Director Latina/o Studies & Assistant Professor, Hispanic Studies Department
COURSES DEVELOPED AND TAUGHT IN LATINO STUDIES, U. of Puget Sound:
OTHER COURSES DEVELOPED AND TAUGHT, U. of Puget Sound:
Oriel María Siu is Assistant Professor and the founding Director of Latino Studies at the University of Puget Sound. She earned her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles; her Masters from the University of California, Berkeley; and her BA degrees in Chicana/o Studies and Latin American Literatures from California State University, Northridge. Her research and teaching interests include contemporary Central American cultural productions from the diaspora, de-colonial border thinking, Latina/o cultural productions and diasporas, and narratives of race and racisms in the US. She has published several articles and is currently working on her book on novels from the Central American diaspora. Siu is also a mother and a dancer. She lives in Seattle, Washington.
A little bit about me: Made in Guatemala but born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, I am a pipil-china centroamericana in mad love with life, asking, and learning, or as the Zapatistas in Chiapas best say it, caminar preguntando. Born in the midst of a U.S. sponsored war in Central America (July 16,1981 is my birthday for those of you who I know wonder) and having grown up in an economically devastated region (by the 1990s Honduras had already been entirely sold to U.S. and foreign corporate intere$t$), at the age of 16, I –like millions of other Central Americans– had no other option than to migrate to el norte. The “American Dream”, to say it in other words, came to me in the form of an imposition; it was the only path to follow if one wished not to endure the ever-escalating violence on the streets of my home-town (now the city with the highest homicide rate in the world!), the lack of educational and employment opportunities in a historically plundered region (a history that goes way back when the Spaniards arrived, or as the great Bob Marley would have it, “ever since, ever since”), and the extremities of poverty –in all senses of the word. Los Angeles was the place of destiny, of course (by the way, Juan Gonzalez has called the continued exodus of Latin Americans to the U.S. in the past and present decades, the “harvest of Empire”. Take my classes to find out more about this Empire and how it relates to hearing Mexican music every time you go near the kitchen of every restaurant around you. Trust me, there is a direct connection here).
By the late 1990s more than a million Central Americans were already living in LA, transforming the city’s social fabric for reals! How? Well, injecting some pupusa love to the largest taco-truck city in the world and also filling up some of LA’s hottest nightclubs with some Garifuna punta, Panamanian reguetón,and Salvi cumbia flavors! That’s right. No way was the recently arrived Central American community about to leave (the exodus of Central Americans to the U.S. had started in the early 1980s, when the worst of the massacres happened “down there”). Not only were we establishing community in the U.S. (a process far from easy), but cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami represented an ironic safe-heaven to the war-torn, economically devastated countries in Central America (did I mention the U.S. funded and provoked those wars? The U.S. by the way, also provoked the inequalities that provoked those wars which in turn provoked the exile, which is now provoking me to write these (provoked) words in what I am hoping is a provocative sentence so that you can come and take a class with me one of these days. Provoked? I hope!) As I was saying, I arrived in Los Angeles in 1997.
Since then, it has been quite a ride achieving this dream of mine of becoming a professor. From organizing in the streets of LA to stop the ever-escalating fee hikes in education in this country, to participating in popular theater, to helping establish various cultural/social projects in the LA communities, to trying to figure out all the stupid prepositions in English (still working on them!) and English itself, to protesting all kinds of wars, to fighting for immigrant rights, to working in radio (Soul Rebel Radio baby!), to becoming a true and proud nerda, to Berkeley for the masters and then back to LA for the PhD, to my back getting all F’d up (won’t ask you to excuse my language) because of all the reading and writing involved in obtaining a doctorado (come talk to me if you are considering graduate school by the way, I have all kinds of tips for you on how to keep healthy and sane, well, only if you consider me sane…), and simply put, to accepting that life is plain hard and if one acquires a social/political consciousness, it is even harder; it is a never ending struggle. As the great poet Rubén Darío would have it: Dichoso el árbol, que es apenas sensitivo / y más la piedra dura porque ésa ya no siente, / pues no hay dolor más grande que el dolor de ser vivo / ni mayor pesadumbre que la vida consciente... (aaaaah… la poesía!)
Throughout my years in the U.S., I have been fortunate of having (or is it to have?) a beautiful family (and when I say “family” I mean it in the Latin American sense, as in familia/comunidad). Oh how I’ve met some beautifully-fierce people in my path! Because if there is one splendid thing about living in the United States, it is the people that you meet who have stories for days!: stories, mad knowledge, experiencia en la lucha, and vision (people who’ve been there, done that, and fought that. People who continue fighting “that”. Respect the elders peeps!). In brief, I am happy to be at the University of Puget Sound. I am happy to be here creating a Latino Studies Program, to be alive and to continue saying it loud and saying it proud. I am happy to be given a space to share what I know and continue learning, but most importantly, I am happy to have the opportunity to enable you to learn your own path so that you may struggle your own struggle (all struggles are interconnected at the end anyway). This is what teaching is about for me.
And what I do in the free time that I don’t have? Learn how to be a mother, think, write poetry, think out a novel I will one day write, dance till the feet can’t dance no mo’ with my love Dennis Richards (you’ll find us in any kizomba, bachata, reguetón, timba, punta or merengue dance floor in the surrounding areas, join us!), read, read a lot, read some more, connect with others in the community or in a bar somewhere, contribute what I can to community projects, and sometimes, when I really don’t have any free time, what I do is pretend that it is not cold outside or that it rains in this northern frontier almost every day…
Come by my office. Would love to meet YOU.