Professor of theatre Tiffany Ana López has been named the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair—a title named in honor of UCR’s first Latino chancellor. López shares a similar background to Rivera’s in that they are both descendants of migrant farm workers, and went on to achieve reputations as prominent scholars.
As the newly-elected endowed chair, Lopez will financially assist a senior faculty member, while spearheading the annual Tomás Rivera Conference. Lopez cites the latter as the important characteristic that separates the Tomás Rivera chair from any other. In addition to this distinction, López has plans to further commemorate the Rivera legacy by hosting “pre-conference events, including public readings of Rivera’s works,” López stated.
She is also currently working to develop a new undergraduate seminar on the writing and life work of Tomás Rivera. “Students from the course would have the opportunity to become involved in organizing the Tomás Rivera Conference the year of taking the course,” said López. Furthermore, she hopes to oversee the digitization of the Tomás Rivera archives.
This is the second time the Tomás Rivera chair will be occupied. The first holder of the position was current California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.
López spoke about the connection that was made through the endowed chair between her and Herrera, and what it means for the university. “It’s an incredible marker of distinction nation-wide and internationally that UCR has two such faculty holding these kinds of positions,” she stated. “I think [Herrera and I] produce our work from thinking about our personal histories. For me, the most profound thing is thinking about how my life and the life of the younger people who come after me and my family—that life path has been incredibly transformed by higher education.”
With the financial support Lopez receives from holding the position, she hopes to advance the research behind her two unfinished books; one is entitled “The Alchemy of Blood,” which deals with the issues of violence and trauma. The other is a biography on muralist Barbara Carrasco, who is actually collaborating with López to complete it.
López also spoke about Chicana/o’s today, within art and in the country in general. “Latinos are everywhere. The interesting thing to me as an educator is looking at where Latino books are banned, including my book, “Growing Up Chicana/o”—the anthology I edited. Not only is it banned in Arizona, it’s banned in Virginia. To me, looking at where our books are banned is a litmus test of where there [are] real cultural struggles taking place in communities over resources, [and] struggles over understanding shifts in the cultures demographics.”
However, she explained her respect for UCR’s diversity and tolerance as an institution. “I’ve been at UCR since 1995 for very important reasons, [one of] which is because of our student populations…We are one of the three most diverse college campuses in the U.S. and I think the kind of conversations we have at UCR that allow us to talk about the specificity of Chicanos and our culture and our arts—but also talking about how that work is so important in terms of thinking about what’s happening in the arts and letters and the cultural experience in California—to me that’s a powerful part of my life at UCR.”