[lg policy] Activist Professor's New Cause: a National Museum for Latinos

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 4 16:27:02 UTC 2010

Activist Professor's New Cause: a National Museum for Latinos
 Jean Dixon, U. of Nevada at Reno

The time has come for Latinos in the United States to receive their
due credit, in the form of a museum on Washington's National Mall
alongside the country's other great showcases of culture, says Emma
Sepúlveda Pulvirenti, a professor of Spanish at the University of
Nevada at Reno. She was appointed in September to a commission to
study the feasibility of such a museum. Senate Majority Leader Harry
M. Reid, Democrat of Nevada, who has long known Ms. Sepúlveda, named
her to the 23-person panel. "Her commitment to improving the lives of
Latinos in Nevada makes her an ideal pick," he said in an e-mail
message. Within two years, commission members must submit a report to
Congress and the White House on a plan for the museum, which would
celebrate Latinos' art, history, and culture.

"Latinos are 45 to 50 million people living in the United States
today," says the professor. "That's a significant number of people,
and they were here before the Mayflower. I will find it very difficult
to believe that this museum will not become a reality."  Being named
to the commission is the latest accomplishment in a professional life
of teaching, artistic pursuits, and community activism.  Ms. Sepúlveda
is the author or co-author of 22 books of poetry, fiction, and
nonfiction, in Spanish and English. One of them records her
unsuccessful campaign for the Nevada State Senate in 1994; another
collects her columns from the Reno Gazette-Journal. She also edited
We, Chile: Personal Testimonies of the Chilean Arpilleristas (Azul
Editions, 1996), a compilation of accounts by women whose family
members "disappeared" during the Pinochet dictatorship.

In November she received an award from the National Hispana Leadership
Institute, in recognition of her many roles as an academic and
activist. She also directs the university's Latino Research Center,
whose work includes studies of health and demographic issues. In one
project, the center has distributed 500 cameras to Latinos throughout
the state so they can document their experience. Her colleagues depict
her as charismatic and a talented strategist when it comes to getting
things done. "She is very energetic, very passionate, and very
active," says Darrell B. Lockhart, an associate professor of Spanish.
"I don't know how she finds all the time to do it all."

For one thing, Ms. Sepúlveda says, she gets up early and writes, no
matter what. "I'm a person who is extremely focused. When I get in
front of a project, I don't stop until I get it done." Her output is
all the more remarkable given that she battles lupus, a chronic
autoimmune disease. "I don't know how long my life is going to be,"
she says, "so I live every day like it's going to be my last." She is,
in any case, accustomed to adversity. Born in Argentina in 1950, she
fled with her family to Chile after the fall of President Juan Domingo
Perón, in 1955. As Marjorie Agosín, a Chilean with whom she has
collaborated on a number of books, relates in A Woman's Gaze: Latin
American Women Artists (White Pine Press, 1998), Ms. Sepúlveda became
involved in social causes and worked to influence the poor of Chile to
elect Salvador Allende. The overthrow of Allende's socialist
government, in 1973, disrupted her political work and university
studies. Declared persona non grata, she made an arduous, overland
journey to the United States.

At Reno she completed bachelor's and master's degrees in Spanish
literature and received her first formal training in photography.
Divorced, then remarried, she moved to California to complete a
doctorate in Spanish literature at the University of California at
Davis, became an American citizen in 1979, and began to make her mark
in photography. She often explored the female form as a "subject of
representation rather than mute objectified form," as Ms. Agosín notes
in her book. Back in Reno, Ms. Sepúlveda continued to pursue social
causes, particularly immigrants' rights and the fate of Chile's
political prisoners. She became the first Latina full professor at
Reno, has served on more than 25 nonprofit boards, and in 1995 founded
Latinos for Political Education, a get-out-the-vote group.

Her stands have sometimes brought hostile reactions. Callers to her
home must get past a screening service. Most recently she has been
criticized for her opposition to a campus speaking engagement by a
founder of the Minuteman Project, which calls for strict enforcement
of immigration controls. "But I'm constantly the focus of hate mail
and death threats," says Ms. Sepúlveda, who organized a separate
campus forum on immigration at the same time as the Minuteman
appearance. "It must be very difficult to withstand those kinds of
attacks, based in ignorance and racism and hatred," says Sheila
Leslie, a state legislator, who has known Ms. Sepúlveda since they
were in graduate school together. "But she has persevered." Of her
advocacy on behalf of immigrants and Latinos, Ms. Sepúlveda says, "It
hasn't been easy, but it has been extremely rewarding. I'm happy that
I've taken this road."


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of the list as to the veracity of a message's contents.
Members who disagree with a message are encouraged to post a rebuttal.
(H. Schiffman, Moderator)

For more information about the lgpolicy-list, go to

This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list