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Borderlands Series Targets Immigration Issues

October 8, 2007 -- By Sarah Alexander, College of Letters & Science

College Office

"Bozeman, like communities across the nation, is experiencing tremendous growth in its Latino population," said Bridget Kevane, as she introduced a talk by author Helena María Viramontes at the Bozeman Public Library on September 27th. "It became clear that a discussion on immigration, ethnic identities, and community growth was needed in Bozeman."

The result, a collaboration by faculty members in five L&S departments, was a four-speaker series titled "Borderlands: Migration, Ethnic Identity, and the Changing Face of Community." Sponsored by L&S and the Bozeman Public Library, the series was designed to promote awareness of the growing issue of Mexican and Latino migration to Montana.

In her talk, Viramontes described the monolithic freeway interchange system of East L.A. as "held up by the bones of the forgotten." She was referring to the ethnic neighborhoods, and their adjacent cemeteries, that were hazed for urban progress in the 1960s. But the reference to an immigrant community that is often cut-off, ignored, and overlooked, remains accurate forty years later.

Viramontes, the child of migrant farm workers, grew up in East Los Angeles and has written extensively about the experiences of Chicano and Chicana farm workers in the U.S. A professor of English at Cornell University, she has published two novels—Under the Feet of Jesus (1995) and Their Dogs Came with Them (2007).

Additional speakers in the series included: Raul Homero Villa, Professor of English at Occidental College, on the topic of "Space and Place in Chicano Culture;" Stephen Trejo, Professor of Labor Economics at the University of Texas on "The SocioEconomic Progress of Mexican Americans;" and Don Mitchell, Professor of Geography at Syracuse University, on "Terrorists, Vigilantes, War, and the Border."

Updated: 04/15/2011