I lived in Cork a few years ago and it was wonderful walking the streets again, letting my feet guide me where they remembered. The voices, the laughter, the sunshine, the rain, it was all the same. And yet I couldn’t help feeling how much has changed in the intervening years and how I was seeing the city with new eyes. I was especially delighted to be returning for the #MexSymp at UCC having had the almost accidental privilege of attending their Chicano/a conference three years ago. It was almost accidental as it came at a time when I wasn’t in academia, having completed my masters and moved to Cork for a change of scene and to try something new. My sister lived in Cork at the same time and worked at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre at UCC and had received a uni-wide email about the conference: she called me up and asked me if I wasn’t interested in ‘that whole Chicano thing’? I said yes, amazed she’d remembered me talking about it all, and she forwarded me the email. I made registration just in time and took a day off work to attend a day of fascinating discussions with academics, artists, activists, and gente interesada.
The 2011 conference coincided with an art exhibition by Chicana artist Alma Lopez where she showed a variety of her artworks, amongst which was the beautiful ‘Our Lady’:
At exhibitions in the U.S. it had caused great controversy and Ireland was to be no different. Indeed, to get in to the conference, I had to make my way through protestors. I direct you to amiga and colleague Donna Alexander’s (@americasstudies) blog on it for more info. The conference, the exhibition, the controversy, it all got me fired up to learn more, do more, and share more and it is one of the big reasons I now do what I do and still feel passionate about ‘that whole Chicano thing’.
So I returned to UCC in 2014 for #MexSymp now with the eyes of a Chicanista (albeit ‘early career’/still learning/up and coming). For Pathways, Explorations, Approaches we had such a wonderful variety of papers that really showcase the exciting work being done in the field of Mexican and Mexican American Studies. People travelled from Galway, Michigan, Leicester, Dublin, Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester, Norwich; not to mention the Skype panel with students from la Universidad de Guadalajara in Mexico. We were also privileged to attend a reading of Chicana poet Lorna Dee Cervantes‘ new collection Sueño and view the photography of, and be in discussion with, Mexican artist Yamina del Real at the Cork Vision Centre.
I have done a Storify of the tweets of the whole conference which gives some more detail on people’s papers and the work that was shared at the symposium. Although there were only a few of us live tweeting the event, it’s something I really want to promote and encourage and I think in the not too distant future it’ll be a conference regular – I hope so, anyway.
I really enjoyed sharing some of my new work on the mestizaje of language and identity in Sandra Cisneros and got excellent feedback and plenty to work with. And best of all was meeting so many great Mexican and Mexican American enthusiasts, artists, scholars, students, ambassadors (well, just the one of those). Thank you so much to all the organisers for making it such a great symposium!
Also hoping to get some of you guest blogging for The SALSA Collective soon – email or tweet us si te interesa: theSALSAcollective@gmail.com & @SALSACollective
Check out the Storify here: https://storify.com/EilidhABHall/mexsymp-ucc