Visiting professor to discuss Latino history in the Midwest

GVL / Courtesy -
Dr. Lilia Fernandez

GVL / Courtesy – Dr. Lilia Fernandez

Andrew Schertzer

Dr. Lilia Fernandez, an associate professor at Ohio State University and Rutgers University, will be visiting Grand Valley State University to speak for a Hispanic Heritage Celebration event. 

The event, “Why Your History Matters: The Latino Experience in the Midwest,” will take place Wednesday, Sept. 20, from 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. in Room 2204 of the Kirkhof Center.

“All too often, students are taught history from a Eurocentric perspective in high school and even college,” said David Stark, GVSU professor of history and coordinator of Latin American and Latino/a studies, who put the talk together. “This omits the contributions of African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos and women.”

Stark said students of color can feel alienated and wonder if, how and where they fit in as Americans. The talk is designed to dispel myths and inform students about how there are different perspectives in history. Stark pointed out that the U.S. is a “melting pot” and that Latinos have made an important contribution to our shared history. 

“As a Hispanic student, I feel like history should be told from an equal viewpoint,” said Jacob Kucinski, a GVSU student.

Kucinski, who is currently in his junior year, plans to attend the talk. He expressed that in the past, his history classes tended to highlight predominately white members who played an important role in the U.S. He hopes Fernandez’s talk can shed some light on why this might be.

Fernandez focuses on Latino and Caribbean studies. She wrote her book, “Brown in the Windy City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago,” to highlight what Latino life was like in Chicago after World War II. 

Stark is passionate about telling the true history of Latinos in America. He said students who go to the talk will get a greater and broader understanding of who Latinos are and what they’ve contributed to U.S. history.

He said Latinos have been here since the establishment of Saint Augustine in 1565 and they have had to sacrifice and work hard while fighting racism throughout the history of the U.S.

“Given the current political and racial climate in our country today, it’s more important than ever that we appreciate the diversity in America’s melting pot,” Stark said.

Further, Stark believes racism plays a big role in how Latinos are treated in society. He hopes Fernandez’s talk can clear the air on some of the common stereotypes. He said Latinos aren’t criminals, they aren’t here to take U.S. citizens’ jobs, and they are hardworking men and women just like everyone else.

Fernandez’s talk is a part of GVSU’s 2017 Hispanic Heritage Celebration. Her speech will kick off the celebration and will be followed by “Hispanics: More Than Statistics” Wednesday, Sept. 27, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center Grand River Room as part of the “Professionals of Color Lecture Series.”

For a full lineup of events, visit