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K-State Today

March 20, 2017

Valenzuela presents at Southwest Council of Latin American Studies Conference

Submitted by Russell Norris

Norma A. Valenzuela, American ethnic studies faculty member, presented "Mestiza Consciousness a la MeXicana in Ultima and Agueda Martinez: Bridging and Legitimizing Querencia in the Borderlands" at the Southwest Council of Latin American Studies Conference, March 9-12, in Campeche, Mexico.

Valenzuela's work explores "querencia" — translated to "sense and love of place" — by examining the intersectionality of race, gender, class and nation as sites of contestation in the life of two major nuevomexicana protagonists: Ultima, a fictional character, and Agueda Martinez, a Chimayo weaver. Valenzuela uses their experiences to bridge and legitimize her own positionality within the Borderlands, specifically connecting rural/urban New Mexico and northern Mexico. The work discusses how Valenzuela's experiences enabled her to examine how she, as a transnational MeXicana, exists, inhabits and navigates a middle space within the Borderlands.

Existing in what Chicana theorist Gloria Anzaldúa conceptualizes as "Nepantla" — translated to "the land in the middle" — facilitates a shared sense of legitimacy and collective practice within a transnational perspective that allows for cultural renegotiations and proposes a MeXicana discourse about history, family structure and gender relations. The work juxtaposes Valenzuela's own history as central to the particular lens she utilizes to understand and make sense of growing up in Alburquerquito. In northern Mexico, her indigenous grandmother educated her through "dichos," or "sayings," storytelling, "curanderismo" — translated to "indigenous healing practices" — and love of the land.

Growing up in the Borderlands gave Valenzuela an understanding of the meaning of "deeper realities" and to "see below the surface." Utilizing her experiences, Valenzuela mapped the interdisciplinary exploration in colonized spaces that enabled an understanding and recognition of her own social positioning within New Mexican society.