Norma Cantú is recognized for her work as a feminist pioneer and mentor to other Latina/o scholars
by Susie P. Gonzalez
Norma E. Cantú, the Murchison Professor of the Humanities at Trinity University, has received the Frank Bonilla Public Intellectual Award from the Latina/o Studies Section of the Latin American Studies Association during a recent conference in Lima, Peru.
She is one of two recipients; the other is Inés Hernández-Ávila, a veteran activist of the Chican@ Movement and professor of Native American Studies at the University of California at Davis.
Cantú, a critically acclaimed translator and author whose creative and academic works explore life in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, is the founder of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa and is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Folklore Society. Cantú has worked with local, state, and federal public humanities programs to promote Latina/o and Chicana/o literature and folklore. She co-founded CantoMundo, a national poetry workshop dedicated to supporting and developing Latina/o poets and poetry. She also founded Literacy Volunteers of Laredo, an organization that is still serving the community’s literacy needs in the border town of Laredo, Texas.
Hernández-Avila, a scholar and creative writer who has been a bridge for decades between Chicana/o Studies and Native American Studies, has devoted her long career at UC Davis to promoting the hemispheric perspective of the program, especially Mexico, Central, and South America. She also is one of the six founders of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA). Since 1997 one of her major research areas has been contemporary indigenous literature of Mexico, with a particular focus in Chiapas, where she has an established Summer Abroad program focusing on the Zapatistas and contemporary Maya and Zoque creative expression. For the last ten years she has come back to visual art as one of her mediums of expression.
Both women were described as examples of “the legacy of Dr. Bonilla as tireless mentors of junior scholars, thus ensuring the sustainability and longevity of the field of Latina/o studies. As feminist pioneers, they furthermore have pushed the field in new directions, devoting their lives to the understanding and dismantling not only of racial and ethnic oppression but also of gendered oppression. Finally, both awardees have demonstrated a commitment not only to Latina/o/x studies research but also to more public forms of scholarly practice.”
This award, offered every other year by the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Latino Studies Section, was named in honor of Puerto Rican intellectual trailblazer Frank Bonilla (1915-2010), Thomas Hunter Professor Emeritus, who taught at Hunter College of the City University of New York and showcases his legacy as a leader in the field of Latina/o Studies. Bonilla devoted his life to understanding and exposing the political and economic forces that engender exploitation and injustice as forms of racial and ethnic oppression. Bonilla’s intellectual contributions created the blueprint for the fields of transnationalism and cultural citizenship. He labored for institutional infrastructure that spawned Latino studies as a field and the LASA Latina/o Studies Section. Bonilla earned his B.B.A. in 1949, graduating cum laude from the College of the City of New York, his M.A. in sociology from New York University in 1954, and his doctorate in sociology from Harvard University in 1959.
LASA is the largest professional association in the world for individuals and institutions engaged in the study of Latin America. With more than 12,000 members, LASA's mission is to foster intellectual discussion, research, and teaching on Latin America, the Caribbean, and its people throughout the Americas; to promote the interests of its diverse membership; and to encourage civic engagement through network building and public debate.
The LASA Latino Studies Section celebrates its 20th year in 2017. This Section is open to LASA members interested in promoting research, teaching, advocacy, and collaborative endeavors about U.S. Latino communities and their transnational connections with the Latin American and Caribbean countries of origin. It also fosters a continuing dialogue regarding the relationships between Latino and Latin American Studies.
Susie P. Gonzalez, senior manager of public relations, can be reached at susie.gonzalez [at] trinity.edu () or @susiegonz.