by Billy Clouse
On Thursday, Oct. 19, A.P.E.X. Events and the Grace A. Tanner Center for Human Values brought Maria Hinojosa to campus for the annual Tanner Center Lecture.
The award-winning journalist spoke at 11:30 a.m. in the Great Hall of the Hunter Conference Center about her life, career and success. At 2:30 p.m., Jonathan Holiman moderated a Q&A with Hinojosa in the Theater of the Sharwan Smith Student Center.
Hinojosa has used narrative to break stereotypes of marginalized populations, and she opened her talk with the narrative of her arrival to the U.S.
Below is a transcription of that narrative in Hinojosa’s words:
“My dad was at the University of Chicago. He had already been there for six months and mom was coming with the four kids. There’s this image of my mom getting on the plane with four kids under the age of seven, I was a toddler in her arms. She was dressed up because that’s what you did in the 1950s or 60s when you flew… We landed in Dallas, Texas, to change planes and do immigration and move on to our flight in Chicago. I really did come to understand that mom took this First Amendment thing really seriously, and also that as women in particular, we’re really good at silencing our inner voice, we’re really good at pushing down that intuitive gut…
“When they got to the immigration checkpoint in the airport, this tall, Texan immigration agent looked at all the paperwork, and we all had green cards, and he said, ‘Now, ma’am, I do see that everything is in order for you here. I see all the paperwork and you are all legally allowed to be coming into the United States of America, congratulations on that. There is only one problem, ma’am, you will have to be leaving the baby here for quarantine; she’s got a strange rash and we don’t want her bringing in any strange illnesses into the United States of America, so you are free to go to Chicago, just leave the baby, and we’ll see you soon…’
“My mom didn’t quite grab his bicep, but it’s as if she did — something I do not recommend you do to any immigration agent, especially not now — and she just looked at him and said, ‘Sir! I have legal paperwork for all four of my children plus myself, and I can tell you now that you can call the president of the University of Chicago… because he is the person who employs my husband who is a medical doctor and a researcher, and we will all be going to Chicago, all four of us. Do you understand, sir?’ And he said ‘Yes I do, ma’am, come on in.’
“I didn’t know that story until much later, but I kind of love that… This was her new country, and she stood there believing in her right to challenge, and thankfully she did, because I might have stayed in the Dallas Airport forever.”
Although this was only the start of her talk, Hinojosa mentioned it to show what narrative can do.
“This is the power of narrative: I just made you laugh, I just made you feel something,” she said. “Hopefully I made you feel closer to me, you feel like you understand me a little bit better as a fellow American. I am proud of this story, far from ashamed. And this is not a Latino story, this is not a Mexican story, this is my American story.”
For a more personal reflection on Hinojosa’s talk, visit the A.P.E.X. Events website.
Next Thursday, A.P.E.X. Events will host Sam Ratterree. The event will take place at 11:30 a.m. in the Whiting Room of the Hunter Conference Center.