Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican and Mexican-American tradition celebrating and remembering family members who have died.
52nd Anniversary of the Department of Chicana/o Studies
The Department of Chicana/o Studies celebrated 52 years on Wednesday, October 12, 2022!
The day’s activities included a welcome and lunch, a Chairs’ Plática featuring current Chair, Dr. Adriana Nieto and former chairs Dr. Ramon Del Castillo, Dr. Luis Torres, Dr. Irene Blea and an intergenerational panel. The event concluded with an evening fiesta and scholarship fundraiser.
The Department also collected memorabilia and personal archives from past students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members during the celebration. These items will also be used to document the history of Chicano/a Studies at MSU Denver.
All activities were in St. Cajetans and all MSU Denver students, staff and faculty, community members, and alumni were invited to attend.
52nd Anniversary Current and Past Chair Biographies
Adriana Nieto is a daughter of Denver’s dust. Her ancestors have migrated up and down the path from El Paso, Texas to Denver, Colorado for generations. Born in El Paso, Texas with maternal roots in Las Cruces, New Mexico and paternal roots throughout ‘Greater Mexico’. Nieto went to Denver Public Schools her whole life, from pre-school to South High. Dr. Nieto earned a BA and an MA from University of New Mexico in Latin American Studies with concentrations in borderlands history and gender studies. Dr. Nieto earned her PhD in the doctoral program in Religious and Theological Studies at the Iliff School of Theology and University of Denver in 2009. Dr. Nieto taught as part time faculty for CHS since 2004, began as tenure track assistant professor in 2009, and was promoted to Full Professor beginning fall 2022. She has served as chair of CHS since August 2019.
Dr. Ramon Del Castillo is a retired Professor and Chair of the Chicana and Chicano Studies Department at Metropolitan State University of Denver where he chaired the department for 12 years. He received his Ph.D., from the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado at Denver. His doctoral research was on Curanderismo and its institutionalization in a public funded organization. His research is published in several books and journals including Chicana/o Studies and Anthropology. He is a published poet whose poetry is published in Cantos Al Sexto Sol, Cool Salsa, Yellow Medicine Review, and Tumblewords, with 2 recent poetry book publications: Quetzales are not Extinct and Chicana/o Rhapsodic Rhythm and Blues. As the past Chair and Associate Professor in the Master’s Program of Nonprofit Management (MNM) at Regis University he instructed classes in social justice, advocacy and the third sector, and Cultural Diversity in the Nonprofit Sector. He facilitated the Capstone class in Guatemala and Mexico for several years. His professional work includes 17 years in community mental health, 5 years in community and economic development 3 decades in education. Dr. Del Castillo is a human rights activist and an educator whose work is centered on two specific themes, human rights and social justice. Dr. Del Castillo is one of the co-founders of the Cesar Chavez Peace and Justice Committee of Denver. For the last 22 years, the committee has planned, coordinated and led peace marches that pay homage to one of this country’s greatest 20th century leaders. His activism for the last 5 decades includes membership in several professional land social justice organizations including National Board of Chicana and Chicano Studies; Hispanics of Colorado; Latino Forum, Black and Brown Unity Circle, Latino Education Coalition, United Mexican American Student (UMAS) Organization, and Al Frente de Lucha. He has also sat on several boards of directors of nonprofit organizations including but not limited to Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Rocky Mountain PBS/Radio KUVO Jazz 89.3 and Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association. He has supported work in the area of immigrant rights for 3 decades. As a past columnist for the Rocky Mountain News for 3 years and current columnist for El Semanario, he has written incisive essays on current public policy issues. He is currently consulting on educational issues such as Hb19-1192 and Critical Race Theory.
Luis Torres is a long-time educator and administrator, having taught in higher education since 1972, first as a Graduate student and then as English professor. He attended the University of Colorado Boulder for his B.A. in English, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle.
Dr. Torres taught English as a college professor in California and Colorado, and independently prepared to teach Chicana/o Studies. He published about early Chicana/o poetry of the 1800s and about such issues as the English Only movement. In 1995 he became Professor and Chair of Chicana/o Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver. In 2006 he became Associate Dean in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and in 2008 Deputy Provost for Academic and Student Affairs. He served as Co-PI for a Goals 2000 Grant from the U.S. Department of Education between Denver Public Schools and MSU Denver to develop Chicana/o and other Multicultural Studies curricula for ECE-12th grade.
In 2012 Dr. Torres helped implement an affordable tuition rate at MSU Denver for undocumented students before Colorado approved the measure. He served as Co-Chair, 2007-2016, of the HSI Initiative to achieve HSI designation from the U.S. Department of Education. Among other education and community boards, Dr. Torres served on the Board of the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) from1990-1998 and as General Coordinator from 1992-1994. For his contributions to the discipline, he received the prestigious National NACCS Scholar of the Year award in 2016 and has received at least 20 other academic and community awards.
Irene Isabel Blea is a native of New Mexico with a Ph. D. in Sociology from the University of Colorado-Boulder. The award-winning poet, scholar and author retired as a Tenured, Full Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Mexican American Studies at California State University-Los Angles and has published textbooks, poetry, many articles, one play, and four novels. She now primarily writes fiction drawing from the social historical experiences of her Genízaro family. Her grandfather was born on the Taos Pueblo and Dr. Blea writes about this history and her struggle to regain her indigenous nature by returning to the place where she was born. Community and what happens to it are always a focus in her academic and creative work. Her novel, Daughters of the West Mesa brought attention to the issues of murdered and missing women of color and motivated the Albuquerque community to insist on closure to the still unsolved mystery involving the discovery of the remains of 11 females and an unborn fetus buried in the desert. Blea’s Suzanna trilogy, three books, are based on the story of her aunt Suzanna who lived so close to plants and the land. Blea maintains a strong internet presence. Her Chicana! Facebook page has 5,100+ members and she is frequently invited to speak on university campuses, and conferences.
Other Books Include:
- Erené With Wolf Medicine
- Beneath the Super Moon
- Poor People’s Flowers
- Daughters of the West Mesa
- Toward a Chicano Social Science
- The Feminization of Racism
- Bessemer: A Sociological Perspective of a Chicano Barrio
- La Chicana and the Intersection of Race, Class and Gender
- Researching Chicano Communities
- US Chicanas and Latinas in a Global Context
52nd Anniversary Intergenerational Panelist Biographies
Angelica Aguirre is a first-generation Mexican American born and raised in Denver. Her mother is from Zacatecas and her father is from Chihuahua. She previously worked at an immigration law firm and was inspired to go back to school to become an immigration attorney. Angelica was drawn to MSU Chicano Studies because she wanted to learn about the history of Mexicans in the U.S. She is working toward a B.A in Chicano Studies with a minor in History from MSU out the history She has aspirations of going to law school and becoming an immigration attorney herself. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, camping and photography.
Jose Luis is a first-generation Mexican American. He was born and raised in Brighton, Colorado and is currently working on getting his B.A in Chicano/a Studies at MSU Denver. Being a part of the Chicano/a Studies department has given Jose Luis a second family that supports and motivates him to work hard in his journey. His parents are originally from Chihuahua, Mexico and migrated to the United States in the early 90s in search of a better life. Growing up, Jose Luis saw his parents struggle and face discrimination due to immigration status. He then decided to pursue a career in immigration law in order to help his people. Jose Luis has over four years of experience working in immigration law, and now hopes to finish his B.A and attend law school to continue serving his community.
Events Hosted by the Department of Chicana/o Studies Studies
The Department of Chicana/o Studies hosts or supports a number of events on and off campus. Most events are open to all faculty, staff, and students from all three institutions on campus.
Richard T. Castro Professorship
The Richard T. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professorship is Chicana/o Studies’ signature event each year in September or October. It was initiated in 1997 to foster multiculturalism, diversity and academic excellence at Metropolitan State University of Denver. The professorship brings renowned Latina and Latino scholars, artists and leaders of distinction to MSU Denver to conduct classes, seminars, performances and lectures for students, faculty and the larger Denver community.
Richard T. Castro (1946-1991), educational and civil rights activist, was one of Colorado’s true champions of disenfranchised communities. From a young street social worker in the early 1970s to executive director of Denver’s civil rights agency, Castro was known as a fighter for human justice and dignity. At 25, Castro became one of the youngest lawmakers ever elected to the House of Representatives, a post he held for five terms. Castro led many struggles for social justice, including opposition to English-only legislation. He was a leading spokesperson in the debate on Mexican immigration. A bust commemorating Castro, sculpted by noted Denver artist Emanuel Martinez, sits in the rotunda of the state capitol.
Each year, the Professorship involves a number of activities, from keynote speeches, to panel discussion, to exhibitions and musical performances, depending on the expertise of our visiting scholar.
Events Hosted by MSU Denver
Annual and Biannual Events
Lalo Delgado Poetry Festival
A celebration of Colorado native social justice poet, Lalo Delgado, also known as the National Grandfather of Chicano Poetry. Occurs annually during the Spring semester.
A welcome event for Latinx students, program includes an official welcome, a blessing by Aztec dancers, food and music. Occurs annually during the month of September.