Monday, May 5, 2014

In Honor of Vincente Ximenes Legacy, Melisa Garcia (2014 Ximenes Scholar)

To begin, it is important to take a few moments of silence to honor the legacy that Vincent Ximenes has left for the future of Mexican American Civil Rights. Although, I only heard about Ximenes in Professor Kells Chicano Ecology class, and now a Ximenes scholar, I am humbled to represent a huge legacy of progress and equal rights. The first time I heard about Ximenes I Googled his name, and learned more about what he contributed to New Mexico and nationally. After learning about Ximenes death, while reading the Albuquerque Journal online, there was something in particular that was heartwarming, strong willed about this man that resonated within me. This specifically were the words that Ximenes shared with his daughter, “You have to fight back and stand up for yourself.” This in many ways, have been the same words that roam in the banks of my memory when I think about my father. Just from this simple phrase, I am sure that Ximenes was an exemplary father.

It is not often that a person is recognized for their efforts, and Ximenes deserves more than recognition. As a poet, I can say that words are like actions, and that although I never met Ximenes, his actions in my eyes, and for ears are poetry. This desire within to take action against those things that matter most to us. The dedication that Vicente Ximenes had in supporting underrepresented populations is a value that I myself seek as a first generation of Central American parents. I believe that this is crucial for individuals from a generation of Salvadoran and Guatemalan descendants to be given the opportunity to distinguish themselves through a dialogue about the political, social climates of these countries. In my work I focus on creating a dialogue of my parents’ experiences in these countries. As well to give voice to them, to the country, and of course to stories that haven’t been told. I am building my own oral history, then providing a civic literacy within academia, with the goal of creating a representation for future generations. Many of my poems aim to do this so the stories won’t remain within my parents, friends, neighbors, but outside of California, and now thankfully in New Mexico.

This is important, and has been important to me because my family’s history is founded on the struggle of defying displacement of the mind, body, and spirit. Like Ximenes, supplying this space for others to express themselves happens in my mind through poetry. Through Professor Kells Chicano Ecology class, I have rediscovered what displacement means, what land ownership provides for its inhabitants, and the most difficult concept to explain or even digest—exile. Through Professor Kells class I am learning more about this through a personal project I started in undergrad about the testimony of a woman named Rufina Amaya from El Salvador. She was the sole survivor of a massacre in El Mozote, Moraz├ín. She told her story of survival, a film was made, then Mark Danner transcribed her testimony, but the Truth Commission did not believe her testimony was valid. In my eyes, this testimony is a form of civic literacy that has been denied and forgotten. This in many ways, frustrates me, it wants me to create a dialogue about her testimony, and to attest to it. This is not just a representation of a woman of El Salvador, or of just the generation of Salvadoran woman but of all woman that deserve a voice. So in retrospect, I am thinking about myself as a representation of my mother, her country, my father and his journey, and my journey will be.
This I hope, will create a great integral space to continue attesting to my interpretation of civic literacy through my poetry, and the ongoing desire to tell the stories of those that are silenced and not represented.

Vicente Ximenes life, spirit, courage will live on. Some may come to learn his name like I did, then look around and notice that change is attainable. Through the Ximenes scholarship many have access to expressing their civic duties, and I am in-debt to a man I never knew, but yet feel like I did. Thank you Vicente Ximenes.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ximenes Tribute by Isaac G. Cardona - March 28, 2014

A decade ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking to Dr. Vicente Ximenes for the first time, and although I had researched and read quite a bit about his illustrious career, all of the words on the pages that I had read paled in comparison to hearing about his life through his own words. It was a life lived less ordinary.

As I heard Dr. Ximenes speak about his past, I began to draw parallels to my own life, and that of my family. He grew up in the small town of Floresville, Texas, and just like each of my male relatives, he served in the armed forces overseas. When he returned, the path that he took continued to be one of service, and his actions would impact not only the Hispanic veterans in my family, but those of millions of Americans who would be granted equal treatment through the fulfillment of his legacy. His life was a life of service, seeking equality and justice for all Americans, regardless of their backgrounds, and his work with the American GI forum did just that.

With all of his accolades and accomplishments, education was a factor in Dr. Ximenes’s life that seemed to be a focal point for all of the other successes that he would have. The University of New Mexico became his home as he pursued his bachelor and master degrees, becoming an accomplished scholar in addition to a passionate civic leader. As a student at the University of New Mexico myself, I was honored to be granted time with such a remarkable man, and to hear about his life and accomplishments. What was undoubtedly a short meeting has resonated with me for years ever since.

I left inspired and motivated by the words of Dr. Ximenes, and along with Dr. Michelle Hall Kells, we were able to set up a scholarship at the University of New Mexico in Dr. Ximenes’s name to not only commemorate the amazing work that he had done, but to afford others the opportunity to have a similar impact through education. It was fulfilling work to see the scholarship come to fruition at dedication ceremony for Dr. Ximenes. The room was packed full of people who were there to congratulate him, and to show support for a man that had supported so many others. We gave out the award to the first recipient on that day, but in the past decade, it has helped so many others.

Moved by his message, my post-collegiate years have been spent in service, much like those of Dr. Ximenes. Knowing that access to a quality education is the civil rights movement of our generation, I joined Teach For America after graduation and moved to Texas to teach and support students who were much like myself. I was able to work in underprivileged schools from the bustling streets of Houston, to the dusty dirt roads of the Rio Grande Valley. For almost a decade, I have had the pleasure of working with teachers and students that are committed to ensuring that every child, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

Although I was saddened to hear about the death of Dr. Vicente Ximenes, being granted the opportunity to hear about his life forever changed mine. He was a remarkable leader and man that will truly be missed. 

c/o Professor Michelle Kells, Associate Professor, Rhetoric & Writing,  University of New Mexico  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Reception to Honor Vicente Ximenes - Friday, March 28th

In Honor of Vincente Ximenes - Christine Garcia

The last time I spoke with Vincente Ximenes we talked about my hometown of San Angelo, Texas. He recalled with nostalgic humor how the Tejanos and Tejanas in West Texas were a bit stubborn and a bit set in their ways. Ximenes followed this accurate critique by telling me that those that did listen to the message of progress and equality via Mexican American Civil Rights were some of the most dedicated and most vocal activists he had ever met.
After our conversation, I reflected on the importance of Ximenes’s work to scholars such as myself. As a young woman raised and educated in West Texas, I was a definitive homegrown scholar, as much a part of my community as I was a part of academia. Through Ximenes’s stories about my hometown, I began to acknowledge this and embrace it. What an honor it was to come to this realization through Ximenes’s fond memories of San Angelo and his time there as an activist and organizer.
As a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of New Mexico, I am taking a path like the one forged by Ximenes on his journey from Floresville, Texas to Albuquerque, New Mexico, I have made my way west to cultivate the academic side of my role as citizen scholar. My dissertation, titled “The Chicana Speaks: Dolores Huerta and the Chicana as Rhetor,” is the cornerstone of this journey. My dissertation examines the role of Dolores Huerta as a paradigmatic Chicana rhetor. Known as “La Huelgista,” Huerta has worked tirelessly for the last four decades in pursuit of Mexican American labor and civil rights. Through her position as lobbyist and speaker for multiple organizations and foundations, she has accomplished the monumental feat of the Chicana voice from the oikos into the polis. I take as my primary texts for analysis Huerta’s own words, her 1969 Statement to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Migratory Labor, a 1973 debate between Huerta and Chuck O’Brien of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and her 2009 Commencement Keynote Address at UCLA. Ultimately, I argue that the confluences of Huerta’s upbringing, her critically progressive embodiment of Chicanisma, and her adept rhetorical skills positions her as an efficacious Chicana rhetor. My work is in honor of activists and speakers such as Huerta and Ximenes and the profound impact they have made in American Rhetoric. I believe that the time is upon us to begin cultivating these voices as part of our canon.
As Ximenes scholars, we all strive to move the work we are doing within the confines of academia into the community. An example of this came with the 2013 Writing the World Symposium, held at the University of New Mexico on April 19th, 2013. As the 2013 Chair of UNM’s Writing Across Communities, I had the pleasure of helping to organize this symposium with a cadre of like-minded citizen scholars. This symposium brought together academics, poets, tutors, students, and community members in forum on issues concerning literacy practices in our dynamic and diverse university and community. Vibrant and varied panels led to personal and professional connections for presenters and attendees. From these connections arose continuing conversations on how to best engage and enact literacy practices that are local and vocal and effective to our communities.
Vincente Ximenes’s legacy of interweaving civic duties with scholarly endeavors lives on through the Ximenes Scholarship and those, such as myself, who have the honor of receiving it. 

c/o Professor Michelle Kells, Associate Professor, Rhetoric & Writing,  University of New Mexico

Genevieve Irene Garcia de Mueller's Memorial to Dr. Ximenes

When I heard of Dr. Vicente Ximenes’ passing and was subsequently asked to write this memorial I was at first honored and then humbled.  He meant so much to the movement, to my work as a scholar of color, to Albuquerque and to the Chicano community.  I have struggled to write this memorial because how do you honor a man with such a legacy. 
In 2012, when I received the Vicente Ximenes Scholarship in Public Rhetoric and Civic Literacy I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Ximenes.   I related to him that as a single mother and a Latina with limited funds, the money I received meant the word to me but more than that with this scholarship I would dedicate my work on several research projects with Ximenes’ legacy in mind.  The work he did was revolutionary and people like me wouldn't be in doctoral programs without the things he did so many years ago.  It was and still is an act of defiance for people of color to contribute to academia.  
This past weekend I attended the Conference on College Composition and Communication where I presented a chapter of my dissertation titled Multilingual Writers and the Ruling Voice: Constructions of Race, Ethnicity, and Citizenship in the DREAM Act.  It was during the discussions that followed this presentation and the meeting with the Latino Caucus that I realized how to frame this memorial to Dr. Ximenes.  We are still a misunderstood and underrepresented people. We still need to mobilize. And so in death as in life Dr. Ximenes is our abuelito.  He is our voice and our passion and as part of a community of Chicanos, Latinos, and Indigenous gente he symbolizes the struggle.  He will be missed because of his work but also because he is part of a collective conscious of Latinidad and Chicanismos.  One soul has passed but the struggle continues. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Vicente Ximenes’ Legacy of Citizen Scholarship, by Brian Hendrickson

The other afternoon, on my way across campus to conduct my dissertation research, I happened to run into my mentor, Dr. Michelle Hall Kells, heading home for the day. I had been working on the webpage to honor Dr. Vicente Ximenes and the scholarship that bears his name, and I had a question for Dr. Kells, whose current book project examines Dr. Ximenes’ key role in Mexican American civil rights reform. Over the years I had studied under her and worked alongside her on UNM’s Writing Across Communities (WAC) Initiative, I had often heard Kells refer to Ximenes as the cofounder of the American GI Forum, but I had trouble finding that reference elsewhere. When I mentioned that to her, Kells explained that Ximenes had yet to receive the recognition he deserved, but that Ximenes should be considered a cofounder of the American GI Forum for the role he played in shaping the organization into one that would in large part determine the outcome of the 1961 presidential election. And it was Ximenes, Kells insisted, that had provided the blueprint for the work we had been doing these past ten years at UNM under the banner of the WAC Initiative.
       I’ll leave it to the expert, Dr. Kells, to reveal the details of Dr. Ximenes’ legacy, but the gist is this: The American GI Forum was not much more than a small network of veterans and church groups scattered across Texas when it came under the leadership of Dr. Vicente Ximenes in 1951. At that time Dr. Ximenes was an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico, but in collaboration with other student-veterans, he was able to transform a loose-knit and at that time largely campus-based initiative into a force that united the southwestern Hispanic community under the banner of civil rights reform. It was Ximenes’ aptitude as a citizen scholar—one who navigates fluidly the often conflicting but always overlapping spheres of academic, professional, and civic life—that forged his path from leader of a student organization at UNM to advisor of the President of the United States on Mexican American civil rights.
       I am humbled to have received the honor of a Vicente Ximenes Scholarship in Public Rhetoric and Community Literacy for my work with WAC at UNM. The extent to which my organizing work has been informed by Dr. Ximenes becomes more apparent as Dr. Kells shares through her scholarship more and more of the blueprint inscribed in Ximenes’ rhetorical legacy. Already I am indebted to Ximenes for the concept of the citizen scholar, upon which my dissertation research is based. My study, “Toward a Rhetorical Paideia of Writing in/across/beyond the Disciplines: A Genre Ecology of Citizen Scholarship in the School of Engineering,” follows engineering students involved in a humanitarian project that requires they navigate the often conflicting but always overlapping professional, academic, and civic economies of writing that comprise that endeavor. I hold that such an endeavor is in fact an instance of citizen scholarship, and the cultivation of the citizen scholar the primary objective of liberal education in the 21st century.
       What I want to know is how we can better prepare students for participation in acts of citizen scholarship that will inherently require them to write in, across, and beyond disciplinary and cultural boundaries and ultimately define for themselves what it means to be an active participant in the democratic process. It is my hope that this research will inform the way that inter/disciplinary capstone courses are designed and implemented here at UNM and elsewhere, and thus how writing is taught across the curriculum to prepare students for successfully completing such capstone courses and achieving other goals in their professional and civic lives. I know that the most effective teaching and most impactful learning don’t occur in the classroom but in interactions like the one I recalled above, within instances of citizen scholarship wherein students and their teacher-mentors collaboratively endeavor to effect real-world change, in this case, in a way that honors the legacy of Dr. Vicente Ximenes. It is therefore my hope that the impacts of my own citizen scholarship will serve as one way in which Ximenes’ legacy will live on in the lives of students here at UNM and elsewhere.