Article on Teaching History for her HEQ essay, “Civil Rights, Educational Inequality, and Transnational Takes on the US History Survey.

Panelist: Emma B. Amador, University of Connecticut
Emma Amador is an Assistant Professor of History and Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. She received her PhD from the University of Michigan, an MA from UConn, and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work focuses on Puerto Rican and U.S. Latina/o/x History with an emphasis on women, gender, and race. She is currently completing her first book, The Politics of Care: Puerto Ricans, Citizenship, and Migration after 1917 (under contract with Duke University Press) which examines struggles for social rights led by Puerto Rican women in the archipelago and its diaspora. The book centers stories of Puerto Rican care workers, including social workers who challenged the US government to provide care to its colonial citizens, migrant domestic workers who organized for labor standards, and mothers on welfare who demanded support and recognition for their reproductive labor. She has published articles in Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas, Modern American History, and International Labor and Working-Class History. Her work has been supported by a Humanities Faculty Fellowship at the UConn Humanities Institute, a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Brown University, a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, and by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.

Panelist: David G. Garcia, University of California Los Angeles
David G. García earned his Ph.D. in U.S. History at UCLA and is Associate Professor in the
UCLA School of Education and Information Studies. He is the author of the award-winning
book, Strategies of Segregation: Race, Residence, and the Struggle for Educational Equality
(University of California Press, 2018), which critically examines a history of racially separate
and unequal schooling for Mexican American and African American students in Oxnard,
California. His research and teaching analyze Chicana/o teatro (theater) as public revisionist
history, the pedagogy of Hollywood’s urban school genre, and Chicana/o educational histories.

Panelist: Felipe Hinojosa, Texas A&M University

Born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, Felipe Hinojosa is Associate Professor of History at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. His research areas include Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies, American Religion, Comparative Race and Ethnicity, and Social Movements. He serves as Director for the Carlos H. Cantu Hispanic Education & Opportunity Endowment at Texas A&M, and is editor for the interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed, and online moderated forum Latinx Talk. His work has appeared in Zócalo Public Square, Western Historical Quarterly, American Catholic Studies, and in multiple edited collections on Latinx Studies. His new book, Apostles of Change: Latino Radical Politics, Church Occupations, and the Fight to Save the Barrio (University of Texas Press, 2021) is set in four major cities (Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Houston) where in 1969 and 1970 Latina/o radicals clashed with religious leaders as they occupied churches to protest urban renewal, poverty, police brutality, and racism.

Panelist: Jane H. Hong, Occidental College
Jane Hong is associate professor of US history at Occidental College, where she specializes in U.S. immigration and engagement with the world. She is the author of Opening the Gates to Asia: A Transpacific History of How America Repealed Asian Exclusion (University of North Carolina Press, 2019). It traces transnational campaigns to repeal U.S. Asian exclusion laws in the context of black civil rights and Asian movements for anticolonial independence during WWII and the early Cold War. Based on research in three countries (US, India, Philippines), the book argues that repeal was part of the price of America’s postwar empire in Asia.

Hong’s current project, under contract with Oxford University Press, uses the history of Asian American evangelicals as a lens to explore intersections of race, religion, and politics since the 1970s. Model Christians, Model Minorities: Asian Americans, Race, and Politics in the Transformation of U.S. Evangelicalism considers how post-1965 Asian immigration has changed U.S. evangelical institutions and politics. Using archival research and close to 100 oral history interviews, it charts how Asians and Asian Americans have changed Christian higher education, parachurch organizations, church denominations, national evangelical organizations, and faith-based political lobbies. In so doing, the book connects two developments that have reshaped racial and religious politics in America over the past fifty years: the rise of the Religious Right and the demographic transformations resulting from the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act.

Hong serves on the editorial board of the Journal of American History, the executive board of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, and the Gilder-Lehrman Scholarly Advisory Board.
She has led K-12 teacher seminars for the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History (working with Prof. Vicki Ruiz), consulted for television programs including Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and American Idol, and penned op-eds for the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Most recently, Hong appeared in two episodes of the PBS docuseries, Asian Americans. She received her Ph.D. in history from Harvard and her B.A. from Yale.

Panelist: Gaye Theresa Johnson
Gaye Theresa Johnson, currently Associate Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, writes and teaches on race and racism, cultural history, spatial politics, and political economy. Her first book, Spaces of Conflict, Sounds of Solidarity: Music, Race, and Spatial Entitlement in Los Angeles (University of California Press) is a history of civil rights and spatial struggles among Black and Brown freedom seekers and cultural workers in LA. Johnson’s current work includes an edited volume on The Futures of Black Radicalism, co-edited with Alex Lubin, and a single-authored book, These Walls Will Fall: Redefining Freedom in the 21st Century (under contract with University of North Carolina Press). In it, she demonstrates how visual and aural protest art constitute one of the most significant discourses of resistance to twentieth and 21st century anti-immigrant and pro-carceral policy and practices, revealing how expressive cultures enact an alternative narrative history about migration, race, and power.

Johnson has also contributed journal articles and book chapters to historical, cultural studies, and ethnic studies volumes. She has been a visiting researcher at Stanford University’s Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, as well as at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is active with the Los Angeles Community Action Network’s struggle for housing and civil rights on LA’s skid row and is the 2013 recipient of the Freedom Now! Award for her efforts. She is a member of the board of directors for the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) and an advisory board member for the Rosenberg Fund for Children.

Panelist: Victoria-Maria MacDonald, University of Maryland College Park
Victoria-María MacDonald is the author of numerous articles and chapters on the history of Latinx schooling and society, in addition to her foundational book, Latino Education in the History of the U.S.: 1513-2000. One of her latest publications focuses on the access and experiences of Chicanas and higher education in the pre-Civil Rights era. Her latest work, "The United Status of Latinx: 2010–2020 Remix," appears in the tenth Anniversary edition of The Latino Handbook of Education. Professor MacDonald's current project in Latinx history focuses on the role and response of staff from the U.S. Civil Rights Commission (USCRC) as intermediary between Mexican American and Puerto Rican activists' demands and the White House under Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon, 1962-1973. Dr. MacDonald has also recently donated her time to the National Archives and Records Administration, building its online Latinx History guide and presenting webinars and blogs on accessing Latinx primary sources, receiving the Weidman Award in 2020 in recognition of her contributions.
Professor MacDonald received her degrees from Wellesley College and Harvard University in American History and Education and received a postdoctoral fellowship from the Spencer Foundation. During her career she has received numerous awards for her innovation in teaching undergraduate and graduate students, and dedication to launching twenty-one Ph.D. students into the fields of education, policy, and leadership. Her COVID time has been refreshed with the exuberance of a bilingual Chocolate Labrador named “Latte Chocolate,” her husband whom she met at the National Archives Reading Room, and mostly virtual communication with her three “graduate student babies,” now in their thirties.

Panelist: Kenneth Hearne Marcus, University of LaVerne
Kenneth Marcus is Professor of History at the University of La Verne, where he teaches courses in European and American history, world history, and history methods. He earned his B.A. in history at the University of California, Berkeley; an M.B.A. from the École Supérieure de Commerce de Paris, France; and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Cambridge, UK. He specializes in the field of 20th century U.S. cultural history and has published four books: Schoenberg and Hollywood Modernism (Cambridge University Press, 2016), Musical Metropolis: Los Angeles and the Creation of a Music Culture, 1880-1940 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), The Politics of Power: Elites of an Early Modern State in Germany (Philipp von Zabern, 2000) and an edited collection of writings by his mother, Laura Marcus, titled Inside the Caltech Community (CPC-West, Collegiate Press, 2019). Dr. Marcus has published over 50 articles, encyclopedia entries, and book reviews. His articles have appeared in The Pacific Historical Review, Southern California Quarterly, American Music, Journal of African American History, California History, Journal of the Society of American Music, History Compass, Journal of the West, The Sixteenth Century Journal, and German History.

Dr. Marcus has worked in a variety of multimedia, notably as a performer and composer on guitar, keyboards and vocals for recordings of music for the classroom, and as a producer of two collections of historical recordings: Musical Metropolis: Los Angeles and the Creation of a Music Culture, 1880-1940 compiled by Grammy Award-winner Lance Bowling, and Music of California and the West by the Arias Troubadours. Dr. Marcus served as historian and co-producer of two mini-documentaries, The Arias Troubadours: A Musical Dynasty, which aired on PBS, and The Ramona Pageant: Myth, History and Community. He recorded a podcast, “Public Health and the Memory of Internment” on WWII Japanese-American internment camps for the OAH Podcast series, Intervals, which aired on July 7, 2021.

He is the recipient of two Fulbright awards: Fulbright Senior Fellow in Cultural Studies at the International Research Center for Cultural Studies in Vienna, Austria in 2021-22 and Fulbright Senior Professor in American Culture at Leiden University, the Netherlands in 2013. He was an NEH Fellow at The Huntington Library in summer 2008 and a Research Fellow at The Huntington Library in the summers of 2001 and 2002. Other grants he has received for his research include an NEH Summer Seminar at Stanford University and an NEH Summer Institute at The Huntington Library, awards from the James Irvine Foundation and the John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation, and a fellowship at the Institut für Europäische Geschichte in Mainz, Germany. He is past-Director of the International Studies Institute at the University of La Verne (2002-13), Chair of the International Studies program (2013-19), and President of the Historical Society of Southern California (2014-17). Dr. Marcus was Section Editor, 20th and 21st Century North America, for the online journal, History Compass (published by Wiley-Blackwell Press) from 2007 to 2016.

Panelist: Sarah McNamara, Texas A&M University
Sarah McNamara is Assistant Professor of History and affiliated faculty in the Latina/o, Mexican American Studies Program at Texas A&M University. McNamara’s research focuses on Latinx, women and gender, immigration, and labor histories in the modern United States. Her first book, Ybor City: Crucible of the Latina South, follows migrant, immigrant, and US-born Latinas, from the Caribbean and the Americas, who collided in the Cuban community of Ybor City and Tampa, Florida. Over two generations, these women organized against fascism and combatted Jim Crow to create an internationalist vision of Latinx rights. McNamara’s book examines the South as a borderland where gender and sexuality played a central role in the (re)making of race, community, region, and nation. Ybor City is forthcoming with University of North Carolina Press in spring 2023. McNamara has received support from the American Historical Association, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, the American Association of University Women, and others.

Panelist: Mark Anthony Ocegueda, Brown University
Mark Ocegueda is currently an Andrew W. Mellon Gateway Fellow at Brown University where he will transition to assistant professor of history in 2022. His research and teaching specializations include Latinx History, Mexican American History, Labor, Race, Ethnicity, Recreation, and Public History. His current book project examines the development of Mexican American communities in Southern California’s Inland Empire. In particular, he emphasizes the City of San Bernardino’s Mexican American community, revealing its significance toward understanding the historical development of civil rights, race, urban renewal, culture, and labor in California.
Prior to joining Brown University, Ocegueda was assistant professor of Mexican American History at California State University, Sacramento from 2017-19 and the César Chávez Postdoctoral Fellow from 2019-20 in the Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies program at Dartmouth College.

Panelist: Juily Phun
Dr. Juily Phun is a multiethnic refugee from Vietnam, better known as the "boat people." She grew up in the San Gabriel Valley; in the cities of Monterey Park, Rosemead, and San Gabriel. She began her education at Rio Hondo Community College and received her BA in history from the University of California, San Diego (2000) and an MA in history from California State University, Los Angeles (2006). She completed her dissertation entitled “Contours of Care: the Influenza Pandemic, Public Health, and the Asian American Community in Los Angeles, 1918-1941” from the University of California, Irvine (2016) under Chicana historian, Dr. Vicki Ruiz. Dr. Phun has been a high school teacher in the San Gabriel Valley and an educator for over twenty years. She is now part of the inaugural faculty hired in Asian/Asian American Studies and was on the steering committee to establish the second College of Ethnic Studies. She considers teaching and service learning as an integral component of her education and research. To this end, her community activism has helped create nine food justice/California native gardens in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. She is also the founder and director of the Asian American Oral History Archive at Cal State LA. Juily Phun’s research implicates the importance of public health and medicine as a crossroads for discussions of belonging, exclusion, and contention. Her work on race and gender also examines the role of the state, the body, communities, and immigration.

Panelist: Vicki L. Ruiz, University of California Irvine
Vicki L. Ruiz is Distinguished Professor Emerita of History and Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine. A first generation college-bound student, she received her PhD in History from Stanford University in 1982. An award-winning scholar and educator, she is the author of Cannery Women, Cannery Lives and From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth- Century America and co-author of Created Equal: A History of the United States. She and Virginia Sánchez Korrol co-edited the three-volume Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia, which received a 2007 “Best in Reference” Award from the New York Public Library. Over the course of her career, Ruiz has participated in numerous public history and community engagement programs, including Arizona State’s Hispanic-Mother Daughter Program. From 2007-2012, she served as Dean of the School of Humanities at UC Irvine. In 2012 Professor Ruiz was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Directing twenty-seven dissertations, she has mentored four generations of graduate students from UC Davis, Claremont Graduate School, Arizona State, and UC Irvine. The National Women’s History Project named her a 2015 Honoree in recognition of her scholarship. Ruiz has also received a lifetime achievement award from the Immigration and Ethnic History Association and the OAH Rosenzweig Award for distinguished service. She is past president of the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association. On September 10, 2015, she received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama.

Panelist: Sarah A. Seekatz, San Joaquin Delta College
Sarah Seekatz received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside with a focus on Public History and California History. Her research on Southern California’s date industry and its orientalist fantasies explores connections to agricultural imperialism, American Orientalism, cultural appropriation, boosterism, farm labor, agritourism, and food marketing. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the Autry National Center, The Huntington Library, and the UC California Studies Consortium. Seekatz has been featured on CNN, NPR, Al Jazeera America, Atlas Obscura,, The Gastropod Podcast, National Geographic’s blog The Salt, and in Eden, the Journal of the California Garden & Landscape History Society. Her book, Images of America: Indio’s Date Festival, hit shelves in February 2016.Her research interests have also explored the intersections of eugenics and agricultural imperialism at the USDA, Latinx histories in California’s Coachella Valley, living history at the California missions, and the Southern California desert’s roll in WWII military training.

Previously, she directed the Mexican American “Pioneer” Project at the Coachella Valley History Museum (curating exhibits, collecting archival materials, and conducting oral histories) and worked as an intern in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’s Latino Collection. In addition to teaching she serves as a historical adviser for the public radio project: California Foodways.

As a Professor of History at San Joaquin Delta College, Sarah Seekatz is co-chair of the History and Ethnic Studies Department and the chairperson of both the Cultural Awareness Program and Latinx Heritage Month Committee. She also serves on the Women’s History Month Committee. Seekatz is a proud member of the La Raza Employees Association and the Undocumented Student Allies, as well as the Chair of the Student Empowerment and Cultural Events Committee of the Chicanx/ Latinx Faculty Task Force. She teaches Mexican American and U.S. History, including dual enrollment courses.

Panelist: Carmen Teresa Whalen, Williams College
Carmen Teresa Whalen is the Carl W. Vogt '58 Professor of History and Professor of Latina/o/x Studies at Williams College, where she has also served as Chair of the Latinx Studies Program and as the Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Her teaching embraces Latinx Studies as a comparative, transnational, and interdisciplinary field of study. Her first book, From Puerto Rico to Philadelphia: Puerto Rican Workers and Postwar Economies, explores the causes of Puerto Rican migration in the post-World War II era, with attention to colonialism, globalization, state policies and individuals’ agency, in their gendered dimensions. She is also the co-editor of The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Historical Perspectives, with Víctor Vázquez Hernández, for which she wrote the introductory and concluding chapters. Embracing a comparative approach to Latinx Studies, she co-edited a collection of critical essays and primary documents, Major Problems in Latina/o History, with Omar Valerio-Jiménez. Currently, she is working on her book-length project on Puerto Rican women and New York City’s garment industry in the post-World War II era.