LAS VEGAS, N.M. – A Highlands University cultural anthropology professor is advising the Santa Fe-based School for Advanced Research in creating a new Latino Studies Program aimed at increasing the pipeline for Latino scholars from throughout the United States.
Highlands cultural anthropology professor Mario Gonzales shared his expertise in U.S. and Mexican immigration and border issues, indigenous peoples of Mexico, Central and South America, and Hispanics of the Southwest with the SAR initiative.
“There’s a lot of talent in New Mexico in Latino studies, and professor Gonzales is one of the first people we contacted for our initiative because his work is well known,” said Michael Brown, president of the nonprofit School for Advanced Research. “He’s recognized as an expert in the field.”
Brown, who is also an anthropologist, said Gonzales’ insight was very useful in defining a direction for the Latino Studies Program and how it can contribute to universities in the region.
The School for Advanced Research, founded in 1907, supports advanced scholarship and creativity in the social sciences, humanities and Native American art.
Gonzales earned his doctorate in anthropology from Washington State University and joined the Highlands faculty in 2003.
As a child, Gonzales worked alongside his grandparents and parents as a farmworker in the Fresno, Calif., area. His grandparents immigrated from Mexico, and he was the first in his family to attend college.
“As a Latino professor, I went through academia as a minority,” he said. “I want to see the next generation of Latino scholars grow and thrive, whether their ancestry is Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican or Central American,” Gonzales said.
He said his heritage and personal experience as a young farmworker influenced his interest in studying indigenous cultures. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Oaxaca, a state in Mexico known for its high population of indigenous people.
While archaeology is the field of anthropology that studies human history and prehistory through excavating sites and analyzing artifacts, cultural anthropology is the study of living peoples.
“Cultural anthropolo-gists need to bridge the gap between the academic world and the general population. SAR is looking for Latino scholars whose research is grounded in people’s every day experiences from culture to politics and economics,” Gonzales said.
He said an interesting parallel between Highlands and the School for Advanced Research is that the first president of both entities was Edgar Lee Hewett, an archaeologist who also founded the Museum of New Mexico.
Brown said SAR’s Latino Studies Program will be fully implemented in 2017 including additional scholars, public lectures and seminars.
Gonzales is a frequent presenter at anthropology and other academic conferences on border and labor issues, indigenous cultures, and migrant workers in the southwest and California, among other topics.