Women’s History Month!

This month is Women’s History Month. Like Black History Month, women’s history should not be understood as a separate part of the history of the Americas but as a vital part, one that – if missing – would leave the canvas blank. We should always strive to elevate the voices and experiences of women. The LAII K-12 Outreach Team has created relevant educational content we encourage you to explore this month and every month!  

We have STEM guides featuring Latina women who have contributed to science, technology, engineering, and math. This includes:  

For all our STEM guides featuring women please visit: https://laii.unm.edu/info/k-12-educators/curriculum/latinxs-in-stem-guides.html

To celebrate Women’s History Month we thought it would be exciting to get to know some of the students who study Latin American Studies here at UNM. We conducted interviews to learn more about these brilliant women. Interviews are a great way for students to connect with the world around them and explore their interests. An idea to incorporate Women’s History Month into your classroom is to have students interview influential women in their lives. They can do written interviews or an oral history project where they work to create questions that would bring out the interviewees story in the most interesting way. They can also use this opportunity to think about their own goals and future plans and how they might achieve them. This could take shape as response paper after completing an interview with another person where the student reflects on how they conceive their own experiences brought forth by interviewing others. Following is our first interview and accompanying bio of one of the LAII graduate students. Stay tuned for more to come!

Joselin

Joselin is a MA student in the Latin American Studies program here at UNM. She grew up in LA with her older sisters and her mother who raised her daughters by herself once in the United States. Her family migrated to LA from Guatemala before Joselin was born so she had the unique experience of being the only one in her family born and raised in the United States. Her mother worked relentlessly to support her daughters which often put her older sisters in the roll of care givers.

This exposed Joselin to the diverse people who can and do occupy the position of ‘mother’ as her sisters were there for her in ways her mother was both emotionally and physically. She noticed at a young age that this was different from most of her friends’ families as they often had both father and mother present in a more traditional sense. She grew to appreciate the multiple ways to raise children and the many people who contribute to a child’s upbrining. Her experiences and feelings of pride surrounding her childhood would later inform her research interests.

She was always academically motivated, delighted and invigorated by learning. She was consistently told to work hard and seize the opportunities she had in the United States that she otherwise may not have in Guatemala. When asked how she thinks her educational experience would have been different had her family not migrated to the United States, Joselin responded that in Guatemala she believes she would still have pursued higher education but would have embarked on a more traditional career path such as being an accountant or lawyer. In the United States she had the freedom to branch out and explore her interests in the academy such as anthropology.

Navigating college as a high school student without experienced parents, was daunting and seemed unattainable. Luckily for Joselin her high school, though underfunded, had a wonderful college advisor who helped her and her classmates navigate the admissions process and understand how to fund their education. Upon her advisor’s encouragement she decided to attend Cal State LA where she studied Anthropology. While she experienced some growing pains at first as she wasn’t used to the rigor of a university education, she soon settled in and excelled. At times she was working up to three jobs while taking 5 courses in one semester. Reflecting, she believes her strong work ethic was inherited from her mother who was always working to support her family.

Through an undergraduate fellowship at her university supporting students to pursue tenure track careers and her experience working with two Central American professors who were brother and sister, Joselin was exposed to academia after a bachelors and was motivated and supported in her pursuit of furthering her education. The siblings gave her a glimpse of her potential and showed her that she too had a place in higher education. She applied to a few different PhD and masters programs eventually deciding on an MA in Latin American Studies because she was offered a wonderful financial package attesting to her qualifications and value to the university.

“I’m a firm believer in whatever comes to you is meant for you.”

Her upbringing, both family and the diversity of LA, inspired her to pursue Latin American Studies and to focus on Central American mothering as a research topic. Here at UNM she is a fellow for the Center of Southwest Research where she works on a digitization project for an archive in Mexico City that focuses on post-revolutionary Mexico. She translates the meta data- all the information like key words and descriptions you use when you look things up. She is exposed to older versions of Spanish which is enlightening and difficult at the same time. Her work enables documents from the archive to be accessed remotely worldwide.

Joselin will be graduating this May and has been accepted into two PhD programs. She is deciding between Latino Studies at UC Santa Cruz and American Studies here at UNM. Her goal is to write a book and she believes working on her dissertation will give her the clarity and experience to achieve her dream of publishing her own work. Her focus is the narratives of Central Americans living in the United States. Specifically looking at the settlement experience of Central Americans and the differences between immigration and migration and how they negotiate their new place and ways of being in their new context. This stems from her mother’s experience of negotiating her new place in the US as a Guatemalan woman.

Her advice for young women who want to pursue higher education is to find someone who they can trust and who pushes, encourages, and believes in them. She says hold on tight to those people as they will help you navigate the complexities of higher education especially if you are a first-generation student who may not have the experience and support within your own family. This goes for educators as well, “having the patience to allow you to grow,” is vital according to Joselin. Educators have the power to make real and lasting difference in young women’s lives. Thank you Joselin!

Additional Resources:

We would like to highlight the Smithsonian virtual film festival in honor of Women’s History Month featuring Chilean-American artist Cecilia Vicuña including a “virtual conversation about her work that explores the deep histories, coastal traditions, and the ecology of her homeland of Chile. With Amalia Cordova, Latino curator for digital and emerging media at the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and Saisha Grayson, time-based media curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.” Click here for more information about how to register.  

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