CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — West Texas A&M University announced Dr. Valerie A. Martinez, associate professor of history at Our Lady of the Lake University, will be the keynote speaker for Center for the Study of the American West’s (CSAW) “Forgotten Frontera: The Mexicanidad” events scheduled for Sept. 20 and 21.

According to officials, Martinez will participate in a community discussion on Sept. 20 starting at 6:30 p.m. at Innovation Outpost in Amarillo.

Officials mentioned that a reception catered by the Brunch Truck will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Officials also said that on Sept. 21, a reception will begin at 6 p.m. with light snacks. Martinez will then give an interactive lecture, “Building the Southern Plains: Migrants and Mexicanidad,” at 7 p.m. in the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex Recital Hall on WTAMU’s Canyon campus.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Other participants in the discussion will include emcee Mary Bralley, president of Los Barrios de Amarillo, Dr. Tim Bowman—head of WT’s Department of History, and Amarillo community member Irma Ornelas Walker.

Martinez defined “Mexicanidad” as the embodiment of a person’s ‘Mexicanness’ in their daily life.”

As the daughter of a migrant worker (her father) and a descendant of other migrants on her father’s side in the Lubbock area, Martinez stated that she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas Tech University. Her thesis focused on Panhandle and South Plains-area braceros, or Mexican laborers allowed into the U.S. temporarily as seasonal workers.

“In Texas, and especially along the border, the early 20th century was fraught with strife, segregation, discrimination, and violence,” Martinez said, “However, in the midst of a contentious atmosphere, Mexican and Mexican-American people survived and creatively resisted the at times dehumanizing treatment through their assertion of Mexicanidad. In my public lecture, we will explore these issues more deeply within the context of the early mid-20th century as the Mexican community constructed—both literally and metaphorically— their community but also more personally in our 21st century moment.”

Dr. Alex Hunt, CSAW’s director, Regents Professor of English, and Vincent Haley, Professor of Western Studies, said, “Martinez’s presentation precisely fits CSAW’s Forgotten Frontera initiative, which focused on the Mexican-American Southern Plains in its first year and shifts to the Mexicanidad experience in its second.”

“This initiative responds to the lack of recognition of the unique Mexican-American presence in our region,” officials said, “Through Forgotten Frontera, we will make these histories visible and accessible to our students, faculty, and communities. That’s especially important at WT, which has been a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, now boasting a population of about 30 percent Hispanic students.”

Officials stated that CSAW won a $150,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2022 for its Forgotten Frontera initiative, now in its second year.

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