How Professor Lourdes Torres is Rewriting Latinx Narratives…
Written by Vocalo Radio on October 10, 2019
Lourdes Torres is a professor of Latin American and Latino Studies and of Critical Ethnic Studies at Depaul University…
Lourdes’ research and teaching interests include sociolinguistics, Spanish in the U.S., and Queer Latinx Literature. She is the author of “Puerto Rican Discourse: A Sociolinguistic Study of a New York Suburb” and co-editor of “Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism and Tortilleras: Hispanic and the Latina Lesbian Expression” as well as an editor of the revered Latino Studies Journal.
Her recent articles have been published in Centro Journal, Meridians, and International Journal of Bilingualism. She is currently working on a history of Latina lesbian organizing in Chicago and a book on Puerto Rican lesbian culture and literature, in addition to her work researching Spanish language use in Chicago.
We sat down with Lourdes to chat about scholarship, queer activism, and the invaluable contributions of Latin American culture…
I moved to Chicago 20 years ago. I was living in Kentucky and was looking to find a place that was an urban space. And so I was really happy to get a job at DePaul University directing the Latin American and Latino Studies Department.
I’m very fortunate to live in Rogers Park. It is an amazing place that is inclusive of people from all over the world. We have people of all nationalities walking down the street – you see hijabs, you see children, you see African Americans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, people of different income levels, you just see people of all walks of life. I love that there’s so much life and so much difference in my community.
What has your experience been living in Chicago?
I think Chicago is a place where no matter who you are or what your interests are, you can find people and communities to work with. When I came to Chicago, I immediately hooked up with Amigas Latinas, which was a Latina, Lesbian and Bisexual organization that created a space for our community and also advocated for our community. The organization ran from 1995 to 2015, and I was able to organize with this community. I loved the project so much that I became one of the people who was part of the leadership team, and I was able to create programming and bring our folks together. So that really was life-changing for me.
Also, I found my job at DePaul, which I was really interested in, because it has a social justice mission. I was really happy to find a community of people that cared about creating social change. I feel a lot of really good energy and possibility in Chicago that I don’t see in other places, and I’m excited about our ability and our desire to create social change.
What do you love about Chicago?
I teach in the Latin American and Latino Studies program at DePaul. I love doing that because right now Latinos have been demonized in our country. So what I get to do is to write and teach in a way that disrupts that very dangerous narrative and replaces it with a narrative about the contributions that Latinos have made. A narrative about the way we have changed Chicago and the United States in positive ways through our politics, through our art, through our books, through all the amazing work that we do to change and improve this country. It’s important to share that narrative with students and have them leave the classroom feeling differently and positively about our communities.
I’m also a linguist. I work on Spanish language in the United States, and Chicago has people from all countries of Latin America living here. One of the things I’m interested in is how dialects of language converge and change each other. So this is a very rich place to study that linguistic diversity. I like to be able to write and teach about our language, our Spanish, our English, our Spanglish and all the ways that we speak… they are beautiful, they’re creative, they are contributing. I feel lucky that I get to wake up every morning and go to work at a place where I can teach about the things that I care about, and write about the things that I care about. I feel very grateful.
In my work at Depaul I able to write and teach about the contributions that Latinos have made and the way that the queer Latino community has changed Chicago. I am very committed to documenting that history, presenting a counter narrative to what has been offered to our people, and also to document all the amazing coalition work that queer women and queer people have done.
I think it’s important to fight the narrative that we’re all fighting against each other with examples of us working together to create a better Chicago and a better United States…
Follow Lourdes Here
Interview Edited for Length and Clarity by Seamus Doheny
Shot by Paul Araki Elliot