The University of Iowa

The Latino Midwest

September 20th, 2012

The Latino Midwest

Symposium takes a look at the history, education, literature, art, and civil rights struggles of Latinos in the Midwest

By Kelli Andresen for Iowa Now

While food, culture, and music are the most visible manifestations of Latinos’ presence in the Midwest, their influence in the region is more widespread but less known. Latino workers have harvested the region’s crops, manufactured its industrial goods, and processed its livestock. Moreover, Latino business owners have rejuvenated abandoned downtowns, while students have increased enrollments and diversified schools.

The contributions of Latinos to the nation’s heartland are the focus of The Latino Midwest, the 2012-13 University of Iowa Obermann-International Programs Humanities symposium. This interdisciplinary conference will examine the history, education, literature, art, and civil rights struggles of Latinos in light of the demographic changes experienced by Midwestern states with growing Latino populations.

“People often think of Latinos as recent immigrants to the Midwest,” says Omar Valerio-Jiménez, associate professor of history and symposium co-director, “but Latinos have been in the region since the late nineteenth century. The symposium will showcase Latinos’ long history in the Midwest and highlight their dramatic population growth, increasing political clout, and crucial economic contributions.”

The main symposium takes place Oct. 11-13 and will include panels, lectures, performances, and literary readings. The Latino Midwest is organized by three faculty members in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Claire Fox, associate professor of English and Spanish and Portuguese, whose teaching and research interests include the literature and arts of the Americas; Valerio-Jiménez, who is currently working on a study of Latinos in early 20th-century Iowa that explores acculturation, labor, and gender relations; and Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez, assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese, a Chicano writer, and member of the creative writing section in Spanish whose current research focuses on literature and art from the U.S./Mexico borderlands.

Related events extend beyond the main symposium. All of the events, with the exception of the Lila Downs concert, are free and open to the public.

For a list of related events and more information, visit Iowa Now.