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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Gaston ‘Speakers Series’ Brings in Latino Activist

How does a community get Latino parents to participate in local schools? What does it mean that traditional migration patterns in the Latino community are constantly changing? How does one go about starting a successful public health campaign to lower rising polemics such as obesity?

Gilberto Cardenas, an activist in academia, offered some possible answers on November 18 to these complex and stirring questions.

A professor of sociology and director of the Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame University, Cardenas spoke at the monthly Gaston Speaker Series on the 11th floor of the Healey Library.

The theme of his lecture was addressing challenges that the Latino community faces around the country though academic research and community activism.

Cardenas is also is the director of the Institute for Latino Studies at his university, one of 18 Latino Research Centers across the country, which includes UMass Boston’s Gaston Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy, who hosted Cardenas last Thursday. All of these centers are part of a larger consortium called Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR), where Cardenas is the executive director.

IUPLR’s mission is to affect change in the Latino community on local, state, regional, national, and international levels. The research centers are all over the country, in universities of New York, Florida, Texas California, and right here at UMass Boston, on the 10th floor of Healey Library.

IUPLR conducts diverse research through various methods. One method that Cardenas discussed was the working groups. IUPLR currently has four working groups which study the census, Latino politics, Latina theology and the well-being of families and children in the U.S.-Mexico border region.

Another fascinating project that Cardenas actively participated in was the Smithsonian Center’s “Latino Initiative.” Cardenas and many other Latino(a) leaders from all over the country felt as though the Smithsonian Center did not accomplish its own mission in this particular project, which is to tell the story of the American people.

Cardenas felt that the center did not have the intellectual presence, resources, collections, and curatorial staff to meet their overall mission. In short, the initiative was not inclusive, therefore affecting how Latinos are viewed in the national arena.

This changed when IUPLR and other Latino Organizations around the country went to the Smithsonian Center themselves and said that the project needed to be changed. They provided the institution with the adequate data, personnel and collections, as well as help restructuring the Latino initiative coming out of Washington. Their mission in presenting the true and complete story of the Latino presence in the U.S. did not fail, thanks to active Latinos such as Cardenas.

Cardenas feels as though maximizing opportunities available is the most important way to implement the necessary changes and create the social structures to the diverse Latino community of the U.S.

He is convinced that public policy should be a stronger area of focus for Latinos in the country, and openly supports President George W. Bush and the Republican Party. Some students and faculty felt that the event went “partisan” towards the end, but most were impressed by Cardenas’s achievements and optimism in Latino community activism.