The idea to create an association of Mexicanist scholars came about following the publication in 1996 of El cuento mexicano. Homenaje a Luis Leal (Ed. Sara Poot Herrera), a book featuring articles by Hernán Lara Zavala, Beatriz Mariscal, Seymour Menton, Juan Bruce Novoa, and Elena Poniatowska, among others. This association, despite its formal status, would be distinguished by the cordial and friendly relationship among its members and would be made up of Mexican cultural studies scholars from the University of California (UC) system.
The founders of UC-Mexicanistas include Linda Egan, Norma Klahn, Tim McGovern, Seymour Menton, Juan Bruce Novoa, Claudia Parodi, Max Parra, Sara Poot Herrera, Jacobo Sefamí, and Ray Williams. In Mexico the association was joined by Beatriz Mariscal (El Colegio de México) and of Blanca López de Mariscal (Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey). To this initial group we later added Vittoria Borsò (Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf) and Oswaldo Estrada (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The founding members gradually bonded through teaching, literary gatherings, and working meetings, all based on their respective research in different areas of Mexican culture and literature.
In the fall of 2001 (at the UC-Mexicanistas annual conference at UCSB), the association was made semi-official and in March 2006 UC-Mexicanistas (Intercampus Research Program) was made official throughout the UC system. By that time, the association counted among its members additional professors from the UC system, distinguished ex-students from the UC system that now work in California and other parts of the United States, professors in and outside of California not necessarily from within the UC system; including Jorge Rufinelli, from Stanford University and Adán Griego, a librarian at the same university. The association continued to grow, adding professors from Germany (Vittoria Borsò), Norway (Juan Pellicer), Spain (Judith Farré, and Miguel Zugasti) and many professors and writers in Mexico (among these, Rosa Beltrán, Margo Glantz, Hernán Lara Zavala, Sandra Lorenzano, Elena Poniatowska, and Cristina Rivera Garza).
Currently, UC-Mexicanistas holds several annual conferences in the UC system, including the annual Colloquium on Mexican Literature at UC Santa Barbara, organized by Sara Poot Herrera and the Annual Mexican Conference at UC Irvine under the direction of Jacobo Sefamí and Seymour Menton. Conferences in Mexico organized by UC-Mexicanistas include a semi-annual one held in Mérida, Yucatán, and other conferences held in Mexico at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana and the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana), Other international conferences locations have included Germany (Düsseldorf), Spain and Iceland, most recently the site of a special homage to writer Elena Poniatowska.
The Mérida conferences have resulted in the publication of several collected volumes (on food and literature, on drink and literature…) and in a book dedicated to Luis Leal (with the support of Hernán Lara Zavala of the UNAM) and a book dedicated to Tim McGovern (with the help of Álvaro Ruiz Abreu of the UAM).
Of great importance was the tribute to Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska held in September, 2012 at the University of Iceland, in honor of the translation into Icelandic of her book Hasta no verte Jesús mío (Jesúsa: Óskammfeilin, þverúðug og skuldlaus), and the 15th Annual Colloquium on Mexican Literature held in November 2012 in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of California, Santa Barbara, titled “As Time goes by” / … y así nuestros quince años…”, a colloquium dedicated to Elena Poniatowska and Carlos Fuentes, which featured the outstanding participation of Elena Poniatowska (who was given a long standing ovation). The members of UC-Mexicanistas have also organized panels, round tables, and tributes in California, in other parts of the United States, and in Mexico and Europe.
The association has been supported by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana, the Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México, and the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. Among the UC-Mexicanistas there are directors and professors from these institutions, including Rosa Beltrán, Hernán Lara Zavala, Edith Negrín, Álvaro Ruiz Abreu, María José Rodilla, Carmen Beatriz López Portillo, Tanius Karam and Luzelena Gutiérrez de Velasco.
Through the years, UC-Mexicanistas has begun to recognized as a group of outstanding researchers that, as a whole, offer an interdisciplinary focus to already existing studies between the United States and Mexico, specifically between Mexico and California. The conferences in California, Mexico (and specifically those in Mérida) are prestigous and so are the publications that have resulted from them, both “classic” (by recognized professors in their specific area and those by professors at the peak of their professional careers) as well as those by young researchers, most of who were once students of UC-Mexicanistas professors.
The large number of quality publications of UC-Mexicanistas includes books, anthologies, articles, notes, and reviews on history, culture, literature, film, painting, sculpture, music, and journalism. There are studies on documents from the end of the 19th and 20th centuries, and on testimonials of historical events: the Mexican Revolution, the most important historical event of the first years of the 20th century in Mexico. There are studies on bilingual and bicultural manifestations and border literature and culture, both from the Mexican side and that of the United States. There are also studies on northern literature, “Mexico-Californian” literature, gender studies, street literature, counterculture, cultural studies, literature of violence, marginalized literature, folklore, popular literature, and other studies on film and literature, on Mexican film in Hollywood, and bilingual theater in California.
The studies and conferences held in Mexico and California are greatly enriched by visits from Mexican writers. There have been visits from Elena Poniatowska, Carlos Monsiváis, Sergio Pitol, José Emilio Pacheco, Margo Glantz, Ignacio Solares, Hernán Lara Zavala, Gonzalo Celorio, Eduardo Antonio Parra, David Toscana, Rosa Beltrán, Cristina Rivera Garza, Myriam Moscona, to cite only a few. And these have been enriched by invitations from Mexico. Association members have also been invited to El Colegio de México, the Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara (Guadalajara International Book Fair), the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, and the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana, among others.
Now, more than ever, the UC system has a greater intellectual presence within the system itself and with the most important Mexican research and teaching institutions. The association, distinguished by its seriousness, rigor, and the collegiality of its members, now consists of more than 70 members and counting.