the Latina/o Global Midwest

This cross-institutional team has come together to understand the role of arts and creative expression among Midwestern Latina/o communities. We invite you to explore this site, view the art, and interpret the unique qualities of Latina/o artistic expression in the Midwest. You will see how the arts attest to all kinds of transnational experiences—from migration, to bi-national identities, to the social networks that Latina/o artists are a part of—that ultimately illuminate how aesthetic cultural production has played a role in forming strong and vibrant communities that make the Midwest global.


About the Project

What does it mean to be Latina/o in the Midwest amidst a stark anti-globalist moment? What exactly are the politics of “making America great again,” or in other words, reconstituting an idyllic white past in response to the perceived displacement of white-privilege? Such contemporary imaginings not only represent the fundamental exclusion of various minoritized others, but are equally premised on a certain social amnesia which positions, for our purposes, Latinas/os as perpetual newcomers. Our argument—in the face of this public discourse and its specific targeting of Latinas/os—is that the Midwest is a historical crossroads  of people, ideas, practices, communities, and aesthetics, and we turn our attention to how the routes, impacts, and articulations of these material conditions have been represented through art and creative expression. The arts, we believe, reveal the ways in which the Midwest exists not as a singular place, but rather as a conjunctural space comprised of innumerable places with transnational and transregional flows, and everyday social interactions and interconnections extending out and into Latin America.

Our project considers the dynamics of change and transformation, and examines the role of the arts in advancing collective social expression in Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Michigan.  At the center of our study is not a unifying theory, but a thicket of homegrown vernacular theorizing emergent from the Latino community, embodied in aesthetics, and that tell the stories of mobility, exclusion and inclusion, place-making, and the cultural politics everyday life.

By collaborating with visual and performing artists, we have and continue to explore how Latinas/os have deeply shaped the Midwest culturally. We have brought scholars and artists-practitioners together to dialogue ways of thinking and teaching about Latina/o arts in a global setting and within a humanities context.

amara art

Amara Betty Martin, Virgenita de la Villita (Mixed Media 2016)

Humanities Without Walls Research Grant

Our work has its genesis in a collaborative research grant from the Humanities Without Walls consortium (HWW), part of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on the theme of The Global Midwest, generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The co-principal investigators are Alex E. Chávez and Gilberto Cardenas, both at the University of Notre Dame. The main focus of our research is to rethink “the Midwest as a key site—both now and in the past—in shaping global economies and cultures” from a Latina/o and Latin American perspective. In exploring visual arts and aesthetic practices in what we term the Latina/o global midwest, our cross-institutional working group includes scholars from the University of Notre Dame, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Nebraska-Omaha, Ohio  State University, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and University of Dayton.

Partner Institutions

Meet Our Team

Gilberto Cardenas, University of Notre Dame

Juan Casas, University of Nebraska-Omaha

Alex E. Chávez, University of Notre Dame

Karen Mary Davalos, University of Minnesota 

María de los Angeles Torres, University of Illinois at Chicago

Victor Espinosa, The Ohio State University

Olga U. Herrera, University of Illinois at Chicago

Judith Huacuja, University of Dayton