Dear readers, we’re launching a new series to spotlight the work of early-career faculty and PhD students in Borderlands History. We’d like to introduce our first participant, Jonathan Cortez, who studies at Brown University. He’ll also be joining us as a regular contributor to the blog! -Mike
My name is Jonathan Cortez and I am currently a doctoral student in American Studies at Brown University. I am also completing requirements towards a Master’s in Public Humanities from the John Nicolas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage. I received my B.A. in Latina/o Studies and Sociology from The University of Texas at Austin. My hometown of Robstown, Texas and its community continuously serve as sources of inspiration for me as I move through academia. Specifically the absence of local and ethnic histories from my K-12 public schooling resulted in retroactive self-seeking that has led me to write histories of Robstown, South Texas, and the larger U.S. Southwest areas.
My research trajectory began with recovery of personal histories. I learned about the Chicana/o Movement’s importance in Robstown after conducting oral histories with family members. Under the guidance of Dr. Emilio Zamora, I conducted research and wrote “Occupying La Lomita: Claiming Chicana/o Space and Identity in Robstown, Texas” as my Latina/o honors thesis. “Occupying La Lomita” was awarded the NACCS Frederick A. Cervantes Undergraduate Student Premio in 2015 in San Francisco, California.
My current research focuses on twentieth century transnational rural social movements along the U.S. Southwest. Specifically I have taken interested in the history of labor camps from the 1930s – late 1960s. My most recent academic papers examine multiracial labor streams of Mexican, Black, Native, Asian, and White laborers in Farm Security Administration (FSA) migratory labor camps. I use archival newspapers, photos, and oral histories to recount processes of racialization between different racialized groups in the same labor camps. I also write about the cultural representation and memorialization of labor camps and laborers in current discussions of race, class, gender, and immigration status.
I also consider myself a public historian and continuously work with my own community to foster pride in local history. I am working with the Robstown Area Historical Museum to develop an event, to which I am the project director, called “Community History Day” that allows community members to add their own histories and photos to the museum archival collection. Out of this work I hope to develop theories around local histories and rural/suburban museums in Latina/o communities.
To read more about my work please visit my personal website at: historiancortez.wordpress.com