An afternoon Zoom chat with E. Mark Moreno (2011 PhD History)
In spring of 2023, Prof. L Heidenriech had a chance to sit down for a zoom interview with E. Mark Moreno, who defended his dissertation, “World at War: Mexican Identities, Insurgents, and the French Occupation, 1862-1867” in December of 2011. Before arriving at his present position, Mark taught at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Washington. He continues to publish in journals and anthologies both in the United States and in Mexico, and he carries fond memories of his time at WSU—where the academic demands were rigorous, and the comradery priceless.
L Heidenreich: Thank you for taking the time out. Can you tell us a little bit about life after you graduated, and perhaps highlight some of your recent accomplishments?
Mark Moreno: Like many of us, I adjuncted for a couple of years, but then I landed a job at Texas A&M University–Commerce. That was in 2013. I am now tenured, and an associate professor. As far as accomplishments, wow—I have been able to publish articles both in Mexican American Studies and in Latin American history. One accomplishment I am proud of is writing articles for Calo News—writing for a larger public. But I also have articles in Mexican Studies/Estudio Mexicanos, World History Connected, and in the Oxford Handbook of Gangs and Society. For the Oxford Handbook, I co-authored an article with Mike Tapia, “The Legacy of James Diego Vigil” and I am very proud of that work. I also had an opportunity to present some of my work in Spain, and had an article published in Repensar el Segundo Imperio, published by UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
I have also had opportunities to present work at LASA (the Latin American Studies Association) and to serve on a committee to judge articles and books for annual awards. It was a great way of keeping up to date with recent scholarship and a great way of making interdisciplinary connections. So I encourage our current students and alums to be active in scholarly organizations after they graduate.
On a slightly different note, if I can get funding, I want to return to my study of Cuentepec, an Indigenous pueblo in Morelos (state)—a town which pre-dates the conquest—to write a long history, going from the colonial era forward. I have completed a couple of oral histories of the residents. For me it was definitely a rich cultural experience because about 95% of the population is fully bilingual/bicultural. They speak Spanish to you, but their Indigenous language to each other. They still have their lands and they still grow I think beans, chilies maybe four different kinds of things and they still have livestock, so they have a subsistence living that they combine with work outside the community. They have also received government grants for community projects, and the government supports the community school, which has a bilingual curriculum.
One interviewee told me about education before they had the community school. She recounted how, when she first went to school, they were just studying in Spanish, but the community was not Spanish-speaking so it was just robotic. They would have to sing the anthem, but they didn’t know what they were singing.
L Heidenreich: With whom did you study while at WSU?
Mark Moreno: John Kicza and Heather Streets-Salter; Ben Smith (then of Michigan State) helped during the final stretch. José Alamillo was on my master’s committee; there were no Chicano historians in the department at the time and since my project crossed borders, I needed his input on my work. Working with Drs. Kicza and Streets-Salter opened up opportunities for networking at conferences and getting to know people.
L Heidenreich: What were the fellowships and/or grants that helped you along the way?
Mark Moreno: Definitely the Gills Family and Cooney Family research fellowships through our department. The Cooney fellowship allowed me to go to Mexico to complete research in the Mexican National archive (Archivo General de la Nación) as well as smaller archives throughout the country. I also won the Charles Gates award from the Washington State Historical Society for the outstanding academic article of the year (published in the Pacific Northwest Quarterly). That article (“Mexican American Street Gangs, Migration, and Violence in the Yakima Valley”) is still cited today, often in sociology works.
L Heidenreich: Any books you would recommend to our readers?
Mark Moreno: I like to read books like Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It is the most awesome nonfiction book ever written, strong research, eloquent prose – most of us can only dream of writing like that. But for more traditional history, maybe David McCullough (popular) or Alan Knight’s work (scholarly) – but they are pretty male-centric. Elizabeth O’Brien is readable and has a recent article in the Journal of Women’s History, “A Tacit Pact with the State-Constrained Choice and the Policies of Abortion in the 1930s Mexico.” It is not a book, but her work is being widely read.
L Heidenreich: What is one important memory and/or lesson you carry with you?
Mark Moreno: I love the community that we made at WSU with you all—the Chicanx and Latinx events where we came together, like Semana de la Raza. In the history department, with my fellow graduate students we created a sense of camaraderie especially among the world history folks—I really loved being in that circle of support. Once you graduate you don’t always get those same opportunities for collaboration. So, yes, the importance of community and collaboration, that is the lesson I bring with me from my years with the WSU Department of History.
For information about how to support History fellowships for graduate student research, please contact the College of Arts and Sciences Development team at firstname.lastname@example.org or department Chair Matthew Sutton at email@example.com.