November 14, 2008

1st Annual Latina Feminism Lecture at UCSD

By Olivia Puentes-Reynolds

The 1st Annual Gracia Molina de Pick Latina Feminism Lecture was presented at UCSD last week. It was attended by 80 students, faculty and community members and presented by UCSD’s Chicano/a-Latino/a Arts & Humanities (CLAH) Program, and co-sponsored by the Cross-Cultural Center and Women’s Center. It was held on Thursday, November 6, 2008 at the new Cross-Cultural Center. Funding for the event is from Gracia Molina de Pick’s Endowment to the CLAH Program, UCSD, to provide annual funding for similar lectures and events in perpetuity.

The lecture presented by Dr. Dionne Espinoza was titled, “Out of the Movement Kitchen: Women’s Activism in Chicano Movement Organizations and the Rise of Chicana Feminisms”. Dr. Espinoza is an Associate Professor of Chicano/a and Liberal Studies at Cal State University, Los Angeles.


Pictured from left to right Olivia Puentes-Reynolds, Gracia Molina de Pick, and Dr. Dionne Espinoza

Before the lecture began, Dr. Mariscal eloquently introduced Professor Gracia Molina de Pick, identifying her as a central figure in all subject areas of the Chicano Social and Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s. Gracia Molina de Pick is well-known nationally and locally as a feminist advocating for women’s equality, and she is also known for championing numerous humanitarian causes, civil rights, race relations, indigenous communities, worker’s rights, educational reform and labor reform, and she has served as a catalyst for social, economic and political justice.

In her comments Molina de Pick described the impetus for her being a feminist. From the time that she was born she remembered being told that ‘girls could not qualify for certain professions’ that maybe they could be a nurse of a teacher, that everyone decided what girls should be, and that everyone told girls how they should feel’. She shared how that made her feel angry as a child, and how that same message said today still makes her angry. Regarding the event she shared, “I am delighted with this 1st Annual Latina Feminism Lecture, with the brilliant lecturer and scholar, Dr. Dionne Espinoza and with Dr. Jorge Mariscal, an excellent scholar, who has fought to further the telling of the complete story of great people and the history of this nation.”

It is the hope of Gracia Molina de Pick that other able members of the San Diego community and beyond financially contribute to the CLAH Program to insure adequate funds are available for programming. More information regarding UCSD’s CLAH Program can be found on their website, http://minors.ucsd.edu/clah/clah_portal/index.htm, and at (858) 822-4059.

The following are responses to an e-interview with both Professors Mariscal and Espinoza.

What are your impressions of the 1st Annual Latina Feminism Lecture and why do you think it is important?

Dr. Jorge Mariscal: “The first lecture in our annual series was a tremendous success. Attended by dozens of UCSD undergraduates as well as graduate students, staff, and faculty from several colleges in San Diego county, the event reaffirmed the importance of delivering lectures and courses on the history and culture of Latinos in the United States to the UCSD community. The long-standing gap in the UCSD curriculum with regard to research on Chicana/Latina women was filled brilliantly by Dr. Dionne Espinoza.”

Dr. Dionne Espinoza: “It is an incredible moment, the founding of an Endowed lecture series by Mexicana/Chicana activist, Gracia Molina de Pick, who have contributed so much to the Chicano, Women’s and Latina feminist movement. This is the first lecture of its kind that I have heard of in California and possible the nation. The lecture series creates a space to recognize the history of Latina feminisms and also to share the rich scholarship that is being produced to document and analyze Latina feminist perspectives and social movements. I thank Prof. Molina de Pick for making this possible at UCSD and for showcasing the work of Latina activists and scholars. She joins Faustina Solis as one of two major Latina figures whose names are now part of the UCSD community and this offers to students a sense of Latinas as significant community members.”

As academicians does the material have value and why?

Dr. Marsical: “Clearly the study of Chicana/Latina women in the United States is an important and growing area for teaching and research. Dr. Espinoza is one of the few scholars who combines a broad knowledge of women’s history and politics with a specific understanding of Spanish-speaking and indigenous communities.”

Dr. Espinoza: “This is a rich area of study that has only recently begun to be developed more extensively. Many of us do this work out of a combination of passion and scholarly interest but we often do this work without a great deal of support or understanding by others of the significance of Chicana and Latina feminisms. I used to track down these articles as an undergraduate to find evidence and validation of my existence and of the history of Chicana participation in social movement struggles. We need these histories to be available to students.”

What did this event mean to you personally?

Dr. Espinoza: “Personally, it was a tremendous honor to be able to share my research and to inaugurate the series with a focus on the history of Chicana feminism in the Chicano movement. It means so much to be part of a historic new series focusing on Chicana/Latina issues. The students are so interested—and that makes me feel great! I feel blessed to have been witness to two major “moments” in history this week: The election of an African American President and the Inauguration of the Gracia Molina de Pick Latina Feminisms Lecture. I also enjoyed coming back to UCSD and seeing good friends from this community where I was a postdoctoral fellow twelve years ago.”

Dr. Mariscal: “The event had a special meaning because it brought together four generations of Chicana women who are both intellectuals and activists. Gracia Molina de Pick, Olivia Puentes-Reynolds, and Dionne Espinoza represent three generations of commitment to our community. The current UCSD students who attended will carry that torch into the future.”

Dr. Jorge Mariscal is an Associate Director of California Cultures in Comparative Perspective, Department of Literature, UCSD, and the Director and Founding Faculty of UCSD’s CLAH Program. More information is available at http://literature.ucsd.edu/faculty/gmariscal.cfm.

Dr. Dionne Espinoza was raised in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles. She received her Ph.D. in English from Cornell University. She has taught at UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is currently an Associate Professor of Chicano/a and Liberal Studies at Cal State University, Los Angeles. Her research and teaching are centered on the topics of contemporary feminisms, women of color, cultural studies, and Chicano/a-Latin American social movements. She has written widely on these issues and most recently co-authored the anthology “Enriqueta Vasquez and the Chicano Movement: Writings from El Grito Del Norte” (Arte Publico Press, 2006).

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