Spanish Professor Leads Reading Group on Immigration

August 22, 2019

Photo of Norma Valenzuela

Norma Valenzuela

Las Vegas, N.M – An upcoming reading group at New Mexico Highlands University will explore immigration to the United States over the centuries as well as Indigenous sovereignty.

The “No History is Illegal: A Multicultural American History” reading and discussion group begins Sept. 26. Norma Valenzuela, a Spanish professor in Highlands’ Languages and Culture Department, will lead the group.

“We’re in a state of crisis worldwide with people’s lives that have been disrupted through social unrest, economic insecurity and civil wars who are migrating to countries where they believe they will be safe, like the United States,” Valenzuela said. “These three books offer an understanding of the history of the U.S. that was built on the labor of immigrants.”

The free book discussions are from 6 to 7 p.m. in Donnelly Library, 802 National Ave., on these dates:
Thursday, Sept. 26 – “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James W. Loewen
Thursday, Oct. 24 – “Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America” by Juan Gonzalez
Thursday, Nov. 21 – “A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America” by Ronald Takaki

All of the books are available at Donnelly Library.

“The book ‘Lies My Teacher Told Me,’ originally published in 1995 and updated in 2007, is about how traditionally, it is the history of the dominant culture that is taught in the U.S. James Loewen focusses on how European culture is highlighted while there’s an untold history of the making of the U.S. by multiple people and voices,” Valenzuela said.

“Harvest of Empire – A History of Latinos in America,” first written in 2001 and revised in 2011, spans five centuries ranging from the first New World colonies to the first decade of the new millennium.

“This book explores how the immigration crisis the U.S. is currently experiencing is related to U.S. foreign policy in the Caribbean and Central America,” Valenzuela said.

“A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America,” was first written in 1993 and updated in 2008.

“This book looks at the multicultural voices told though the eyes of minorities in the U.S. The author, Ronald Takaki, a Japanese American, incorporates personal stories in his writing,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela joined the Highlands University faculty in 2017. She earned her doctorate in Spanish with an emphasis in Chicano/Latino and Latin American cultural studies from Arizona State University.

“For me, it’s extremely important that U.S. society does not equate immigrants with criminals and other stereotypes,” said Valenzuela, who was born in Mexico. “Immigrants are professionals like teachers, doctors and professors. Also, many immigrants serve in the U.S. military.”

Valenzuela said her primary research interest is studying Latina filmmakers because of their social justice focus. At Highlands, Valenzuela teaches courses such as Beginning Spanish, Advanced Spanish Conversation, and Civilization and Culture of the U.S. Southwest.

“I’m a first-generation college student and feel like I can relate to many of my students at Highlands. I value that so many students come with rich Spanish language knowledge,” Valenzuela said.

April Kent, a Donnelly librarian and head of public services, coordinates the library’s reading groups.

“The reading groups are informal, and I encourage people to join the discussion whenever they can,” Kent said. “At Donnelly we offer free library cards to area residents.”

For more information, contact Kent at 505-454-3139,, or visit the library.