Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and novelist Hector Tobar spoke in Elkins Auditorium on Sept. 15 in recognition of Latino Heritage Month sponsored by Inter-Cultural Affairs.
Tobar was invited by ICA Director Don Lawrence “to encourage our community to celebrate Latino Heritage Month by deepening our understanding of Latino culture Lawrence said.
Tobar writes a weekly opinion column for the Los Angeles Times, in addition to his work as an author. His career began at a community newspaper in San Francisco. From there, he was hired by the Los Angeles Times as a metro reporter. In 1993, Tobar quit the Times to get his master’s in fine arts in creative writing from the University of California at Irvine.
During the event, Tobar gave his perspective on Los Angeles, immigration, ideals of beauty, globalization, racial profiling, stereotypes and the differences between life in Latin America and the states.
Do you know what Mexico has that we don’t?” he asked. “Family.”
He went on to say that Mexico’s strong sense of family is what remedies issues such as homelessness. “There’s more loneliness in this country than there is in other countries.”
As a writer from the city of Los Angeles whose parents immigrated from Guatemala Tobar often discusses what it means to be an Angeleno of Latin decent. On Tuesday he talked about having to navigate between two worlds.
“I never really thought of myself as a Latino writer or a Hispanic writer but because we live in this time of conflict and change and because that’s the story that I know that’s sort of been my thing to do — to tell the story of these people and their integration into the American story said Tobar in an interview with the Graphic before the event.
It made me more proud of who I am junior Caitlin May said. I’m mixed and I know a lot of people who are too. He showed us that we can be proud of both cultures at the same time.”
Junior Bryant Galindo said he really enjoyed Tobar’s address to the students.
“This is the harbinger of what it [Latino Heritage Month] should look like he said.
Bryant’s favorite part was when Tobar talked about his upbringing. It kind of mirrors my personal story so I thought ‘Well if he can make it I can make it too.”
“Based on what I have heard so far from students faculty and staff there are mixed reviews said Lawrence of Tobar’s presentation. However many felt his comments regarding the issue of immigration were insightful and worthy of further discussion.”
Tobar described the issue of immigration as having become extremely polarized especially due to the spread of misinformation.
“I think there is a lot of myth making he said. I think that there is a spread of vicious stereotypes about people without papers that serves a certain purpose. There are people that make money out of this and others that use it to explain another issue in our society which has nothing to do with immigration — it has to do with our budgeting priorities it has to do with the political economy of the United States.”
Tobar believes that an important step in encouraging an understanding of diversity is establishing a required school curriculum that teaches American history while stressing the diversity of the country.
“Diversity isn’t a slogan it’s not something that is politically correct he said.
He went on to explain that people of many various origins contributed to American history. I think that we should start understanding the [Latino] community as one more thread in American history. It’s not something separate from what it is to be an American.”