“Letters Home” Celebrates Latino Heritage Month and the Venegas Family: A Recap

On September 24, 2014 in the Von der Ahe Suite of the William H. Hannon Library, it was standing room only for a panel discussion entitled “Letters Home: Mexican Exiles, Family, and Religion,” which was held in celebration of Latino Heritage Month. The event served as a forum both to discuss and celebrate the publication of the correspondence of Miguel and Dolores Venegas by their daughter, Dr. Teresa Venegas, LMU professor emerita  of the Department of Modern Languages, in her book Letters Home: Mexican Exile Correspondence from Los Angeles, 1927-1932.

Carlos Teresa EnriqueDr. Venegas’ parents were Cristero refugees from the Cristero War in Mexico (1926-1929), and came to Los Angeles in 1927. Her book provides English translations of the remarkable letters that her parents wrote to relatives in Mexico from 1927 through 1932 detailing their lives in Los Angeles. Before and after the event there was a viewing of selections from the Venegas Family Papers, which contain the original copies of the letters, and are now in the William H. Hannon Library’s Department of Archives and Special Collections.
Dr. Teresa Venegas, with brothers Carlos (left)
and Enrique (right)

Dr. Rebecca Acevedo, of the Department of Modern Languages, was responsible for organizing “Letters Home,” along with the Hannon Library outreach and programming librarians, headed by Jamie Hazlitt, Ray Andrade, and Carol Raby. Dr. Acevedo also provided the opening address, discussing the historical importance of Mexican immigration to Los Angeles. In addition, Maruth Figueroa offered greetings from  Chicana/o-Latina/o Student Services. José Badenes, S.J., chair of the Modern Languages and Literature Department, commented on the theme of the event and Dr. Venegas’ work at LMU.

The heart of the event was the panel discussion that examined the letters and their importance. Dr. Margarita R. Ochoa, of the Department of History, discussed the Cristero Wars, the revolt by Mexican Catholics against the anti-clerical policies of the government of Plutarco Elías Calles. Father Allan Figueroa Deck, S.J., holder of the Charles S. Casassa Chair of Catholic Social Values and Professor of Theological Studies, discussed the spiritual life of Catholic Mexican immigrants, an aspect that he could speak of from first-hand experience. Clay Stalls, manuscripts curator in the Department of Archives and Special Collections, commented on the content and scholarly significance of the Venegas Family Papers, which Dr. Venegas, along with brother Carlos, donated to LMU in 2011.

Dr. Venegas concluded with a remembrance of the circumstances that brought her parents to Los Angeles as Cristero refugees and details of their experiences in Los Angeles. Her well-done talk brought home the powerful story of her parents’ immigration from Mexico and their lives here.

A special treat was the presence of twenty-one Venegas family members here for the event. Below is a shot of some of the family:

Venegas group

“Letters Home” was made possible by financial support from the Department of Modern Languages & Literatures and the William H. Hannon Library. Additional support came from the Center for the Study of Los Angeles, the School of Education, the Office of the Vice President for Intercultural Affairs, the Department of Chicana/o Studies, the Department of History, the Catholic Studies Program, the Fletcher Jones Chair in Literature and Writing, Chicana/o-Latina/o Student Services, the Latino Alumni Association, the Latino Faculty Association, and the Latino Staff Association.