On Sunday, I sat at an outdoor plaza in the Alamo and snapped this picture of my morning cup of Starbucks coffee atop a fountain built to honor the legacies Alamo heroes Sam Houston and Davy Crockett. and posted it to my Facebook page. I asked my friends, “What would Davy Crockett say?” To his credit, my librarian/historian friend, Don Shin answered, “Remember the Frappucino!!!!” How appropriate (or perhaps ironic)!! Starbucks, one of the new symbols of global economic imperialism and worker exploitation sharing a space where the ‘Shrine’ dedicated to the men who fought for 13 days against General Santa Anna and central Mexico’s army. A shrine that inspired the rallying cry, “Remember the Alamo!” and served as motivation for Sam Houston and his army to in the battle of San Jacinto and preserved border we know as the US/Mexico border today. I wonder if Sam Houston and Davy Crockett could or would have imagined that the Alamo would be relegated to a tourist stop in San Antonio where commercialism and capitalism reign supreme. Where 2.5 million tourists a year come and visit the complex, but t-shirts, shotglasses, magnets, and mouse pads with the Alamo depicted on it.
I have no doubt that my morning musings about Davy Crockett and the Alamo were inspired by the fact that I was in San Antonio to attend the annual American Studies Association meetings. I make this annual pilgrimage to meetings held in cities all over the United States to pay homage to the latest research on communities left out of the annals of history; violently attacked; or simply forgotten in the maelström of contemporary politics. Although as a social scientist, I often find it difficult to find an intellectual home at these meetings, this conference, more than any other, challenges me to find new ways of thinking and knowing. I must admit, that I frequently find myself confused by some (ok…many) of the theoretical and intellectual frames utilized at this conference. After I manage to muzzle the sociological methods teacher in me and refrain from asking questions about methods, validity, and operationalization of theoretical terms, I find that I can appreciate the arc and scope of my colleagues’ intellectual inquiry and argument. Above all else, I find great satisfaction in the new and innovative ways in which they reconstruct history, interpret and analyze literature, and view the social world.
This year, maybe more than any other, I felt a deep connection to the intellectual community and tradition I was part of at the University of Southern California. Seeing this community in its entirety once a year allows a deeper appreciation for our individual and collective change and growth. As the annual USC reception, I was struck by the reality that the ‘vision’ for the Center and Department of American Studies and Ethnicity had become a reality. The ‘safe space’ that Dr. George Sanchez worked hard to create is the foundation upon which so many of us have flourished and grown. As this program enters its tenth year it’s amazing to see that they’ve awarded 21 PhD’s from the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity and were central in graduating at least 20 more (like myself) from other Departments and programs around USC that were lucky enough to have a second home at the center. In addition to the personal milestones, we also saw three of our colleagues publish their books. Laura Barraclough published her book, ”Making the San Fernando Valley: Rural Landscapes, Urban Development, and White Privilege” on University of Georgia Press. Daniel Martinez Hosang published his book, “Racial Propositions: Ballot Initiatives and the Making of Postwar California” as part of the American Crossroads series with UC Press. Finally, Priscilla Pena Ovalle published her book, “Dance and the Hollywood Latina: Race, Sex, and Stardom” as part of the Latinidad: Transnational Cultures in the United States series on Rutgers University Press. The ten years since the establishment of the American Studies and Ethnicity Program flew by. I wonder what the future holds.