From a podcast series on Puerto Rico to poetry from Chile and Chicago to a comedy that takes place in South Central Los Angeles, these recommendations from the UCLA community offer a range of works that promise to take you on a journey during Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month.
This list also features three new faculty members from the humanities and the sciences. As UCLA progresses toward becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution, the Chicano Studies Research Center and other partners have helped recruit several new faculty members including Christopher Gutiérrez, Isabella Arzeno-Soltero and Rebecca Foote — whose work and experiences contribute to Latino life on campus.
In addition to these picks, we invite you to attend upcoming events and exhibitions, such as an off-campus screening of “Unidad: Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos” on Sept. 24, “Be in the Moment: Portraits From L.A. Lowrider, Goth, and Punk Cultures,” through Sept. 29 at the Chicano Studies Research Center, and the Latinx Welcome for students at Wilson Plaza on Oct. 9. Also in October, the Center for Arts and Performance will feature events at the Nimoy with Nano Stern singing selections by Chilean folk singer and activist Victor Jara, while the Hammer Museum hosts “Sounds of L.A. Lowrider & Soul” featuring author Ruben Molina and artist Gary “Ganas” Garay as part of their Made in L.A. 2023 programming.
Isabella Arzeno-Soltero, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering
- LISTEN: La Brega. This podcast series explores various facets of Puerto Rican life and culture. Notably, the second season takes you on a journey through Puerto Rican experiences via familiar songs, mentioning significant genres like bomba and plena, which I recommend exploring.
- READ: “Colonial Debts” by Rocío Zambrana. If you’re interested in delving into the connection between the US and Puerto Rico, check out this book, which sheds light on the ongoing colonial relationship that has a lasting impact on both Puerto Ricans living on the island and those in the diaspora.
Christopher Gutiérrez, assistant professor of physics and astronomy
- LISTEN: The “Salsa Classics” playlist on Spotify is a wonderful collection of songs from folks like Celia Cruz (la Reina), Willie Colón, Héctor Lavoe and many others. This playlist is often playing on my headphones or in my lab and is always raising everyone’s spirits.
- WATCH: “This Fool” is a hilarious comedy on Hulu that centers on a straight-laced Latino in South Central Los Angeles (Chris Estrada) who attempts to help his boorish cousin (comedian Frankie Quiñones) re-enter society after a long stint in prison. As someone who grew up in South Central, I most appreciate that the show is a loving tribute to Los Angeles and its majority, diverse working-class population.
Rebecca Foote, assistant professor of English
- READ: “Family Lore” by Elizabeth Acevedo. Acevedo’s first novel for adults follows the lives of the Marte women as Flor, who can predict when someone will die, calls on the family to prepare for her own living wake. Published in August 2023, the book is on my own to-be-read list and promises to be just as wondrous as Acevedo’s other works. Interweaving past, present and future, it explores complex familial entanglements in what Naima Coster refers to as “a singular contribution to Dominican diasporic letters.”
- READ: “Promises of Gold/Promesas de Oro” by José Olivarez. Both love story and prayer, “Promises of Gold” explores all of our most precious attachments in the many forms of love we experience as humans. Whether reading the poetry in English or in the translated Spanish, Olivarez gifts us language as its own act of love and, in turn, urges us to consider the language we use to speak our own acts of care towards another.
Charlene Villaseñor Black, chair of the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o and Central American Studies and professor of art history and Chicana/o studies
- READ: The dossier section entitled “Globalizations: Decentering, Expanding, and Reconceptualizing Latina/o/x and Chicana/o/x Studies,” guest curated by Roberto Macías Jr., Cecilia M. Rivas, Michael A. Parra and B. V. Olguín, in issue 48:1 of “Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies.” This series of experimental essays presents the latest thoughts on Latinidad and on Latinx and Chicanx studies in the flagship journal of the field. They demonstrate how Latinx studies and Chicanx studies are evolving, and how our identities and political commitments are transforming. As the editor, I recently spoke about “Aztlán” in an interview by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals that recounts the activist origins of the journal, its current state and hopes for the future.
- VIEW: The Xican-a.o.x. Body art exhibition at the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in Riverside is not to be missed. Curated by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, the exhibition presents a range of conceptual art, photography and other works that thematize the Brown body. The exhibition will be up through Jan. 7.
- READ: “Fuerza Ancestral” by Xánath Caraza. I offer a poem (in Spanish) that I love and frequently return to. It calls on our female ancestors for strength and healing, naming all the major Aztec goddesses. Originally published in “Conjuro” by Caraza, it was republished in “Voices from the Ancestors: Xicanx and Latinx Spiritual Expressions and Healing Practices,” edited by Lara Medina and Martha R. Gonzales.
Nicole Ucedo, project manager for the Science Fiction Against the Margins exhibition by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in partnership with the Cinema and Media Studies Program
- VIEW: Ana Mendieta. Ana was a Cuban artist who used her body in her artwork, which were mostly photographs and films. Her connection to the land is visible in her work and a huge inspiration to me.
- READ: “Poeta Chileno” by Alejandro Zambra. I read this book a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. It’s a compelling and sweet book about chosen family and art that gives a general history and understanding of the significance of poetry for Chileans.
- WATCH: Contra Tiempo. A dance company based in Los Angeles made up of dancers from diverse backgrounds, Contra Tiempo was founded by a Cuban American, and the dance style is a mix of salsa and Afro-Cuban dance. Their shows honor family, memory and movement.
Antonio Arellano, treasurer of the UCLA Latino Alumni Association Board
- READ: “Olga Dies Dreaming” by Xóchitl González. The writing and story are entertaining. The book touches on many themes which many Latine (or any second-generation) people can identify with — especially dreams of what being an American means versus the reality.
Andy Galan, secretary of the UCLA Latino Alumni Association Board
- WATCH: “Club de Cuervos.” A comedy with amazing characters and a diverse cast (which is reflected in the characters) wrapped up in a plot regarding the politics of soccer teams in Mexico. The themes of ambition and self-perspective also result in amazing character growth for the two protagonists.
Victor Saenz, UCLA alumnus and acting associate dean, equity and inclusive excellence for the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin
- READ: I highly recommend “My Boy Will Die of Sorrow” by Efrén Olivarez. I met with the author recently at a local book festival, and the book chronicles his powerful journey as an immigration attorney working to reunite children separated from their families.
- VIEW: I’m a big fan of muralists, including the greats like Siqueiros and Orozco as well as more contemporary artists like George Yepes and Judy Baca.
- LISTEN: My Spotify mix includes many classic mariachi and ranchera tunes, as well as contemporary artists like Bad Bunny, Flor de Toloache, Juanes and Grupo Frontera. These artists inspire me because they unapologetically embrace and celebrate our cultura, our traditions, our history and our struggle.
Taleen Ananian, associate director of internal communications, UCLA Strategic Communications
- WATCH: “Primo” on Amazon’s Freevee is a hilarious and heartwarming series about Rafa, a Latinx teen navigating life with his single mom and eccentric tios. Created, written and produced by Shea Serrano, New York Times bestselling author and awardee of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the series is loosely based on his life growing up in San Antonio, Texas.
Alex Scholnick, social media copywriter, UCLA Strategic Communications
- READ: “The Land of Open Graves” by Professor Jason De León is a gritty, personal, first-hand look at the struggles of those who undertake the journey to cross the southern border of the U.S. Equal parts prose and investigative journalism, De León paints a harrowing picture of hope and horror.