I am excited by the blessings, yet find myself with mixed emotions. I was accepted to the doctoral program in Chicana/o Studies at the University of Arizona for Fall 2015. I know, I know, I should be extremely ecstatic and grateful for this opportunity, especially knowing the history of the Chicana/o militant struggle in ensuring that the doors to the Ivory Tower be kept open for Chicana/o students.
I am also aware of the Chicana/o educational pipeline that shows the extent to which Chicanas/os experience the lowest educational attainment of any major racial or ethnic group, while at the same time, largely excluding our people from entering advanced degree programs in the United States.
Having to choose between staying in what I have constructed as my comfort zone and going off to the University of Arizona for the next three to five years is decapitating my familial and historical roots.
I am safe in my geographical space that is Boyle Heights. I should remember, though, that my cultural space extends far beyond Aztlán and Nepantla. So going to Arizona shouldn’t be such a big deal, right?
Through student and community pressure, at least four universities now offer doctoral degrees in Chicana/o Studies: the University of Arizona, Michigan State University, the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
As a side note, in an effort to capitalize on the market of economics, the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) offers a Latino Studies in conjunction with Latin American Studies doctoral program. Arizona State University offers an intriguing Ph.D. in Transborder Studies, I wonder why they didn’t just call it Chicana/o Studies? The University of California at San Diego (UCSD) offers a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies while the University of California at Berkeley offers one in Comparative Ethnic Studies.
Perhaps this might be an issue of semantics, but it is an important distinction to make, and one that I hope to expand on in a future post: the idea that Chicana/o Studies should not be equated to Ethnic Studies let alone to Latina/o Studies.
In any case, I applied to two Chicana/o Studies Ph.D. programs (University of Arizona and UCLA) mostly pinning my hopes that I could stay local because I consider Los Angeles to be not just my physical but my spiritual home as well.
As you might imagine, UCLA declined to offer me admittance to its Chicana/o Studies program despite the fact, I am proud to say, my cumulative professional, academic and community activist record can exceed and match any student who applied. Probably sounds like I am entitled to something, yet, as a Chicano, I don’t speak from a position of entitlement.
I do speak, however, as a strong advocate for and about CHICANA/O STUDIES. I am not apologetic about where I stand in regards to Chicana/o Studies. Truth be told, I am not pushing for a sanitized version of our history through an “Ethnic Studies” framework nor a pan-Latinist agenda, such as “Latina/o Studies.” Nor am I seeking a degree in Chicana/o Studies simply to reproduce American Exceptionalism through my own token advancement in the white supremacist system. The devil is in the details.
Ahhhhh, all these thoughts are a stretch, I know, but nothing is ever a coincidence, is it? Perhaps Chicana/o Studies de UCLA read my posts that were critical of Chicana/o Studies de Cal State L.A., where I obtained both my B.A. and M.A. degrees and also was a Cum Laude student, for its failure to advocate and protect the needs of the Chicana/o student and community during the struggle to make “Ethnic Studies” a General Education requirement in early 2014. Who knows?
The bigger question that perhaps nobody is asking is this: has Chicana/o Studies de UCLA become so big and institutionalized in the Ivory Tower that it now has the luxury of power to refuse admittance to Chicana/o students who apply to its doctoral program? After decades of Chicana/o students waging struggle to be admitted to UCLA in the first place, it now has power to close its doors to our people? The irony that nobody sees or cares about!
Some venting for sure, but all boats need rocking even those boats that enjoy the status quo.
Nonetheless, I am disappointed that I can’t stay local, especially since my academic work revolves around the Los Angeles Brown Berets from 1966-1972. What better place to continue my work than in Los Angeles.
In any case, this is where my mixed emotions come into play. Essentially, I submitted the same application, statement of intent, and writing sample to both the University of Arizona and UCLA. Yet, it is ironic that in the state where Chicana/o Studies is under academic, pedagogical and institutional assault, and moreover, has actually been banned at the K-12 level would somehow find that I fit into their program’s overall vision.
For this I am most grateful, especially to all the Chicanas/os who have made it possible for me to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Most people I have spoken to about my future plans have been very supportive and and have shared encouraging words of wisdom, indicating that the University of Arizona is a setting that will be a healthy and nurturing environment for my academic and professional development as a Chicano scholar and activist.
The student and community struggle that is taking place in Arizona to defend Chicana/o Studies from institutionalized state violence is a key factor in my decision to enroll, despite the geographical distance, the cost associated with such a move, and the uprooting of my familial and friendship ties.
By attending Arizona, I know full well that I will be in the trenches in the development not merely of esoteric theoretical methodologies but in the actual implementation of on-the-ground revolutionary praxis in collaboration with the existing movement in Tucson.
My perenigración in Chicana/o Studies is taking me from Boyle Heights to Tucson. Perhaps my journey to Arizona had been destined many years ago.
I hope to be able to contribute to the conversation about the discipline of Chicana/o Studies from the perspective of a life-long native of Boyle Heights. It should be evident by now that in a post-Chicano Movement world, a weak Chicana/o Studies program has translated to a powerless Chicana/o-Mexicana/o community. I think my dissertation could transition from a study on the Brown Berets to a study on the state of Chicana/o Studies.
With all this in mind, I hope to continue to carry the legacy of the Chicana/o Movement through my studies and activist-oriented-research. I hope to encourage other students to apply and major in Chicana/o Studies. It is an act of personal defiance and communal liberation to be majoring in Chicana/o Studies.
I am thankful as well to the four Chicana/o Studies professors (who will go nameless at this time) who wrote letters of recommendation on my behalf.
I have met and worked with dozens of Chicana/o Movement activists from the 1960s and 1970s, it is to them that I owe my journey in Chicana/o Studies. Although I am a bit nervous of the wholesale changes that will take place in my life, I am nevertheless excited to meet and collaborate with the students, community, staff, and faculty of the Chicana/o Studies Department at the University of Arizona.
I would be remorse if I didn’t say that I am saddened with the news of the passing of Dr. Richard Ruiz, who a week prior to his untimely death, sent me a letter congratulating me on my acceptance to the program. I have read and heard such wonderful things about him. However, I never had a chance to thank him for helping to open the doors so that I might call Chicana/o Studies de UofA my new home. Adelante Siempre!
— D. Cid