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Latino Lit

Spanish professor Rita Urquijo-Ruiz introduces students to Latino culture through music, short stories, and performance art

By Russell Guerrero ’83

December 2009 — For students who want to explore the richness of Latino culture, there could be no better guide than Rita Urquijo-Ruiz, assistant professor of Spanish at Trinity.

While Professor Urquijo-Ruiz teaches all levels of Spanish grammar, her field of research is in the literature, culture, and performance art of both Mexicans and Mexican Americans. 

For example she teaches a course titled Chicana/o Music: History, Resistance and Rebellion, part of Trinity’s Languages Across the Curriculum program. During the class Professor Urquijo-Ruiz introduces students to 100 years of music, from corridos, Mexican-American ballads from the start of the last century, to Chicana punk music from the ’80s to Chicano hip hop and rap music today.

Professor Urquijo-Ruiz said that for many students, her courses are their first introduction into Latino culture. “Latinos will soon make up the largest minority group in the United States. Yet our students don’t have knowledge of the ethnic groups that comprise Latino culture other than what they see on TV or on the Internet,” she said. “When they come into my class and see these communities through the lens of academic work, whether it is through literature, film, theater, or performance, they are going to get a totally different point of view.”

One big advantage Professor Urquijo-Ruiz has in teaching about Latino culture is Trinity’s location in San Antonio, one of the most prominent bicultural cities in the nation. “Any student can come out of the campus and into the city and do research there.  It’s really wonderful to be able to incorporate the community into the academic aspect of the courses as well,” she said.

Professor Urquijo-Ruiz is herself very active in the San Antonio community. She has organized conferences on the work of Gloria Anzaldúa, a groundbreaking Chicana writer, volunteered at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, the largest community-based organization that promotes Latino arts in the nation, and she has organized events for the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, which supports both artistic expression and social justice.

Although her main focus is on Latino culture, Professor Urquijo-Ruiz points out   that students at Trinity have several opportunities to delve into different areas of Trinity’s Spanish program. “Many times they are thirsty for this,” she said. “They like having the options to study Spanish culture from Spain, South America, Central America, or Mexico.”   

When not teaching Spanish or courses on Latino culture, Professor Urquijo-Ruiz is a mentor in Trinity’s McNair Scholars Program, which prepares undergraduate students for masters and doctoral work. She is also a co-director of Trinity’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and plans to broaden the program in much the same way she has added to the study of Latino culture at the University.

Courses Taught

  • Elementary Spanish
  • Intermediate Spanish
  • Advanced Spanish Grammar
  • Introduction to Spanish American Literature
  • Mexican/Chicana/o Drama and Film
  • Chicana/o and U.S. Latina/o Theater
  • Transnational Mexican Popular Culture

Selected Publications

“Comfortably Queer: The Chicano Gay Subject in Dan Guerrero’s ¡Gaytino!” Ollantay Theatre Magazine, 2008.

“El Teatro Campesino,” Latinas in the United States: an Historical Encyclopedia, 2006.

“Latinas in Theater,” Latinas in the United States: an Historical Encyclopedia, 2006.

“Alicia Sotero Vásquez: Police Brutality against an Undocumented Mexican Woman,” Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social, 2004.

© 2009 Trinity University

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