María J. Durán Joins Our Latinx Heritage Month Assembly
Each year, CSW's Sociedad Latinx hosts a Latinx Heritage Month Assembly. In the United States, Latinx or Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15. The focus of this month is to recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic or Latinx Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. This year, we welcomed María J. Durán to our virtual assembly.
María, who identifies as a Central American-American, was born in Managua, Nicaragua and came to the U.S. when she was six years old. She is the Florence Levy Kay Fellow in the U.S. Latinx Cultural Studies at Brandeis University and will join the Brandeis community as Assistant Professor in the Department of Romance Studies and affiliate faculty of the Latin American and Latino Studies program in Summer 2021.
During assembly she shared stories of her identity throughout her childhood and into adulthood. Growing up, María and her family always celebrated her Nicaraguan culture. As she got older, however, she felt like she was losing her identity. In high school she found herself telling people she was born in D.C. and would adjust her Nicaraguan dialect to make it sound Mexican in hopes of feeling accepted. She began to erase the Central American parts of herself and became fixated on becoming more American.
By the time she got to college she felt disconnected from her Nicaraguan roots and struggled to find professors and people that she could identify with. In graduate school, she decided to pursue Latinx literature not only academically, but also personally. This is when she finally began to rediscover herself and her culture. Today she still struggles to find Central-American authors getting the attention they deserve, but continues to do what she can to reclaim the parts of her that had been erased growing up. To feel connected to her culture, María likes to attend cultural events, read newspapers in Spanish or read works by Latinx authors. Something as simple as wearing a piece of jewelry with the Nicaraguan flag or handcrafted in her home country makes her feel closer to her roots.
Durán's research focuses on political agency and the performance of resistance in 20th and 21st century U.S. Latinx cultural productions. She is currently working on her solo-authored book, which examines structural violence and the power of public mourning in contemporary Latinx theater and performance. In particular, Durán explores how the public mourning of Latinx peoples can mobilize communities to demand government accountability for social injustices. She teaches various courses in Latinx Studies, including Latinx Futurisms, Narratives of the Borderlands and Border Crossers, and Latina Feminisms. As a first-generation student, she is committed to mentoring under-represented students for student retention and success.
María says we should take this opportunity not only to celebrate Latinx culture, but also acknowledge and learn about the injustices Latinx people face. "We all have different gifts, privileges and resources. There is a place for you in this social movement, in pursuit of social justice, that extends beyond the end of Latinx heritage month,” she said.