This year’s annual conference celebrating the life of the late Tomás Rivera, UC Riverside’s first Latino chancellor and the first minority chancellor in the UC system, continues through weekly virtual gatherings.
The annual Tomás Rivera Conference has allowed participants from across the country to join discussions surrounding Latino/a literature, identities, race and more. The four-session series opens Wednesday, Oct. 14 with poet Rachelle Cruz, a lecturer with UCR’s Department of Creative Writing. Cruz is the author of “God’s Will for Monsters.”
Celebrating Rivera’s life as a pioneer in education means honoring the legacy he created, allowing other Chicanx/Latinx educators and authors to thrive in that world, said Alex Espinoza, UCR’s Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair and associate professor of creative writing.
“When I first heard of Tomás Rivera I was a student and knowing that a Mexican American had led such a successful life left an impression on me,” said Espinoza, who grew up in La Puente, attended San Bernardino Valley College and transferred to UCR in 1998. He graduated in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing.
Rivera led UCR from 1979, until his death in 1984. After his passing, his wife, Concha Rivera, helped establish an endowment and the first iteration of this conference in 1988.
When COVID-19 altered the in-person conference originally scheduled for this spring, Espinoza, spent the summer transitioning the programming into an online gathering.
“Going virtual means it’s accessible to everyone, no matter where in the world the participant is,” Espinoza said, noting it’s now a four-week celebration rather than a two-day event. “We’ve opened access possibilities that before we hadn’t thought of.”
The conference is free and open to everyone. Registration is encouraged. The sessions are planned as follow:
- Wednesday, Oct. 14, noon to 1p.m.: Rachelle Cruz, “We Need New Metaphors: Reimagining Power in the Creative Writing Classroom.” Cruz is a poet, author, and professor. She was elected as Inlandia Literary Laureate last year and her book “God’s Will for Monsters” won the American Book Award.
- Wednesday, Oct. 21, noon to 1p.m.: A reading and discussion with Luis J. Rodríguez, author and former poet laureate of Los Angeles. Some of his best-selling volumes include “Always Running: Gang Days in L.A.” Rodriguez, also a children’s book author, is a poet, playwright, and owner of Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore in Sylmar.
- Wednesday, Oct. 28, 1-2 p.m.: “No Más Bebés: A conversation with Dr. Virginia Espino and Consuelo Hermosillo.” The conversation derives from the documentary “No Más Bebés,” a film that captures the little-known legal battle of a small group of Mexican women who sued county doctors, state, and the U.S. government after they were sterilized while giving birth at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Participants who sign up for the conversation will also receive access to the film screening.
- Wednesday, Nov. 4, noon to 1p.m.: William “Memo” Nericcio: “Mextasy: Seductive Hallucinations of Latina/o Mannequins Prowling the American Unconscious.” Nericcio, a native of Laredo, Texas, is an intellectual, artist, cultural critic, and literature professor at San Diego State University. In this conversation he will explore the many stereotypes of Mexicans and other Latinx people in American mass media and popular culture. When and how were these tropes introduced? How have they evolved as they move from analog to streaming media? Why do they persist?
“Many of the talks in this series will center on race, identity, marginalized voices, and examine the arts and humanities as tools of social change aimed at critiquing the Euro-centric, heteronormative, and patriarchal hierarchies at the heart of so many current national debates,” Espinoza said.