Image of a mural in Puerto Rico with the inscription "We see our future: It's free of colonizers"

Image: Mural in Puerto Rico. Credit: Colectivo La Puerta

Latinx Studies in the Midwest and Beyond Speaker Series

The Chican@ & Latin@ Studies Program is proud to announce the 2023-2024 Latinx Studies in the Midwest and Beyond speaker series.  Join us for three panels featuring scholars engaged in significant new research on issues of concern for communities of Latin American descent and wider audiences.  There will be ample opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and members of the community to exchange ideas with our presenters.  The series is made possible by the Anonymous Fund and several campus partners.  Each panel will be followed by a brief reception.

Download Feb. 22 Poster

Latinx Labor and Reproductive Justice at the Border and in the Midwest

Thursday, February 22, 2024. 5:00 pm Bascom 55

This panel considers the precarity that Latinx laborers face in the Midwest and the history of cross-ethnic relations among Latinx laborers in Chicago in the context of global and hemispheric neoliberal economies.


Sergio Lemus

Position title: Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Texas A&M University

Sergio Lemus's website

Sociocultural anthropologist Sergio Lemus documents the centrality of labor processes in driving cultural transformations among Mexican migrants and the politico-historical changed that gives rise to a working-class formation—Los yarderos. This research is slated to be published as a book at the University of Illinois Press under Latinos in Chicago and the Midwest series with the title, “Los Yarderos: Mexican Yard Workers in Neoliberal Chicago.” Lemus’ second research project examines the lives of Mexican, working-class immigrants and their cultural experience living with cancer.

Lina María Murillo

Position title: Assistant Professor, Gender & Women's Studies, University of Iowa

Lina María Murillo's website

Dr. Lina-Maria Murillo’s research interests include borderlands, women’s health and reproductive justice, Latina/o/x studies, and social justice movements. She is currently completing her first history manuscript titled Fighting for Control: Reproductive Care, Race, and Power in the U.S-Mexico Borderlands.  Other projects include a study of how “fears of white demographic decline” have translated into a hostile legal and social environment for pregnant women and people in the last two centuries, and a biography of the little-known abortion rights activist Patricia Maginnis, who in the years before Roe v. Wade established an organized abortion network across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Strangers No Longer: An Evening with Sergio González

Thursday, April 4, 5:00 pm, Pyle Center 209

Sergio Gonzalez pictured in front of a muralMarquette University History Professor and UW-Madison alum Sergio González will visit Madison on April 4, 2024 to discuss his new book Strangers No Longer: Latino Belonging and Faith in Twentieth-Century Wisconsin (University of Illinois Press).  The study the relationship between Latino communities, religion, and social movements in the twentieth century Midwest. A prolific author, Dr. González has previously published Mexicans in Wisconsin (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2017) and co-edited Faith and Power: Latino Religious Politics Since 1945 (New York University Press, 2022) with Felipe Hinojosa and Maggie Elmore. His appearance on campus is the final installment of the Chican@ & Latin@ Studies Program’s 2023-2024 speaker series Latinx Studies in the Midwest and Beyond.  

Puerto Rican Studies in the Midwest, Panel I

Wednesday, September 27, 2023. 5:00 pm, Ingraham Hall 206

Our first panel on Puerto Rican studies in the Midwest focuses on Chicago, including the educational experiences of Puerto Ricans in that city, relations between Puerto Ricans and Palestinians, and migration and immigration to the city. Download Poster


Sara Awartani

Position title: Assistant Professor of American Culture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

An interdisciplinary historian, Dr. Awartani’s research, publications, and teaching focuses on twentieth-century U.S. social movements, interracial solidarities, policing, and American global power, with special attention to Latinx and Arab American radicalisms. Her first book project, Solidarities of Liberation, Visions of Empire: Puerto Rico, Palestine, and American Global Power (under contract with University of North Carolina Press) chronicles a globally expansive story of Palestine liberation, Puerto Rican radicalism, and the United States’ efforts to weaponize and police those freedom dreams.

Maura Toro-Morn

Position title: Professor of Sociology, Illinois State University

As a scholar in the fields of immigration and sociology, Dr. Toro-Morn has always been curious about why people move, how, and what are the consequences of their movements thus she has devoted a significant part of her career to studying migrations in a global perspective. She began to address the complexities of migration while researching the social class and gender dimensions of Puerto Rican migration to Chicago. She is part of a generation of scholars that has taken on that task of exploring the gender specific qualities of contemporary migrations, work that has contributed to the historicizing Latino immigration to the Midwest and to making the experiences of women immigrants across diverse geographies visible.

Mirelsie Velázquez

Position title: Associate Professor of Latina/Latino Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

A historian of education interested in issues of race/ethnicity, historical research in education, and gender and sexuality, Mirelsie Velázquez teaches courses on education, critical race theory, Latina feminism, oral history, and Puerto Rican Studies. Her book, Puerto Rican Chicago: Schooling the City, 1940-1977 (University of Illinois Press 2022), chronicles the Puerto Rican community’s response to the urban decay in which they were forced to live, work, and especially learn. Velázquez is completing research on the history of Black and Indigenous education in both the Oklahoma and Indian Territories, from the mid-19th century until statehood in 1907.

Puerto Rican Studies in the Midwest, Panel II

Wednesday, October 25, 2023. 5:00 pm, Ingraham Hall 206

The second panel in the series focuses on island Puerto Rico, exploring debt, spatial politics, and sexuality. Download Poster


Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes

Position title: Professor of Spanish, American Culture, and Women's and Gender Studies

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes's website

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes is a scholar of American and ethnic studies, queer/LGBT Hispanic Caribbean (Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican) studies, and U.S. Latina/o/x and Latin American literary, cultural, and performance studies. His recent book, Translocas: The Politics of Puerto Rican Drag and Trans Performance (University of Michigan Press, 2021), focuses on migration, transvestism, and performance and argue that drag can serve not only to question gender and sexuality but also to explore commodification, cyberspace, diasporic displacements and reenactments of home, ethnicity, the human/animal divide, monstrosity, politics, poverty, race, and racial passing. He is currently working on a book on contemporary performance in Puerto Rico.

Zorimar Rivera-Montes

Position title: Assistant Professor of Latinx Literatures and Cultures, Tulane University

Zorimar Rivera-Montes's website

Zorimar Rivera-Montes studies Caribbean Latinx cultural literatures and popular cultures of the late 20th and 21st century. Her research focuses on Puerto Rican cultural texts under the combined forces of neoliberalism and coloniality, studying the impacts of colonial neoliberalism on aesthetic products. Her teaching interests include Latinx studies as a critical pedagogy, contemporary Latinx literature and popular culture, migration, borders and diaspora, popular music and performance, Caribbean decolonial thought, and labor and late capitalism in popular culture. She is currently Chair of the Puerto Rico Section of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) and has served on the board of the Puerto Rican Studies Association.

Joaquín Villanueva

Position title: Associate Professor/Co-Chair, Environment Geography and Earth, Gustavus Adolphus College

Joaquín Villanueva's website

Dr. Villanueva’s research interests include Urban Political Economy, Legal & Carceral Geographies, Historical Geography, Caribbean Geographies, Race, Class, & Social Theory. Dr. Villanueva is currently working on a book manuscript project that explores the Puerto Rico Planning Board in the mid twentieth century and its relation to today’s Puerto Rican debt crisis. He served as the President of the Puerto Rican Studies Association from 2020-2022.  At Gustavus Adolphus College, he teaches classes on world regional geography; introduction to human geography; urban geography; political geography; geographies of peace, crime, and violence; and sports geography.