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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Elizabeth Escobedo

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Author(s)

Lorne Fultonberg

Writer

Lorne Fultonberg
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The University of Denver is committed to living our values of diversity and inclusion. We recognize that our community and institutional success is dependent on how well we engage and embrace the rich diversity of our faculty, staff, administrators, students and alumni. With that shared value in mind, throughout this academic year, we will be launching a new series in the Bridge to celebrate cultural and ethnic heritage months. In partnership with Human Resources & Inclusive Community and the Staff of Color Association (SOCA), we will feature a staff or faculty member in recognition of each heritage month, along with an event to celebrate one another and learn about our unique differences.

Elizabeth Escobedo
Elizabeth Escobedo (Photo: Wayne Armstrong)

Elizabeth Escobedo is an associate professor of Latina/o history, with a specialization in 20th century Mexican American history. She enjoys teaching a wide-range of topics in U.S. history, including modern America, the Latina/o and Chicana/o experience, women and gender, and the history of race and ethnicity in America. Her book, From Coveralls to Zoot Suits: The Lives of Mexican American Women on the World War II Home Front, was published in 2013 with the University of North Carolina Press. She has also appeared in two PBS documentaries, "Zoot Suit Riots" and "Latino Americans." Her current book project is a comparative history of Mexican American and Puerto Rican women in the World War II U.S. military. 

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, Escobedo answered questions from the DU Newsroom about her background and culture.

What is something you do to celebrate your background and heritage? Are there any traditions you celebrate?

I talk to my kids about our family's history a lot. It's so important for young people to understand the diversity of the human experience, and to be able to see the history of their families and communities represented, and how their stories are linked to those of others. 

Did you always know you wanted to be a historian? What other job would you be doing if you weren’t a historian?

I did always want to be a writer and history teacher. My mother is Euro-American and father is Mexican American, and growing up I was puzzled about why I was never seeing the Mexican American side of my family represented in my classes and textbooks. I wanted to change that. 

I've always dreamed of working at National Public Radio (NPR), behind the scenes. And I love Broadway musicals, so if I wasn't a scholar I'd probably be trying to immerse myself in the theater world somehow. But first I'd have to learn how to sing!

Are there any places in Denver you would recommend for anyone interested in learning and connecting more to Hispanic culture?

The Santa Fe Arts District is full of gems that celebrate Latinx culture. Su Teatro Cultural & Performing Arts Center brings community theater to life with a number of theater productions each year, and el Museo de las Americas offers exhibits and programs on arts and cultures from ancient to contemporary times. You can also just wander the alleyways of Santa Fe and come across vibrant Chicana/o murals that represent the history of the Latinx community in Denver. That history is all around us. 

Who in your life has inspired you?

I've always been inspired by people who are willing to sacrifice to fight against injustice. And I only have to look so far as my own family to see examples of that. Both of my Mexican American tías married black men at a time when anti-miscegenation laws made it illegal to do so in California. In spite of the law, and a family and a community that was telling them not to, they bravely hopped in a car and drove across state lines and got it done! 

In an effort to make the University an inclusive and welcoming place to be, what would you like to see changed or improved?

I would like to see more and more students of color become a part of the DU college community, alongside expanding efforts to help students from underrepresented backgrounds feel welcomed, and a sense of belonging, on campus.