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Hispano Homeland or Fantasy Heritage?

Mar 9, 2017

The School for Advanced Research is pleased to announce that Professor John Nieto-Phillips of Indiana University will present a lecture, Hispano Homeland or Fantasy Heritage? Spanish-American Identity and Ideology in New Mexico, 1890s-1940s, on April 27, 2017. The event at 6:30 p.m. at The New Mexico History Museum Auditorium is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and available first come, first seated.

The Language of Blood,
by John Nieto-Phillips

In the 1980s, geographer Richard Nostrand sparked controversy by presuming to map “the Hispano homeland” as a discrete cultural region spanning northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Nostrand argued that “Spanish Americans” possessed a distinctive subculture that had endured since Spanish colonial times. In years since, scholars and activists have questioned whether Spanish Americans are “Spanish” at all. While many New Mexican families embrace their language, land, and culture as emblems of their hispanidad (Spanishness), some critics denounce Spanish-American identity as a “fantasy heritage” rooted in self-deception and in the oppression of Native Americans.

The controversy lays bare important ideological currents and scholarly ideas about race, language, and land. Those currents and ideas have their origins in the first half of the twentieth century, when regional identity politics and the tourist economy converged with elements of a global movement known as Hispanism, which entailed a fascination with the Spanish language, history, and culture. Professor Nieto-Phillips’ talk will retrace the contours of global Hispanism and suggest its impact on contemporary Latina/o/x identities in New Mexico.

Dr. Nieto-Phillips, whose family has deep roots in New Mexico, is an associate professor of history and Latino studies and currently serves as associate vice provost for faculty development and diversity at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. He received his BA, MA, and PhD from UCLA. His research has focused on the ways in which race, language, and education have shaped changing notions of Latino identity and US citizenship. In New Mexico, he is best known for his book The Language of Blood: The Making of Spanish-American Identity in New Mexico, 1880s-1930s (UNM Press, 2004). He has received numerous fellowships and awards from such organizations as the Fulbright Scholar Program, the Spencer Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2005 he was awarded the Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá Award by the Historical Society of New Mexico.

This lecture is sponsored by Charles L. Padilla and Northwestern Mutual and is part of an initiative by SAR to support Latino scholarship. Since 2015, and with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, SAR has offered annual fellowships focused on Latino studies to its resident scholar program. Winners of Mellon fellowships for 2017-2018 will be announced in April.

The first SAR Mellon fellow, David Romo, began his fellowship term in September 2016. In fall of 2017, the program will expand to include to two Mellon fellows, one a doctoral candidate and the second a postdoctoral scholar. Although the Mellon-funded program is the first SAR initiative explicitly focused on study of the nation’s Hispanic history and culture, the School has a well-established record of supporting Latino studies scholarship. Former SAR resident fellows include such prominent scholars as Estevan Rael-Gálvez, Jason de León, Ana Celia Zentella, Robert Alvarez, and Laura Gómez, among others. In December 2016, SAR brought together a dozen Latino studies experts from the northern New Mexico area to discuss the new program and solicit their advice on its future direction.

Associated links:
KOB.com, January 31, 2017, “Highlands Professor Helps to Create Latino Scholar Pipeline.”
Albuquerque Journal, January 31, 2017, “Highlands Professor Helps to Create Latino Scholar Pipeline”

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