Latin American Studies Alumnus Chronicles Peace Corps Journey in ‘Different Latitudes’

image of bookAs graduation looms right around the corner, many soon-to-be UT alums will be traveling far and wide on missions to change the world. From the Peace Corps to Teach for America, our jet-setting Longhorns will be making an impact in high-need regions of the world. In a book titled “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond” (Peace Corps Writers, April 2017), Latin American Institute alumnus Mark D. Walker chronicles his Peace Corps journey in various countries beset by poverty and political corruption.

Synapsis (from the publisher): Summer, 1971. A naive young man must decide his path upon graduation from a small university in Colorado. Amidst the turmoil of the counterculture years and the looming possibility of being sent to Vietnam, he concludes that he wants to travel, serve, and, if possible, save the world. As a Peace Corps volunteer Mark embarks on a vigorous cross-cultural experience in a Caribbean and two Central American countries, with a final stop in one of the more isolated areas of the highlands of Guatemala.

Though beset with a fear of the unknown and feelings of profound isolation due to being the only volunteer in a remote village, he eventually gets to know and appreciate the people of the rural communities he is privileged to live among. After a near-death experience takes him to another part of Guatemala and eventually to a horse town, Mark meets the love of his life, Ligia, who will bear him three children and be part of a lifelong commitment to and appreciation of this beautiful and unique country. Much of the courtship process will take place on a coffee plantation owned by Ligia’s family, where Mark experiences a different side of Guatemalan society.

While Ligia selflessly abandons her own career to focus on establishing a stable bi-cultural home for their three children during the violent Guatemalan Civil War, Mark’s “wanderlust” takes him on a four month solo trek through Latin America and then a country change based on threats from a guerrilla group. Mark’s 13-year career promoting rural development through various international NGOs begins when he sets up a local development agency in Guatemala to help the poorest of the poor, whose plight is at least partially due to the policies of his own government.

Eventually family circumstances force a radical career change and a return to the United States to begin a 30-year calling. Inspired by the “extreme do-gooders” he’d met along his journey, he takes some of the wealthiest American families in the world to meet some of the world’s poorest in some of the most isolated, unstable countries. This leads to many adventures, with both wealthy and poor growing from their shared experiences.

Mark’s career comes to a sudden and unexpected turn after he is let go as the CEO of one of these international NGOs, and this frees him up to focus on his three children and  six grandchildren. This twist in the road also provides a new opportunity to reflect on what he has accomplished, where he’s failed, and where the international NGO community has come up short. Different Latitudes is more than a travel memoir. It is a tale of physical and spiritual self-discovery through Latin American, African, European, and Asian topography, cuisine, politics and history.

Visit the author’s website to learn more about his good work in publishing and human rights advocacy.

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Among Keynotes at Lozano Long Conference

51fgw2VqywLThe 2011 Lozano Long Conference “From Natural Events to Social Disasters in the Circum-Caribbean,” will include keynote addresses from Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey, distinguished chair in poetry at Emory University, and novelist Evelyne Trouillot, a native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who has written about human rights issues.

Hurricane Katrina’s hit to New Orleans and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti revealed historical and ongoing social inequality, environmental hazards and political crisis that plague the circum-Caribbean region. Both sites will serve as focal points for these writers’ keynote addresses.

Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey

Trethewey’s talk “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” titled after her creative nonfiction book published in September 2010, will be held at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, February 23 at the Thompson Conference Center Auditorium, TCC 1.110. She is a native of Gulfport, Miss., who received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her collection “Native Guard.”

Evelyne Trouillot

Evelyne Trouillot

Trouillot’s talk “Haiti and the ‘Experts,’” will be at held at 4 p.m., Thursday, February 24 at the Santa Rita Room 3.502, Texas Union Building. She lives in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she works as a  professor of French and pedagogy. Since her first book of short stories, “ (1996), she has published two other books of short stories, tales and stories for children, two books of poems (in French and Creole), and an essay on human rights and childhood in Haiti.

The conference is organized by the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and cosponsored by the departments of African and African Diaspora Studies, English, History, Spanish and Portuguese, and the Program in Comparative Literature. See conference program for details.

Historian Emilio Zamora's Book Acknowledged as Best in Texas

zamora_claimingrights-195x300Historian Emilio Zamora has been named a fellow of the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), in addition to winning its annual Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for best book on Texas for his work “Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas: Mexican Workers and Job Politics during World War II,” (Texas A&M University Press, 2009).

The award bears the name of the late Tullis (UT alumnas, B.A. ’24 and M.A. ‘27), who was one of the first women on faculty in the History Department.

In addition, The Texas Institute of Letters presented him with its Scholarly Book Award this spring. Zamora brings focus to his study with the overarching argument that wartime concerns in Mexico-U.S. relations raised the issue of race to a hemispheric level of importance and encouraged Mexican workers to continue their call for equal rights. It will remain relevant to scholars and policy makers in the present as questions about immigrant labor, Mexican Americans, Mexico-U.S. relations and discrimination continue to draw our attention.

Historian Emilio Zamora’s Book Acknowledged as Best in Texas

zamora_claimingrights-195x300Historian Emilio Zamora has been named a fellow of the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), in addition to winning its annual Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for best book on Texas for his work “Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas: Mexican Workers and Job Politics during World War II,” (Texas A&M University Press, 2009).

The award bears the name of the late Tullis (UT alumnas, B.A. ’24 and M.A. ‘27), who was one of the first women on faculty in the History Department.

In addition, The Texas Institute of Letters presented him with its Scholarly Book Award this spring. Zamora brings focus to his study with the overarching argument that wartime concerns in Mexico-U.S. relations raised the issue of race to a hemispheric level of importance and encouraged Mexican workers to continue their call for equal rights. It will remain relevant to scholars and policy makers in the present as questions about immigrant labor, Mexican Americans, Mexico-U.S. relations and discrimination continue to draw our attention.

Celebrated Cookbook Author Serves Up Stories of Mexico’s Culinary Heritage

oaxaDiana Kennedy, known by many as the “Julia Child of Mexican Cuisine,” will discuss the history of Mexican cooking on Thursday, April, 29, 6 p.m., at the Blanton Museum of Art, as part of the Mexican Center’s “Foodways of Mexico” speaker series.

From recipes shared between mothers and daughters to village feasts in which the entire community prepares the meal, Mexico has a rich food tradition. With her profound knowledge of the culture, Kennedy will discuss the dishes and recipes of Mexico that are handed down from generation to generation.

With a zest for adventure and a passion for Mexican culture, foodKennedy spent more than 30 years traveling to the farthest reaches of her adopted homeland to track down authentic recipes.

Stories from her travels along with a wide assortment of recipes are documented in her classic cookbooks, which include “The Cuisines of Mexico” and “The Art of Mexican Cooking.” She received the highest honor given to foreigners by the Mexican government, the Order of the Aztec Eagle, as well as numerous awards from gastronomic institutions throughout the world. Her latest book, “Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy” will be published in September 2010 by the University of Texas Press.

Mexican Center Hosts Distinguished Authors

460941Distinguished Mexican writers Héctor Aguilar Camín and Ángeles Mastretta will speak Thursday, March 25, as part of the Mexican Center’s “Many Mexicos” series.

One of Mexico’s foremost intellectuals, Héctor Aguilar Camín is a journalist, historian and writer, or, as he puts it, “ a historian by accident and novelist by vocation.” Born in 1946, Aguilar Camín has been a Guggenheim scholar and editor of NEXOS, one of Mexico’s leading cultural magazines. Some of his most renowned novels are “La frontera nómada” (1977), “Morir en el Golfo” (1985) and “El error de la luna” (1995). “A la sombra de la Revolución Mexicana,” his 1991 collaboration with Lorenzo Meyer, was published in the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) Translations from Latin America Series as “In the Shadow of the Mexican Revolution” and was honored as an alternate selection by the History Book Club.

Aguilar Camín will explore the history of Mexican politics in his talk “Actualidad del pasado: Reflexiones sobre doscientos años de cambios y costumbres políticas de México” (The Past as Present: Reflections on 200 Years of Political Practices and Change in Mexico). The presentation—given in Spanish with simultaneous translation provided—will be held 4 to 5 p.m., Thursday, March 25, in the Sinclair Suite at the Texas Union (UNB 3.128).

Ángeles Mastretta is one of Mexico’s leading literary figures, a prize-winning novelist and journalist whose 1985 novel “Arráncame la vida” was a stunning critical and popular success in Mexico. As a young writer, she studied with authors Juan Rulfo and Salvador Elizondo and wrote as a columnist for various newspapers before publishing “Arráncame,” the story of a young woman who grows up in Puebla in the unsettled world of post-Revolutionary Mexico. A special screening of the film based on the book, will be held at the Paramount Theatre at 8 p.m., March 25. Mastretta will hold a Q&A session following the movie. For more information and tickets, visit Cine Las Américas.