A Brief History of Latina/o Studies

As a product of the social and cultural anxieties of the 1960s, the field of Latina/o Studies is perhaps best described as having followed a “down-up” or grassroots trajectory. In the age of student civil rights struggles, Ethnic Studies programs began to appear once more African-American, Puerto Rican, and Chicana/o students gained access to higher education during the 1960s and 70s. The earliest Latina/o Studies programs, which largely focused on either Chicana/o or Puerto Rican Studies, distinguished themselves through their adherence to three theoretical and pragmatic ideals that characterize many Latina/o Studies programs to this day: collective work and scholarly collaboration; a commitment to uniting theory and practice; and an interdisciplinary focus. One of Latina/o Studies’ other central characteristics is its reliance on a theoretical development that is not removed from the lived realities of subjugated communities and individuals. Instead, Latina/o Studies promotes the reclamation of marginalized historical, cultural, and social spaces. Finally, Latina/o Studies is characterized by its “sustained critique” of more traditional scholarly endeavors.