Philis Barragán Goetz Receives Book Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities

Philis Barragán Goetz Receives Book Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities

The book delves into a foundational figure during the emergence of Mexican American literature.

Dr. Philis M. Barragán Goetz has been awarded a $60,000 grant from the National Endowment for the
Humanities for a book she’s writing about a pioneering yet often overlooked folklorist, writer and

“The Borderlands of Inclusivity: Jovita González and the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement”
delves into the life of González, who was born in Roma, Texas, near the turn of the 20th Century.
While pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Texas in Austin in the 1920s, González traveled
throughout the region, interviewing and writing about Mexican Americans along the borderlands and
their efforts to preserve their cultural traditions during a period of tumultuous change.

She also worked as a teacher, co-authoring several sets of Spanish textbooks. In addition, she wrote two
novels, both of which were published after her death. González also has the distinction of being the first
Mexican American president of the Texas Folklore Society.

Barragán Goetz, an associate professor in the Department of History, Philosophy and Geography, first
discovered González when she was a grad student at the University of Texas at Austin. She said that
while various scholars had written about González, the coverage was sparse, consisting of mostly
individual articles or single book chapters.

As she researched and learned more about González, Barragán Goetz felt that she deserved more.

“I became a little obsessed and decided to write a full biography about her,” she said. “She was a
foundational figure during the emergence of Mexican American literature.”

Moreover, Barragán Goetz said that while González was a talented writer and an important historian, she
often faced racial and cultural roadblocks during her career. While a few of her folklore pieces were
published, most of her work was ignored. And while she earned a master’s degree in history from the
University of Texas in Austin in 1930, there’s evidence she applied for multiple Ph.D. programs at other
universities but was not accepted.

“Negative stereotypes about race, gender and Mexican American women were very prevalent during this
era and definitely played a role in why she was not able to get her work published,” Barragán Goetz said.
After González died in 1983, Barragán Goetz said her work was rediscovered by scholars, and she had
multiple novels and folklore collections published throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.
“It’s great that there’s been this renewed interest in González,” she said.

Barragán Goetz said that in addition to detailing González’s life, her book will also explore women’s
contributions to the Mexican American civil rights movement between the 1920s and ‘60s. Historically,
all the focus has been on the contributions of men, who controlled organizations like the League
United Latin American Citizens and dominated the discourse around issues like desegregation and
educational equality.

“There were prominent leaders and intellectuals who guided the whole civil rights movement, and I
want people to have a better understanding of how Mexican American women factored into all of that.
They were intellectuals and leaders in their own right and made important contributions.”

barragan goetz
  • Barragán Goetz said she hopes to finish the book in 2025. It’s being published by the University of Texas Press. This will be her second book.

Her first, “Reading, Writing, and Revolution: Escuelitas and the Emergence of a Mexican American Identity in Texas,” was published in 2020 and won numerous awards, including the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies Book Award and the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies-Tejas Foco Nonfiction Book Award. She is also a 2021 recipient of the Mellon Emerging Faculty Award.

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