CSRC Mourns the Passing of Juan Gómez-Quiñones

November 11, 2020

Today, the CSRC mourns the loss of the director most responsible for establishing its crucial mission of research that makes a difference. Earlier this morning, Juan Gómez-Quiñones, passed away at home. In 1992, when I first moved to Los Angeles to join the faculty at UCLA, I was thrilled to be part of the larger Chicano and Mexican community. I also watched local Spanish-language news on KMEX, where I would regularly see a well-respected figure being interviewed for stories spanning a range of community-based issues. He brought historical perspective, critical insight, and a movement-based sense of the need for immediate and direct action. His name was Juan Gómez-Quiñones, and he was one of my new colleagues at UCLA. In my own field of film and television studies, all the Chicano and Chicana filmmakers knew him and had read his scholarly books. Not only that, they argued with me about them, since Juan's greatest gift as a scholar and as a teacher was in inspiring critical thought, not dogma. In seeing his impact on filmmakers, I quickly came to appreciate how he had trained and inspired a generation of Chicana/o/x historians who helped define the field and also transform "American" historiography. Indeed, Juan was one of the founding figures of Chicana/o/x studies, but I knew him first and foremost for the impact he had in the Mexican-descent community in the United States. His impact on both academia and the community started early. In 1969, as a graduate student, he was one of the student founders of the Chicano Studies Research Center; and, in 1974, now a professor, he became the CSRC's first longtime director, bringing focus and stability over the next decade to this new effort to create an *institutional* space for Chicana/o/x studies research at UCLA. The CSRC remains notable for being cross-campus, multidisciplinary, and grounded in four interrelated areas of activity: rigorous scholarly research, peer-reviewed academic publication, unparalleled library and archival resources, and community engagement based on partnership. In 2002, when I was selected to be the next CSRC director, the first thing I did was meet with Juan in his office at the History Department. The CSRC had lost its focus somewhat over the previous decade and I needed to hear from him about what had been core to its founding mission. I came away from our conversation with the same awe and admiration I had watching Juan appear on the local news a decade earlier. His historical perspective, critical insight, and activist sense of outcomes helped me formalize something about CSRC that had always been there: "Research That Makes a Difference." Juan's contributions, and ongoing support, sit at the core of the CSRC today and as it goes forward into the second half of its first century. His scholarship remains a beacon for those wanting to know a more inclusive and honest history of the United States and of the Mexican-descent peoples. His former students continue the work he started, as does the CSRC. ¡Juan Gómez-Quiñones, presente!

Chon A. Noriega
Director and Distinguished Professor

Please share your own stories about Juan by emailing the CSRC at csrcinfo@chicano.ucla.edu. We would be honored to gather these in tribute to his life and work.

Image: "Juan Gómez-Quiñones," oil on plywood, by Salomón Huerta. From "Portrait Series of Chicana/o-Latina/o and Mexican-Latin American Icons" created while Huerta was a UCLA Regent’s Lecturer in 2017.