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Latino Studies Are No Minor Matter

Latino Studies Are No Minor MatterAmida diverse and vibrant Latino culture in the United States, Latinostudies programs such as the one at Tufts are growing in popularityand prominence in universities nationwide. Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.10.05] As the Latino population continues to grow –both in the United States and at Tufts – the recent additionof an undergraduate Latinostudies minor at the University speaks to the increased needto educate Latinos about their culture, heritage and history,and to give all students the opportunity to learn more about thecountry’s largest minority group.

“Knowledgeis essential to critical consciousness,” DeborahPacini-Hernández, an associate professor of anthropologyat Tufts and coordinator of the minor program, told The HispanicOutlook In Higher Education.

The Latinostudies program at Tufts seeks to place Latino culture and historyin multiple contexts – something Pacini-Hernándezcalls the “mirror” and the “window.”

“Themirror allows students of Hispanic descent to learn about theirown history and cultural background, while the window is the portalthrough which all students can gain an understanding of the manycomponents of Latino studies and learn about the collective Spanish-Americanhistory of Americans,” Pacini-Hernández told theOutlook.

An officialdescription of the program says that it “allows studentsto emphasize either Latinos' connections with Latin America ortheir location within the U.S. racial and sociopolitical context.”

The interdisciplinaryminor, launched in May 2004, is the first of its sort to be offeredby a private university in the Boston area. According to Hispanicmagazine, which recently ranked Tufts 10th among the top 25 collegesfor Latinos, eight percent of Tufts’ undergraduates areLatinos.

The renewedemphasis on Latino studies at Tufts goes beyond the classroom.

In May, theGreaterBoston Latino Studies Consortium – of which Pacini-Hernándezis the co-coordinator – held its first annual conference,entitled “A Gathering of Voices: Latino Studies and Pedagogiesfor Building Community” at Tufts. More than 100 students,faculty, administrators and members of the Latino community cameto campus to talk about the field and its growing relevance.

The consortium,formed in 2003, involves scholars from local universities includingHarvard, Brandeis, and Northeastern in discussions about organizingLatino studies, networking Latino scholars and better understandingthe surrounding Latino community.

Connectionto the community is an integral part not only of the consortiumbut also the minor. One of the academic requirements is a capstoneexperience that asks students to undertake a project in the Latinocommunity.

“Weshare the idea that our programs need to be responsible to theLatino communities, not just function as an academic enterprise,”Pacini-Hernández told the Outlook.


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