~ By Kaitlin C. Meier, student writer for the College of Arts and Humanities

Congratulations to Dr. Melanie Hernandez, assistant professor of English, who received a research grant for a summer fellowship at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies located at the University of Texas at Austin.

The fellowship is a competitive award given to scholars whose work focuses on the artifacts housed in the vast collections at the Institute. Dr. Hernandez will work specifically within the Benson Latin American Collection studying works by Américo Paredes and Carmen Lomas Garza.

“Américo Paredes was a central figure in the formation of Chicano studies as a field,” explained Hernandez. “He is increasingly known for his amazing body of fiction, including the novel ‘George Washington Gómez,’ which I teach regularly at Fresno State.”

Américo Paredes, a Mexican-American author, was a folklorist at UT Austin for many years and worked as a journalist prior to that. Two of his more widely known works are “With His Pistol in His Hand: A Border Ballad and Its Hero” and “The Hammon and the Beans.”

Carmen Lomas Garza is an artist based in the U.S. whose paintings depict everyday moments and lived experiences of U.S.-based Mexicans. Pictured above is Hernandez with her favorite of Garza’s pieces, an original print of the lithograph “Tamalada.”

“I love her work,” said Hernandez. “Garza’s paintings are celebrations of Mexican and Mexican-American culture that can seem quaint on the surface, but are enormously important in legitimizing the everyday lives and contributions of Mexican peoples to the U.S. It’s more appropriate to say that she brings everyday content into physical spaces typically reserved for more elite forms.”

Both Paredes and Garza are central figures for Chicanx Studies and share in their attention to folk culture and Mexican-American experiences.

Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, believes this fellowship will be beneficial for Hernandez in expanding her academic endeavors:

“Dr. Hernandez has truly flourished as a scholar,” said Jiménez-Sandoval. “Her fellowship at UT Austin’s renowned library will strengthen the breadth of her scholarship, and will promote Dr. Hernandez’s fascinating way of interpreting our diverse world.”

The knowledge gained in this fellowship will contribute not only to Hernandez’s own ongoing research but will also expand her teaching at Fresno State:

“I explicitly stated in my proposal that I would be there on an exploratory trip to see what I might integrate into my teaching at Fresno State,” said Hernandez. “The English Department just created a new permanent course offering in Chicanx literature, which I will be teaching this fall.”

This new course will be the first of its kind offered regularly as an option toward meeting degree requirements in the English Department. Hernandez’s summer research will aid the development of the course with its focus on Chicanx literature and cultural production.

“Dr. Hernandez’s research redefines the field, expands our understanding of the world and enriches our curriculum with topics that reflect today’s integrated global citizens,” said Jiménez-Sandoval.

“This is an important step in giving multiethnic U.S. literatures a more prominent role in the English department’s curriculum and featuring the lived experiences of the students that Fresno State aspires to serve,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez looks forward to becoming more familiar with the works of each artist and further exploring cultural works that are not widely known, but hold exponential value in their field of study.