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Author discusses Latino awareness

Anneliese Woolford | Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Author Maria Melendez spoke Monday at Saint Mary’s College in the first in a series of events scheduled by the College throughout October in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Several Saint Mary’s organizations scheduled the events to recognize the College’s Latina population and heighten cultural awareness on campus

Melendez, visiting writer and Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership fellow, discussed aspects of her Chicana background in her presentation, titled “Chicana Falsa: Rebellion Against Tradition in Contemporary Chicana Poetry.” The lecture was sponsored by La Fuerza, the College’s Latina student organization.

According to Terri Johnson, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually at Saint Mary’s. In past years, Johnson has noticed an increase in the number of Latina students enrolled at the College. She said the number now appears to have stabilized.

Lety Verduczo, president of La Fuerza, said Melendez was chosen to speak primarily because of her credible experience and literary work.

“We knew she was doing a lot with Chicana literature,” Verduczo said.

Melendez, who was raised by a Mexican-American father and Anglo mother, first learned of the term “Chicano” while pursuing an undergraduate degree at Colorado State.

“I was grateful for the guidance of other Chicano students and professors in helping me to feel, as a young adult, that I was not alone in my efforts to integrate a bi-cultural childhood into a mature adult identity,” Melendez said.

Becoming exposed to a variety of Chicano authors led Melendez to discover a common bond with other American-born individuals of Mexican descent.

“I’ve been a fan of Chicano literature ever since and have noticed, as both a reader and a writer, that Chicana writers in particular remain underrepresented in all levels of American literary publishing,” she said.

A component of her discussion Monday included various perspectives on modern Chicana poetry, informing the audience with an understanding of their position – one she faced not long ago herself.

Gaining inspiration from other authors and her cultural identity, Melendez said she focuses her writing on Chicana issues and on environmental issues pertinent to larger society. She hopes that, someday, the ethnic perspectives of Hispanics and other minority groups will find their way into mainstream academia.

“The first step is reminding people that we’re here, here in substantial numbers, and that we have a tremendous amount of cultural richness within our own traditions,” she said.

The Hispanic Heritage Month event at Saint Mary’s will be a lecture presented by author Stella Pope Duarte next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Carroll Auditorium.

The Hispanic Heritage Month closure is slated to take place Oct. 14 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Carroll Auditorium. A bilingual Mass will be held Oct. 15 at 9 p.m. in LeMans Hall Chapel. At the Mass, a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be blessed before its final placement in the chapel.