Anita Huizar-Hernández (PhD, Literature, University of California, San Diego) is Associate Professor of Border Studies in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Arizona. Born and raised in Arizona, Huizar-Hernández's teaching and research focus on the literatures and cultures of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and investigate the ways that stories—past, present, and future—shape our ability to cultivate just and inclusive communities within the borderlands. Her book Forging Arizona (Rutgers, 2019) examines these themes through a bizarre nineteenth-century land grant scheme in which a con artist named James Addison Reavis falsified archives around the world to present his wife as the heiress to a spurious Spanish land grant with the intention of claiming ownership of a substantial portion of the newly-acquired Southwestern territories. Drawing from a wide variety of sources including court records, newspapers, fiction, and film, Forging Arizona argues that the creation, collapse, and eventual forgetting of Reavis’s scam reveal the mechanisms by which narratives, real and imaginary, forge borders. Huizar-Hernández's other writing has appeared in edited volumes as well as MELUS, Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, and English Language Notes, among other places.
Huizar-Hernández's current research examines (1) the archival traces of the 1854 Gadsden Purchase, an often-overlooked land transaction that has played a surprisingly fundamental role in forming not only the shape but also the story of the three nations whose borders it formed: the United States, Mexico, and the Tohono O’odham Nation and (2) writing produced by the Cristero diaspora in the United States, a group of Catholic Mexican exiles who fled across the border as a result of the Mexican Revolution's secularization project. Huizar-Hernández is also engaged in multiple collaborative digital public-facing projects. These projects include:
- “Decolonizing The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca” brings together undergraduate and graduate researchers to rethink the history of European colonization in the borderlands by: (1) analyzing how and by whom this history has been narrated, and (2) considering what impact those narratives have on society today. The project creates a digital interactive map of Cabeza de Vaca’s 1542 text, which relates his journey across what is today the U.S.-Mexico borderlands with detailed—though Eurocentric—descriptions of the people and places he encountered. The interactive map allows users to explore geo-tagged data drawn from the narrative alongside contextual background information, dramatically visualizing how Cabeza de Vaca’s interpretation of the landscape was shaped by colonial power relations. (Read more here: https://spanish.arizona.edu/news/digital-mapping-project-rethinks-spanish-explorer-cabeza-de-vaca).
- “Reporting on Race and Ethnicity in the Borderlands (1882-1924): A Data-Driven Digital Storytelling Hub” is a collaboration with Dr. Katherine Morrissey, Dr. Celeste González de Bustamante, and the UA Libraries to create a centralized hub for data-focused humanities research, teaching, and digital storytelling that brings historical intent and context to contemporary questions about race and ethnicity in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands. The platform includes: (1) a bilingual corpus of primary resources, including a dataset of historic newspapers, (2) computational tools to text mine the newspapers, (3) digital stories that apply computational and traditional humanities methods to interpret the corpus of primary resources, and (4) tutorials and guides for scholars and community members. (Read more here: https://new.library.arizona.edu/news/libraries-announce-mellon-grant-recipients-launch-us-mexico-borderlands-digital-storytelling). This project is a continuation of “Using Newspapers as Data for Collaborative Pedagogy,” which introduced undergraduates to computational textual analysis using Python code to text mine a southern Arizona historic newspapers dataset (Read more here: https://libguides.library.arizona.edu/newspapers-as-data).
- “DETAINED: Voices from the Migrant Incarceration System” is a collaboration between the University of Arizona and the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP) to collect and publicly archive the stories of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants incarcerated by immigration authorities in Arizona. Project team members Anita Huizar-Hernández, David Taylor, Susan Briante, Francisco Cantú, Greer Millard, and Daniel Hernández work alongside the UA Libraries to create a counter-memorial and tangible record of the vast emergent landscape of for-profit immigrant detention. (Read more here: https://new.library.arizona.edu/news/libraries-announce-mellon-grant-recipients-launch-us-mexico-borderlands-digital-storytelling).