The Latina/Latino Studies Department is grounded in an anti-colonial perspective. We take into account the annexation of what is today considered the Southwest, the racialization of Latinas/os/x and the ongoing imperial expansionism that has resulted in Latin American and Caribbean migration to the United States.
The Department recognizes the historical resistance of Latinas/os/x and affirms ongoing struggles of self-determination that account for gender, sexuality, race, class, and the actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status of our students, their family members and other members of our Latina/o/x community.
The mission of the Latina/Latino Studies Department is to prepare our students for a successful and fulfilling career and personal life after completing our degree programs. At the forefront of that, we prepare our students with a comprehensive knowledge base and critical thinking skills that enable scholarly inquiry and analysis committed to justice and liberation. Once students graduate from our program, they are prepared to succeed in various career pathways. Not only do they utilize the experience and knowledge accumulated in their studies with us to succeed in their chosen careers, but they also lead and trailblaze.
And so, we strive to provide our students with a transformative education that addresses the historical and contemporary experiences of Latinas/os/x by critically engaging political economy, public health, education, history, communication, literature and sociology, among other fields. We achieve our mission through a curriculum that is both multifaceted and committed to community service and empowerment and social justice.
Latina/Latino Studies Department History
The Latina/Latino Studies Department was founded under the name La Raza Studies as the first program of its kind on a four-year college campus in the United States. It was established as a result of the campus-wide Third World Student Strike in October of 1968. The strike and boycott of classes lasted until April 1969 and was successful in achieving many of its demands, one of which was the establishment of the College of Ethnic Studies. More than seven hundred students and community supporters were arrested, dozens were beaten and many more injured in the daily melees with City and Bay Area law enforcement. The SF State faculty union and The American Federation of Teachers eventually joined in the strike. Many supportive faculty held their classes off campus to respect the boycott of the campus.
Two former Latina/Latino Studies Professors, Dr. Roberto Rivera and Dr. Velia Garcia, were among the student and faculty participants in the strike. Dr. Rivera is one of the founding members of the Latina/Latino Studies Program. Dr. Garcia was the first Latina counselor in the quickly established Educational Opportunity Program — another of the strike demands. The Program evolved into a department named first La Raza Studies, then Raza Studies and finally Latina/Latino Studies in order to promote an inclusive identity for the uniquely San Francisco mix of Chicanas/os/x and Latinas/os/x with roots from Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The Department's curriculum now focuses on the Latina/Latino/Latinx experience in the U.S., with a special emphasis on local urban issues.
The term “Raza” means race or the people. The term figuratively refers to the Spanish conquest of the indigenous peoples of Mexico and the resulting mestizaje or the mixed racial and ethnic identity of indigenous, European and African heritage unique to the Americas. In practical usage, the term Raza refers to mestizos or mixed peoples; we have the blood of the conquered and conqueror, indigenous (i.e., Aztec, Mayan, Olmec, Yaqui, Zapotec and numerous other Native Americans), European, African, and Asian. The term Raza was popularized by Mexican educator José Vasconcelos who wrote the book La Raza Cósmica and used the term inclusively to refer to a new "race" of people born out of the unique process of mestizaje in the New World.
The department was originally named La Raza Studies to establish an inclusive identity for the uniquely San Francisco mix of Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Central and South Americans living in the greater San Francisco Bay area. The name of the department was streamlined to "Raza Studies" in 1999 and in 2011 was changed to Latina/Latino Studies, retaining the inclusiveness that is even more important today than it was in 1969.
The symbol on our website is also used on the graduation pin we share with students who major and minor in Latina/Latino Studies. This symbol, the ollin, is the symbol for movement - collective movement - inner movement - earth-shaking movement and change.
It is a rare symbol in that it incorporates all four directions/elements: fire, water, air and earth. The symbol acknowledges the active interplay between them. The word “ollin” is derived from the Nahuatl words “yollotl," meaning heart, and “yolistli,” meaning life. The ollin symbol we use is modified from the ancient symbol for ollin from the Mexica culture.
On the Aztec calendar, the day that Ollin is recognized is considered a good day for the active principle, a bad day for the passive principle; a day of the purified heart, signifying a moment of reflection, consciousness and perception. It is a symbol that represents the idea that all movement should come from both your head and your heart and should be connected to others and to your greater context of community.
The symbol places you securely in the middle with your heart and your head - your conciencia y corazón - right at the articulation point of the four elements that represent how you are connected to others and to the world around you. The ollin emphasizes the connection between your individual actions and movements in the larger community.
For the Latina/Latino Studies Department, the ollin symbolizes our hope that students will move and act with great purpose - with all of your consciousness and by following your heart.
Following a proud 42-year history as Raza Studies, in the 2011/2012 academic year, our department began a new and exciting phase of growth as the newly-named Latina/Latino Studies Department. As Fall 2011 graduates came into the Chair’s office to get their graduation applications signed, they were joyful at the prospect of being the first graduates to have “Latina/Latino Studies” on their diploma. This title says to the world that our students have developed an area of expertise in the growing and recognized academic field of Latina/Latino Studies.
Our department retains every aspect of our activist heritage while highlighting our strengths in pan-Latina/Latino studies. This includes extensive coverage in our curriculum of Latina/Latino/Latinx populations in the United States with roots in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Our new name also signals our commitment to study gender as well as the many thematic issues that affect Latinas/os/x in the U.S., including transnationalism, migration, language, culture, identity and empowerment. We are already a leading force in the field of Latina/Latino Studies, and we look forward to the coming years as we build upon our leadership position as the Latina/Latino Studies Department.