In Memoriam: The Legendary Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones: Chicano Scholar, Activist and Poet

by: Alvaro Huerta, PhD
Posted: March 14, 2021

November 11, 2020, marks one of the saddest days of my life. We lost a legend on that day: Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones. We lost both a friend and scholar. Dr. Gómez-Quiñones was truly one of the greatest intellectuals in the Americas, and throughout the world. For over fifty years, through his scholarship, community involvement, political activism, and mentorship to his students, Dr. Gómez-Quiñones dedicated his life to advocating for social, economic and racial justice for Chicanas/os (or Mexican Americans), in particular, and the oppressed, in general. He would serve as mentor to many of us in his role at the University of California at Los Angeles. Among his scholarly contributions, we find his early co-authorship of Chicana/o movement principles in El Plan de Santa Barbara: A Chicano Plan for Higher Education. In those early years, there was a need for a set of higher education principles and goals which Chicana/o students should strive for. El Plan serves as a historical artifact which framed the process of a social and educational movement.[2]

Dr. Gómez-Quiñones also co-founded UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC) and Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies. He was NACCS (National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies) Scholar Recipient in 1990.

Moreover, he was an accomplished and published poet:

“My father’s land / is crossed / ribbon like / by stone fences / they wither in the sun / White stones that glisten in the sun, / Stones that ballast a sea of brown hills. / My father’s whip laid them, / My mother’s tribe fed them.”[3]

In short, Dr. Gómez-Quiñones took the ashes of our once burnt history and created scholarly books, peer-reviewed articles, essays and eloquent poems in spaces limited to the best and the brightest which Western Civilization has to offer. He did so through his publications, speeches and memories, without succumbing to fear or forgetting where he came from.

I first met Dr. Gómez-Quiñones in 1985.  As a freshman at UCLA, I was happily surprised to see a Chicano professor teaching at an elite university. More surprising,  indeed, was Gómez-Quiñones’ reading assignments which included brown scholars.  He succinctly encapsulated for me the value of comprehending our, and America’s, indigenous past:

“The point of learning about the Indigenous past is not to relive past practices, or to propose one essentialization over another, or to be immobilized by history. The first stone to demolish the old presidio is our own consciousness.” [4]

I will miss him dearly.

[1] Dr. Álvaro Huerta is an Associate Professor of Urban & Regional Planning and Ethnic & Women’s Studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Dr. Huerta is author of Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm and Defending Latina/o Immigrant Communities: The Xenophobic Era of Trump and Beyond. He holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. He also holds an M.A. degree in Urban Planning and a B.A. degree in History from the University of California at Los Angeles.

[2] The epochal El Plan de Santa Barbara: A Chicano Plan for Higher Education (April, 1969) was an ambitious blueprint for the higher education of Chicana/os developed by higher education students from throughout California. Some elements include: a student recruitment and admission program; recruitment of Chicana/o faculty and administrators; curriculum relevant to the Chicana/o culture and experience; and student support programs, research programs, among others. El Plan was the forerunner to Chicana/o studies programs which have been developed at colleges and universities over the past fifty years.

[3]Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones, 5th and GRANDE VISTA (Poems, 1960-1973), Colección Mensaje, New York, 1973, p. 61.

[4] Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones, Indigenous Quotient/Stalking Words: American Indian History as Future, Aztlan Libre Press, San Antonio, Texas, 2012, p. 39.

Dr. Álvaro Huerta is an Associate Professor of Urban & Regional Planning and Ethnic & Women’s Studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He is author of Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm and Defending Latina/o Immigrant Communities: The Xenophobic Era of Trump and Beyond. He holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. He also holds an M.A. degree in Urban Planning and a B.A. degree in History from the University of California at Los Angeles.

PUBLISHER’S NOTICE

The July 2021 edition of IberoAzltan will be our seventh. We had projected publication of six editions which would be focused primarily on an interview project which we began in 2017, called the Chicana/o Legacy Project. The interest in and support for IberoAztlan was Unexpected.

Rather than ceasing publication as originally intended, we are offering to transfer all publisher’s rights, powers, and legal authority to anyone (individually or otherwise) who has the interest and wherewithal to carry on the project.  The purchase price is $1.00, and the consideration and conditions are negotiable.

Viva Chihuahua!

2:00 p.m., MST August 26, Broadcast from the US-Mexico Border

View the Borderland Saga through the lens of those who embody the Frontera experience in words and image. The program includes talks by UTEP political science professor Dr. Kathleen Stoudt; history professor Dr. Yolanda Leyva; studio visits with Antonio Castro, Oscar Moya, Jacob Muñoz, and Mark Clark; a reading by poet activist Margo Tamez; and, a short film “Seven String Barbed Wire Fence” by David DeWitt and Diana Molina

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