Amanda Figueroa is a PhD candidate at Harvard University, and this will be her third degree in the field as she has already completed both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Program. Amanda’s dissertation looks at contemporary installation art created by Latina women with a relationship to her hometown, El Paso, TX. She stated that this project has caused her to think about what it means to be from somewhere. During our interview, we talked about American Studies and the significance of its themes and often redundant questions. Amanda discussed the danger of society’s inability to address nuances on racial and spatial justice. One possible solution? Art; last year Amanda worked alongside Cuban artist, Teresita Fernández, on her project, Autumn (…Nothing Personal), which was installed in the Harvard yard. The project included nearly fifty public programs in thirty days. She told us about her continuous interest in art and thinking about how people engage with public artwork as she believes art education is the future in this country.
Amanda, can you tell us about moving from El Paso, TX, to West Virginia for college?
I grew up in West Texas, El Paso, which is a border city and the people are predominantly Latinx. When I was seventeen, I left the Southwest and went to a small school in Western Virginia. It was a really big change because I was used to everyone being Latinx. I found the experience to be formative because of how different it was, being one of a small number of Latina women who had attended the university. During my time there, I found myself translating in a lot of situations. I was translating more than just language; it was also shared experiences, trying to build bridges for people who didn’t know a whole lot about being Latinx, what it meant to be from Texas etc. and that kind of stayed with me. I still kind of enjoy that translation work.