The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

History professor wins $60,000 grant to finance research, Mexican-American literature book

History professor wins $60,000 grant to finance research, Mexican-American literature book - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Dr. Philis Barragán Goetz gives lecture during her U.S. Social and Cultural History course on April 2, 2024. Photo by Esmy Infante

Dr. Philis Barragán Goetz, associate professor of history at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund her book about Mexican-American women during the civil rights movement.

Barragán received the award in December 2023. The $60,000 grant will pay her salary for the 2024 school year, allowing her to focus on research and writing her next book.

Barragán said only 30 of 165 applicants received the annual grant. The award aims to highlight educators teaching at Hispanic-serving institutions, historically Black colleges and universities and tribal universities. 

Winners must meet specific criteria based on the project’s significance, the applicant’s credentials, the program’s clarity and the project’s viability among others. 

She learned she had won on the Monday before Christmas.

“I checked the e-mail that morning that said, congratulations, you’ve received an offer from the NEH,” Barragán said. “I could feel my blood pressure rising.” 

The book, “The Borderlands of Inclusivity: Jovita González and the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement,” will focus on González, a Mexican-American teacher and activist who advocated for women’s integration into the male-dominated civil rights movement.

“I’m arguing that she was a civil rights activist,” Barragán said. “She was participating in the civil rights movement at a time when women were expected to do the childcare and the cooking.” 

Gonzalez has a long list of unpublished works “even though she tried for decades to be published” that vary from book-length manuscripts to Mexican-American folklore short pieces to Spanish language textbooks for children, said Barragán, who began teaching at A&M-San Antonio in 2014.

“I have documents from the Library of Congress… [Jovita’s] papers are at A&M-Corpus Christi, there’s a smaller portion at Texas State in San Marcos and at the Benson Latin American Collection at UT Austin,” Barragán said. “I’ve done a lot of stuff already.” 

Barragán said González was an inspirational figure during the research of her first book  “Reading, Writing, and Revolution: Escuelitas and the Emergence of a Mexican American Identity in Texas,” as she later discovered González advocated for Mexican-American education and wanted to pursue a Ph.D. 

As a first-gen student, Barragán said she feels she can relate to the obstacles that González faced but expresses how unfortunate it is that she was never able to meet her full potential.

“I was able to go on to grad school. I was able to get a Ph.D., right?” Barragán said. “I was able to fulfill this dream that she didn’t get to.” 

Barragán plans to finish the first draft of her book by fall 2025. The book will be published by the publishing company of her first work, University of Texas Press who she has an advanced contract with. University of Texas is also where she completed her Ph.D. 

Barragán said she expects to be done with her research this summer and looks forward to starting her first manuscript.

“I’m still in disbelief and dancing in the clouds that I got it,” Barragán said. “It’s like a dream come true, honestly.”

About the Authors

Christi Carter
Christi Carter is a senior majoring in history with a minor in communications at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Currently she is working on her senior research project that will cover topics of the Holocaust. Outside of school she enjoys spending time with her horses, playing video games, and reading books. After graduation she plans to get her master’s in library sciences and work with a public school or university library and build her community as a librarian.
Paola Villar
Paola Alex Villar is a junior majoring in communications with a minor in English at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. She received her associate of arts from Northeast Lakeview College in May of 2023. She works at a bar in addition to being a full-time student. In her downtime, she hosts a section in the student-run radio, enjoys playing video games, journaling and listening to The Weeknd non-stop. After graduation, she plans to work for Univision.

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