MARCH 25, 2021 — Political science professor Sharon Navarro and Mexican American studies associate professor Lilliana Saldaña study how Latinas reclaim and transform political spaces across the country. Their new edited book, Latinas and the Politics of Urban Spaces, is the first volume of its kind to combine case studies by leading scholars to illustrate actionable 21st century approaches for social and political activism.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Navarro and Saldaña hosted a “Virtual Plática” with the collaboration of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center to discuss these new social and political movements. UTSA Today connected with Saldaña to discuss why this work needs more attention in the social sciences.
Can you describe the gap you claim exists in focusing on Latina women at the helm of social movements?
Latinas/xs, in particular immigrant and queer, are rarely central in political discussions and analysis. We purposely selected scholarship with them at the forefront because of the interdisciplinary approaches they embrace that has yet to reach a broader audience. More and more Latina/x women are organizing digitally and using intersectional, decolonial, and feminist approaches in their politics and are creating spaces of social transformation.
In one case study, you reviewed the work by a group of Chicanas in the city of Chicago. In particular, they created toxic tours to show how people of color were more likely to live in polluted areas. Why did this approach stand out to you?
The author, Teresa Gonzalez, points out that toxic tours inform outsiders, who may not realize the extent of environmental racism, and locals, who may have normalized unhealthy conditions. Yet it’s also a way for the community to reimagine their neighborhoods and influence physical redevelopment, increase access to healthy food, and empower local residents to reshape their communities. The group, which was led by Chicanas and immigrant women, was able to make changes at the neighborhood level by establishing urban farming, while at the same time holding government accountable for policies that create unsafe community conditions.
You also examined the trend of intersectionality. Why does it matter to look at people and their needs along various dimensions?
Intersectionality can be seen as the practice that builds various points of commonality within groups. Our very own city of San Antonio is a great example of that, in particular, with the creation of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. This center was established in the late 1980s when Chicana lesbian activists like Graciela Sanchez returned to the city after being away from college. They sought to carve out a safe space to which they could bring their whole selves within an urban context that marginalized them based on their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and social class.
They’ve successfully protected historical landmarks on the West Side of San Antonio, causes that don’t necessarily fall in the realm of LGTBQ, but do impact working-class communities which are often marginalized by local policies. They’ve also successfully partnered in preventing commercial development in an area that was to be designated as a community park in the East Side of the city—an area that is predominantly Black.
You included the work of scholars who looked at spiritual practices as a form of activist-performance art and/or community hexing against political leaders. Why did this fascinate you and Professor Navarro?
The social phenomena that Norell Martinez writes about is called “politicizing magic” and there was an uptick during the Trump administration. Whether it is a magic spell, performance or a playful way to make a feminist statement, these magic collectives at the core create a critical debate around colonialism, capitalism, imperialism and neoliberalism.
The digital brujas (digital witches) become knowledge producers in a world that constantly devalues them by democratizing the ability to tell and disseminate perspectives that are often left out of the dominant narrative. As a consequence, the digital realm serves as a democratizing space that allows young women to be defiant, unapologetic about their beliefs, and engage in feminist resistance.
What do you hope to gain from focus in these areas?
In essence, we want readers to know about the ways that Latina/x women create social change through their political organizing and activism in urban and digital spaces. Latinas/xs tend to be more collaborative, resourceful and organize in a horizontal structure. Latinas/os/xs are becoming the majority in U.S. cities and are using different approaches social change. This will impact social policies, city planning and issues of gentrification, as well as a myriad of other practices that have previously benefited only a certain group.
The Innovation Academy is an 8-hour online hybrid course designed to introduce faculty to a variety of educational ideas, best practices and resources for becoming more comfortable in teaching in different modalities.Virtual Event
The Honors College and Housing & Residence Life invites students to the Student Union lawn for a Movie Under the Stars. Bring a lawn chair or blanket, a picnic, and bug spray. Movie concessions will be provided! This event is open to all students.Student Union Lawn, Main Campus
Come meet your Student Success Center, learn how to MOVE through college successfully, and meet new friends. We will have food, short info sessions, giveaways, and more!McKinney Humanities Building (MH 2.01 Galleria,) Main Campus
Get help finding your way around campus. UTSA Ambassadors and Honors Alliance members can help you find your classes, UTSA Card, and any other resources around campus! Simply come by our table in the Sombrilla!Roadrunner Statue, Main Campus
Join the Transfer and Transition Team as we talk transition, resources, and student success. Learn more about Blackboard, bluebook, and important academic policies. Bring in prior institution swag, and swap it for UTSA swag.McKinney Humanities Building (MH 2.01.24,) Main Campus
Roadrunner families are invited to take a break from moving in their students to join the Family Association for refreshments in the Student Union Ski Lodge. Connect with other families and then stay for the Roadrunner Welcome featuring SOSA.Student Union Ski Lodge, Main Campus
Come enjoy a free Kona Ice and listen to the sounds of DJ Koop. You can come with friends or make a friend when you arrive. This night is about relaxing and having a good time. It's also about being a part of our wonderful tradition to hear the Spirit of San Antonio (SOSA).Student Union Paseo, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.
UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.