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CUNY To Open Mexican-American Institute Amidst Arizona Ethnic Studies Controversy

Posted: 05/11/2012 1:49 pm Updated: 05/11/2012 5:15 pm

Mexican American Institute

The City University of New York (CUNY) is starting an institute devoted to the study of Mexican and Mexican-American studies, with a focus specifically on the New York region, according to a report by The New York Times.

The center, called the CUNY Mexican Studies Institute, based at Lehman College in the Bronx, will offer a major in Mexican and Mexican-American studies. It aims to become a destination for academic research and a hub for community advocacy in the city. It will encourage the study of Mexican migration in the NY and will promote study-abroad programs to Mexico.

“The number of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in New York City, as of 2010, was close to 350,000 — and growing,” said Lehman President Ricardo R. Fernández, according to the University's press release.

According to census numbers, 66 percent of the Latino population in the U.S. are from Mexican descent. In NY in 1990 there were 58,000 Mexicans living in the city but number has jumped to more than 340,000 residing in the city in 2010. The Bronx is home to about 88,000 Mexicans, according to research done by professor Laird Bergad.

In the city of NY, the Mexican population ranks third in number after Dominicans and Chinese.

But the inauguration of CUNY’s Mexican and Mexican-Americans institute comes at a time when education focused on minorities' studies have been at the center of much controversy.

Earlier this year, the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona cancelled it's Mexican American Studies (MAS) program after Arizona State Superintendent John Huppenthal ruled that these high school courses were in direct violation with a segment of the Arizona law HB 2281, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2010. Huppenthal argued the MAS program curriculum taught students to resent Anglos.

Huppenthal said that he is considering doing the same with the Mexican-American Studies program at Arizona’s public universities. A request to reinstate it was denied in March.

And earlier this week, black studies were also involved in a scandal of their own. On Tuesday, The Chronicle of Higher Education dismissed Naomi Schaefer Riley, one of its bloggers, after she wrote a piece questioning the legitimacy of black studies as an academic discipline.

Riley wrote an essay on dissertations by black studies scholars the Chronicle has profile earlier. Based primarily on their titles, she called them "left-wing victimization claptrap," prompting nearly 6,500 people to sign a petition calling for her dismissal from the blog.

Famous Latino Poets:

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  • José Martí (1853 - 1895)

    The Cuban national hero, José Martí, is recognized as an important figure in Latin American literature. Through his political activity and politically charged poems, Martí became a iconic figure in the Cuba's fight for independence from Spain. In his short life, Martí wrote various poems relating to freedom, liberty, and democracy, and yet much of his poetry is autobiographical. One of his most famous poems, ¡10 de Octubre! is inspired in the events of October 10th, 1868 when Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and a group of Cuban patriots raised arms against Spanish colonialism. This gave way to the start of the <a href="" target="_hplink">"Ten year War" ("La Guerra de Los Diez A&ntildeos")</a>. <strong>¡10 de Octubre!</strong> No es un sueño, es verdad: grito de guerra Lanza el cubano pueblo, enfurecido; El pueblo que tres siglos ha sufrido Cuanto de negro la opresión encierra. <a href="" target="_hplink"><em><strong>Continue reading</strong></em></a>

  • Rubén Darío (1867 - 1916)

    Rubén Darío is considered <a href="" target="_hplink">the father of the Latin American modernist movement</a>. The Nicaraguan poet experimented with many forms of verse and was able to blend traditional poetic style with new, modern rhythmic and metric structure. He added a musical character to his poems. Daríos life was his own canvas of inspiration. His travels, the tragic death of his first wife, his refuge in alcohol, his intellect and his linguistic skill combined into some of the most beautiful prose of his time. <strong>Canto de Esperanza</strong> Un gran vuelo de cuervos mancha el azul celeste. Un soplo milenario trae amagos de peste. Se asesinan los hombres en el extremo Este. !Ha nacido el apocalíptico Anticristo? Se han sabido presagios y prodigios se han visto y parece inminente el retorno de Cristo... <a href="" target="_hplink"><em><strong>Continue reading here</strong></em></a>

  • Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957)

    Gabriela Mistral was the pseudonym of Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, a Chilean poet and the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Mistral was a dedicated educator and activist who defended the rights of underdogs: <a href="" target="_hplink">children, women, laborers, Native Americans, Jews and the needy.</a> She strived for peace and justice at a time of ideological conflicts and political revolts. Mistral was a giver in all the sense of the word, her life was devoted to writing and social causes. Her writing was equally as passionate as her fervor to help. "From her maternal hand this poet gives us a drink which tastes of the earth and which appeases the thirst of the heart. It is drawn from the spring which ran for Sappho on a Greek island and for Gabriela Mistral in the valley Elquis, the spring of poetry that will never dry up," said Hjalmar Gullberg, Member of the Swedish Academy, <a href="" target="_hplink">before awarding Mistral the Nobel Prize</a>. <strong>La Mujer Fuerte </strong> (from the anthology of 'Desolacion') Me acuerdo de tu rostro que se fijó en mis días, mujer de saya azul y de tostada frente, que en mi niñez y sobre mi tierra de ambrosía vi abrir el surco negro en un abril ardiente... <a href="" target="_hplink"><strong><em>Continue reading here</em></strong></a>

  • César Vallejo (1892 - 1938)

    The work of Peruvian poet César Vallejo successfully captured the confusion and frustration of Latin America in the 20th century. He used language in its purest form, depicting the rawest imagery of his surroundings. "Vallejo created a wrenching poetic language for Spanish that radically altered the shape of its imagery and the nature of its rhythms. No facile trend setter, Vallejo forged a new discourse in order to express his own visceral compassion for human suffering," wrote Edith Grossman in a <a href="" target="_hplink">Los Angeles Times Book Review</a>. Much of Vallejo's work was influenced by his own experience, starting with his <a href="" target="_hplink">mixed European and Peruvian-Indian heritage</a>, and his experience as an inmate in prison, as an expatriate political activist, and as a witness of the devastating Spanish Civil War. <strong>Espa&ntildea, Aparta De M&iacute Este C&aacuteliz</strong> Niños del mundo, si cae España --digo, es un decir-- si cae del cielo abajo su antebrazo que asen, en cabestro, dos láminas terrestres; niños, ¡qué edad la de las sienes cóncavas! ¡qué temprano en el sol lo que os decía! ¡qué pronto en vuestro pecho el ruido anciano! ¡qué viejo vuestro 2 en el cuaderno! .... <a href="" target="_hplink"><em><strong>Continue reading here</strong></em></a> Cesar Vallejo seen in 1929. Source: <a href="" target="_hplink">Wikipedia</a>

  • Federico García Lorca (1898 - 1936)

    Spanish poet Federico García Lorca was a member of the Generation of '27, an influential group of poets that arose in Spanish literary circles in the 1920's <a href="" target="_hplink">dedicated to the fusion of cultural tradition with avante garde artistic experimentation</a>. At the onset of the Spanish Civil War and at the young age of 38, García Lorca was executed. His work was banned in Spain while Franco remained in power. Only after Franco's death in 1975 was Garcia Lorca's work available again in his home country. <em><strong>The Gypsy and the Wind</strong></em> Playing her parchment moon Preciosa comes along a watery path of laurels and crystal lights. The starless silence, fleeing from her rhythmic tambourine, falls where the sea whips and sings, his night filled with silvery swarms.... <a href="" target="_hplink"><em><strong>Continue reading here</strong></em></a> <em><strong>Preciosa y el aire</strong></em> Su luna de pergamino Preciosa tocando viene por un anfibio sendero de cristales y laureles. El silencio sin estrellas, huyendo del sonsonete, cae donde el mar bate y canta su noche llena de peces... <em><strong><a href="" target="_hplink">Continue reading here</a> </strong></em> <em>In this photo: Federico Garcia Lorca, left, with Salvador Dali in 1925. </em>

  • Jorge Luís Borges (1899 - 1986)

    Argentinian poet, Jorge Luís Borges was at the forefront of the postmodernist literature movement in Latin America. In his writing he experimented with meta-fiction and magical realism. He was known for combining mythology and the academic, for writing about dreams, mystical places, the human psyche, murders, and illusory and real worlds that are hard to tell apart. "His fables are written from a height of intelligence less rare in philosophy and physics than in fiction,'' said American novelist John Updike <a href="" target="_hplink">to the NYTimes</a>. ''Furthermore, he is, at least for anyone whose taste runs to puzzles or pure speculation, delightfully entertaining.'' Beginning in 1927, Borges was increasingly afflicted by blindness, which ran in his family. By the late 1950's, Borges had lost his sight completely, but continued to still continued to write. <strong>Laberinto</strong> No habrá nunca una puerta. Estás adentro y el alcázar abarca el universo y no tiene ni anverso ni reverso ni externo muro ni secreto centro.... <a href=" COSAS" target="_hplink"><em><strong>Continue reading here</strong></em></a>

  • Nicolás Guillén (1902 - 1989)

    Nicolás Guillén was known <a href=" " target="_hplink">as Cuba's national poet.</a> Through his work, Guillén celebrated Cuba's multiracial and ethnic mix, as well as the Communist revolution in 1959 that brought Fidel Castro to power. He published 'Motivios de son', eight short poems inspired by the Son--- a popular Afro-Cuban musical form -- and the daily living conditions of black Cubans. The collection stood apart itself from existing Spanish-language literature. Guillén established black culture as a legitimate focus of Cuban literature. Through his written words he exposed social discrimnation, prejudices, and poverty which plagued Africans of the Diaspora. Guillén <a href="" target="_hplink">encouraged Afro-Cubans to have pride in a place that had never allowed for that</a>. <strong>Canto Negro</strong> ¡Yambambó, yambambé! Repica el congo solongo, repica el negro bien negro; congo solongo del Songo baila yambó sobre un pie... <a href="" target="_hplink"><em><strong>Continue reading here</strong></em></a>

  • Pablo Neruda (July 12, 1904 - September 23, 1973)

    Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, whose real name was Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, is known for his surrealist writing, and the beautiful imagery, desperate emotions and political content of his poems. Critics have praised Neruda <a href="" target="_hplink">as the greatest Spanish-language poet of his generation</a>. "No poet has more passionately and thoroughly spoken for his people than Neruda," said Dean Rader, an English professor at the University of San Francisco who listed Neruda as no. 1 poet in a list of the 10 best poets in history, <a href="" target="_hplink">according to the NYTimes</a>. <strong><em>Cuerpo de Mujer</em></strong> (from the anthology <em>"Veinte Poemas de Amor y Una Cancion Desesperada"</em>) Cuerpo de mujer, blancas colinas, muslos blancos, te pareces al mundo en tu actitud de entrega. Mi cuerpo de labriego salvaje te socava y hace saltar el hijo del fondo de la tierra.... <a href="" target="_hplink"><em><strong>Continue reading here</strong></em></a> <strong><em>Body of a Woman</em></strong> Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs, you look like a world, lying in surrender. My rough peasant's body digs into you and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth. <a href="" target="_hplink"><em><strong>Continue reading here</strong></em></a>

  • Julia de Burgos (1914 - 1953)

    Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos is remembered for her lovely writing and powerful soul, for the freedom of her spirit. In her poems, Burgos illustrated stories of the oppressed, and wrote about the social struggles and injustices of the island. Burgos was a rebellious spirit. She divorced her first husband and lived openly with her lover <a href="" target="_hplink">at a time when views on how women should behave were still very conservative in Puerto Rico</a>. "A woman of great sensibility, rebellious spirit, and exceptional intelligence, Julia de Burgos no doubt felt imprisoned by circumstances," <a href="" target="_hplink">explained Notable American Women contributor Carmen Delgado Votaw</a>. "Her discomfort with social ills, her love for Puerto Rico, and her preoccupation with justice and death, all come out in the torrents of her poetry with its richly emotional metaphors." <strong>Canci&oacuten de la verdad sencilla</strong> No es él el que me lleva... Es mi vida que en su vida palpita. Es la llamada tibia de mi alma que se ha ido a cantar entre sus rimas. Es la inquietud de viaje de mi espíritu que ha encontrado en su rumbo eterna vía... <a href="" target="_hplink"><em><strong>Continue reading here</strong></em></a>

  • Octavio Paz (1914 - 1998)

    Mexican poet and Nobel Prize laureate, Octavio Paz's work integrates many disparate influences, including Marxism, surrealism and Aztec mythology. He was <a href="" target="_hplink">one of the first authors to write a novel with an expressly Indian theme</a>. A vocal figure in Mexican politics, Paz <a href="" target="_hplink">resigned from his post as Mexico's ambassador to India</a> in protest of the massacre of demonstrating students in Mexico's Plaza de Tlatelolco in 1968. Paz was awarded the Nobel prize in Literature in 1990 for "<a href="" target="_hplink">impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity</a>." <strong>Entre La Piedra Y La Flor</strong> En el alba de callados venenos amanecemos serpientes. Amanecemos piedras, raíces obstinadas, sed descarnada, labios minerales... <a href="" target="_hplink"><em><strong>Continue reading here</strong></em></a>

  • Mario Benedetti (1920 - 2009)

    Uruguayan journalist and poet Mario Benedetti is one of the most celebrated Latin American authors of the 20th century. In his writing, Benedetti adressed <a href="" target="_hplink">subjects that range from love and middle-class frustration in Uruguay to the pain of exile</a>. Aligned with the left , he himself was forced into exile for 12 years during Uruguay's military dictatorship. Benedetti's art influenced others. His novel "La Tregua" ("The Truce") was made into a movie in 1974 by Argentine film director Sergio Renan, and beloved Spanish singer Joan Manuel Serrat recorded "<a href="" target="_hplink">The South Also Exists</a> -- an anti-U.S. hegemony anthem -- which went on to become a major hit across Latin America. <strong>No te salves</strong> No te quedes inmóvil al borde del camino no congeles el júbilo no quieras con desgana no te salves ahora ni nunca... <a href=" te rindas" target="_hplink"><em><strong>Continue reading here</strong></em></a>

  • Sandra Cisneros (b. 1954)

    Sandra Cisneros grew up biculturally, moving between Chicago and Mexico with her family. Through her writing, Cisneros explores Chicano culture and the challenges of subscribing to both American and Mexican customs and lifestyle. "I am a woman and I am a Latina," <a href="" target="_hplink">Cisneros told the NYTimes</a>. "Those are the things that make my writing distinctive. Those are the things that give my writing power. They are the things that give it sabor, the things that give it picante." <strong>You Bring Out the Mexican in Me</strong> You bring out the Mexican in me. The hunkered thick dark spiral. The core of a heart howl. The bitter bile. The tequila lágrimas on Saturday all through next weekend Sunday.... <a href="" target="_hplink"><strong><em>Continue reading here</em></strong></a>

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