Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

CSAW’s Forgotten Frontera to Focus on Mexicanidad Experience in Sept. 20, 21 Events


CANYON, Texas — A Lubbock native who grew up the child of a migrant worker and became a university history professor will lead several discussions on the Mexican American community for the Center for the Study of the American West.

Dr. Valerie A. Martínez, associate professor of history at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, is the keynote speaker for CSAW’s “Forgotten Frontera: The Mexicanidad” events scheduled for Sept. 20 and 21.

CSAW, an acclaimed research arm of West Texas A&M University, won a $150,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2022 for its Forgotten Frontera initiative, now in its second year.

Martínez will take part in a community discussion at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at Innovation Outpost, 1220 S. Polk St. in Amarillo. Also participating are emcee Mary Bralley, president of Los Barrios de Amarillo; Dr. Tim Bowman, head of WT’s Department of History; and Irma Ornelas Walker, Amarillo community member.

A reception catered by The Brunch Truck will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Martínez then will give an interactive lecture, “Building the Southern Plains: Migrantes and Mexicanidad,” at 7 p.m. Sept. 21 in the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex Recital Hall on WT’s Canyon campus. A reception will begin at 6 p.m. with light snacks.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Martínez defines “Mexicanidad” as the “embodiment of a person’s ‘Mexicanness’ in their daily life”—a field she knows well. As the daughter of a migrant worker father and descendent of other migrants on her father’s side in the Lubbock area, Martínez earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas Tech University, where her thesis focused on Panhandle and South Plains-area braceros, or Mexican laborers allowed into the U.S. temporarily as seasonal workers.

“In Texas, and especially along the border, the early 20th century was fraught with strife, segregation, discrimination and violence,” Martínez said. “However, in the midst of a contentious atmosphere, Mexican and Mexican American people survived and creatively resisted the at times dehumanizing treatment through their assertion of Mexicanidad. In my public lecture we will explore these issues more deeply within the context of the early to mid-20th century as the Mexican community constructed—both literally and metaphorically—their community but also more personally in our 21st century moment.”

Martínez’s presentation precisely fits CSAW’s Forgotten Frontera initiative, which focused on the Mexican American Southern Plains in its first year and shifts to the Mexicanidad experience in its second, said Dr. Alex Hunt, CSAW director, Regents Professor of English and Vincent-Haley Professor of Western Studies.

“This initiative responds to the lack of recognition of the unique Mexican American presence in our region,” said. “Through Forgotten Frontera, we will make these histories visible and accessible to our students, faculty and communities. That’s especially important at WT, which has been a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, now boasting a population of about 30 percent Hispanic students.”

For information on the events, visit or call 806-651-5238.

Promoting regional research is a key aim of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021— has raised more than $125 million and will continue through 2025.

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