Los Angeles. By Douglas Carranza and Beatriz Cortez.
Central American Studies Program at Northridge is under attack because we chose to exercise our first amendment right to express our views that we would like to have a space on our campus to explore not only the cultural and intellectual production of our neighbors to the North but also our neighbors to the South, because Central America is part of Latin America. We were not involved in the formation of the Mexico and Latin America Research Center that was established by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM at our university. In addition, this research center is not an academic program, and will not offer courses, and will not take away anyone’s enrollments and resources. We were invited to the inauguration of this center, as were more than 30 other professors from other departments at our university. The only difference was that we were threatened. We were told that we had to speak against the existence of this center, and if we did not, an article titled Los muertos de hambre would be published against us, as in fact happened. We chose to uphold our right to express our views because we are Latin American and we are committed to maintaining our participation in a Latin American dialogue of equals and not a dialogue where we would be subjects and they would be objects of our studies in absentia. We believe in democratic and civil participation, in the important role that culture, literature, and art play in the formation of identities, in social and cultural struggle, and in diversity. Our Program is of a transnational nature, and we have worked together to turn it into a successful space that has made an impact in the lives of our students, their families, and our community. We understand that this program exists thanks to many generations of students, community organizations, and the support of different departments and programs at our University. We also understand that this program is not what it was when it was first created and it was a small minor with only five courses. Today it is a Bachelor in Central American Studies, the only one of its kind in the United States, it offers 26 different courses and it has 10 professors who specialize in the field and who hold multiple events every semester. This space and our community deserve respect. We, as scholars, also have the right to build a space that reflects the needs and changing demographics of our community, and we do not want to be bullied into renouncing our ideas. More importantly, we appreciate the support and solidarity that we have always received from members of the Chicana/o community, as well as from other departments, colleagues, and the College of Humanities, and we do not wish to be part of a conversation that seeks to turn personal, to divide our communities, or to spread hate. We will continue our work with the same commitment to serve our students and our regional and transnational communities, because this is and has always been our priority.
* Beatriz Cortez is professor and Douglas Carranza is director and professor of Central American studies at California State University, Northridge.