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Miguel Díaz-Barriga, associate professor of sociology at Swarthmore College, will give a multimedia presentation on “Mexican Migration and Cultural Citizenship in Southeastern Pennsylvania,” at 4 p.m. Thursday, September 23, in the Interfaith Chapel of Hogg Hall, Lafayette College.

The talk, free and open to the public, will focus on how devotion to La Virgen de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe) is tied to understandings of migration, belonging, and race relations.

The event is sponsored by Lafayette's First-Year Seminar program. First-Year Seminars, which students take in their first semester of college, introduce students to the intellectual life of a college community by focusing on a special topic and emphasizing significant reading, writing, discussion, and presentation. Limited to 16 students, the classes also introduce students to the use of the library for research and to the College Writing Program, and include co-curricular events such as field trips to theaters and museums in New York City and Washington, D.C.

La Virgen is the most important symbol of Mexican and Mexican-American identity and culture. After the 1519-1521 conquest of Mexico by Cortes, indigenous peoples were converted to Christianity. La Virgen de Guadalupe's reported appearance to Juan Diego, a poor Indian peasant, on December 12, 1531, has come to symbolize hope and dignity for the poor and marginalized. She represents the integration of Aztec and Catholic beliefs since the hill where she appeared, Tepeyac, was also the site of worship to the Aztec goddess Tonantzin. La Virgen's appearance as a brown Virgin Mary also signified the emergence of the mestizo race and culture that resulted from the Conquest. Since 1531, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans have carried her image in numerous demonstrations and protests, from the 1821 war of Mexican independence to the 1910-1920 Mexican Revolution, from United Farmworkers' strikes of the 1960s to protests organized by mushroom workers in the 1990s.

Díaz-Barriga, who specializes in Latin American and Mexican-American studies, has published on urban social movements and culture in Mexico City, and is currently researching Mexican migration to Pennsylvania. His current research focuses on the meaning of La Virgen de Guadalupe for Mexican migrants living in Southeastern Pennsylvania. This research is also the basis for an ethnographic film that he is directing, La Virgen de Guadalupe in Pennsylvania.

Díaz-Barriga holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Stanford University, where he published as his thesis “Urban Politics in the Valley of Mexico: A Case Study of Popular Sector Organizing in the Ajusco Area of Mexico City.” He has been honored with two fellowships at Stanford, and been a visiting fellow at Princeton University. Díaz-Barriga has received several grants, including one to organize a seminar series on “Peace, Ecology, and Development in El Salvador” at the University of Central America, San Salvador, with Hector Samour.

Díaz-Barriga has had three articles accepted for publication this year, including “Borderlands,” included in a collection of articles edited by Robert Gregg and Gary McDonogh for The Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Culture, published by Routledge Press. Another article, “Beyond the Domestic and Public: Colonas Participation in Urban Movements in Mexico City, 1970-1980,” is included in Cultures of Politics/Politics of Culture: Revisioning Latin American Social Movements (Westview Press, 1998).

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