Spotlight Story

11 May 2022

Dr. Manuel Galaviz: Redefining the Immigrant Narrative in the United States

Category: Spotlight Story

The United States is home to millions of immigrants including those who are undocumented, and ineligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Even though the undocumented population faces strict barriers, it is a resilient community that overcomes, empowers, and succeeds.

Manuel Guadalupe Galaviz immigrated to the United States when he was 4 years old and was undocumented until the age of 18. After graduating high school, the uncertainty of his future due to his immigration status troubled his mind. Galaviz began working in construction and was laid off in 2008-2009 during the recession. After becoming a permanent resident of the United States, he began his educational career and did not stop until receiving a Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. In May 2021, Galaviz earned a tenure-track position as an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at California State University, Fullerton.

“I’m having a little difficulty realizing this is my career,” said Galaviz. “There’s a lot of the people writing about folks like me and my parents that theorize about us, write about us, and at one point, I was like ‘I need to talk about immigration, undocumented populations, and the border’.”

Galaviz conducts research about US-Mexican Borderlands anthropology, and he uses his experience as an immigrant to connect with undocumented students and provide them with resources and support to guide their educational and personal journey. When he arrived at CSU Fullerton, Galaviz was invited to participate in a mentorship program where they pair a faculty member with a first-generation graduate student.

“One of my mentees is undocumented and doesn’t qualify for DACA,” said Galaviz. “He’s mentoring me, as much as I am mentoring him.”

Before turning his focus on California-Mexican borderlands, Galaviz researched undocumented populations and access to public spaces including parks, roads, and transportation. His thesis, Expressions of Membership and Belonging: Chicana/o Cultural Politics in Barrio Logan, led him to Hispanic Access Foundation where he was part of the first Latino Heritage Internship Program in 2015.

“One of the reasons why Chicano Park was founded was to fight against the fact that all these industries were popping up,” said Galaviz. “I Looked at Chicano symbolisms used in this campaign, and that’s how I got interested in parks, and the value of urban parks to different communities, and environmental justice.”

After applying for an internship, Galaviz was selected to work on a Charles Young Project, until the National Park Service (NPS) saw his thesis. Galaviz was assigned to work on the Chicano Park National Historic Landmark Nomination, where he successfully co-authored the nomination with one of the original founders of the park.

“Hispanic Access has been very instrumental in what I do,” said Galaviz. “They have been very supportive with projects and opportunities and saw something in me that I didn’t really know I had.”

His time in Washington DC was one of healing and restoration. The internship encouraged him to reflect on his youth, and his developing career as an advocate and leader of Latino immigrant communities.

“Those traumas of growing up undocumented, being in DC, and being in places where laws are made that tried to keep me out, that tried to deport me, yet I was there,” said Galaviz. “It was this personal fulfillment and I think that experience was so instrumental in shaping who I am.”

His story and career serve as an example to undocumented students across the country. Rewriting the immigrant narrative will not only break down stereotypes but provide a pathway of career options for future and current undocumented and immigrant populations.

Hispanic Access is inspiring, training, and supporting local leaders like Dr. Manuel Galaviz, who have a stake in their community and have the drive for positive change. To help support and continue this work, please consider making a Charitable Donation

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