Photo from the first "Arizona Spotlight" recorded in front of a live audience at the Casino Ballroom in Tucson on January 24, 2016 to launch Dimelo: Stories of the Southwest.
Lydia R. Otero is an Associate Professor in The Department of Mexican American Studies (MAS) at the University of Arizona, teaching courses in culture, public history, gender and urbanization. Born and raised in Tucson and having deep family roots on both sides of the Arizona-Sonora border inspired Otero’s interest in regional history. In 2011, the Border Regional Library Association awarded Otero’s book, La Calle: Spatial Conflicts and Urban Renewal in a Southwestern City a Southwest Book Award. It was also nominated for the 2011 Paul Davidoff Book Award presented by the Association of Collegiate Schools for Planning. This book chronicles how for close to one hundred years, tucsonenses had created their own spatial reality in the historical, predominantly Mexican American downtown, and the politics of urban renewal that led to their displacement in the late 1960s. La Calle provided the source material for the local Borderland’s Theatres “Barrio Stories,” a site-specific theatrical event that took place over four days in 2016, attracting over 4,000 people to the Tucson Community Center.
Otero’s newest book project highlights the activism of two Mexican American women who launched separate historical projects spanning more than three decades in the latter half of the twentieth century. This project will analyze power relations and discourses that influence the way society conceptualizes, condones and limits histories as acceptable and “legitimate.”
Otero heads the MAS department’s public history program, Nuestras Tierras, Nuestras Culturas, Nuestras Historias designed to reclaim, preserve, and document the experiences and contributions of people of Mexican descent in the U.S.- Mexico border region. They currently serves on the National Advisory Board of Chicana Latina Studies: the Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social, and is also on the Advisory Council of the Chicano Studies Oral History Project at the Bancroft Library’s Oral History Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Otero has served as a grant reviewer for the National Endowment for the Humanities and has consulted on various museum and library exhibitions designed to highlight Mexican American history.
2017 UA Libraries production that includes an interview with Dr. Otero.