When I began my career at UCLA in 1997, Chicano Studies was a “center” with about 30 majors and minors and five full-time faculty members. Today, it is a full-fledged department with over 450 undergraduate majors and minors, some 30 PhD students, and a faculty of 14 distinguished scholars whose research explores traditional disciplinary areas like history, law, public policy, geography, literature and linguistics, as well as new interdisciplinary realms like cultural studies, ethnic studies, urban studies, indigeneity and intersectionality. Unlike other Chicano/Latino Studies programs, we also maintain a strong emphasis on the visual arts. As the fastest growing department in the Division of Social Sciences at UCLA, Chicana/o Studies reflects not just the growth of UCLA’s Chicano/Latino student body, but also more seismic demographic changes, in Los Angeles, California, and the nation.
Although our department has earned a national, even international, profile, we maintain a vital connection to Los Angeles, a globalized urban region of some 14 million people from all parts of the world. Yet just over 1.5 centuries ago, this city, like the entire American southwest, belonged to Mexico, and before that to Spain, and before that to a diverse patchwork of Indian settlements. Such cultural sediment laid a unique foundation for rise of modern Los Angeles, a city born of U.S. conquest in 1848, yet far outside the British colonial origins of the national narrative. Today, this connection is even more tenuous. Now the single largest ethnic group in Los Angeles city and county, Mexican-origin peoples occupy a unique historic perch, in between native and immigrant, between ‘black’ and ‘white,’ between the dualities of tradition and modernity that structure the life experiences of immigrants and their descendants. With further immigration to the region, this group increasingly belongs to a growing Latino population that includes more recent immigrant groups from Central and South America and the Caribbean as well. Their historical experiences and cultural traditions, as well as that of other Latino/a peoples in the United States–including their interactions in the economy, polity and society writ large–is the broad focus of study in our department, providing an inclusive venue for interdisciplinary research and instruction at UCLA.
The department of Chicana and Chicano Studies strives to fortify the connection between UCLA and its surrounding urban context and to shatter the ‘ivory tower’ myth of the university as above and apart from the rest of society. Our graduates, we believe, are the ultimate product of these efforts and each year, we’re reminded of their ability to integrate their overlapping commitments to academic success, community service, and social justice. Please explore our website to learn more about our faculty and students, and how our department furthers the ideals of inclusive excellence at UCLA.
Sincerely, Eric Avila
Chair and Professor
Cesar E. Chavez Department of Chicana & Chicano Studies