Amber Lipsey/Courier Dr. Isela Ocegueda, Dean of Academic Affairs, gives a talk entitled, “Invisibility and the Urban Palimpsest in Mexico City” in R-115 on Tuesday, October 8, 2019. Ocegueda presented the talk as part of Latinx Heritage Month activities on campus.
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Mexico City has a vast and interesting history, however a portion of the cities’ population has begun to forget about influential aspects of it’s past. New buildings arise, new people come and the current population forgets significant moments and people in their cities’ history.

Doctor Isela Ocegueda, the dean of academic affairs, discussed the invisible history in Mexico City and how it is carried on through “haunting” memories in her presentation on Oct. 8 for Latinx Heritage Month. Ocegueda also encouraged Latinx students to explore the possibilities that await them through continuing their education.

“Part of what we were trying to do today is to have a living example of Latinos who went all the way to get a doctorate degree to show that it is possible and to show what it is and what they can do with it,” said Ocegueda.  

Ocegueda’s presentation delved into the important historical events and culture of Mexico City. When remnants of the past are left behind and are side-by-side with modern structures, it creates what she explains as an urban palimpsest.

“Vestiges of the bygone pre-columbian cities often coexist with contemporary urban landscape creating an urban palimpsest,” said Ocegueda in her presentation. “So you know that experience of seeing a temple and a skyscraper right next to each other, that is the nugget of this idea.”

This concept is something that faculty attendee, Shelagh Rose, had experienced herself on her trip to Mexico City last year. 

“One of the things that struck me was the modern right next to the ancient. There’s a pyramid next to a 500 year old church and then something brand new,” said Rose. “Then being overwhelmed with how much there is to know and learn.”

To further explain the concepts of palimpsest, invisible culture and that “one culture can never really displace another” Ocegueda discussed the novel “Los Deseos y Su Sombra” by Ana Clavel. In the novel, a young woman takes a walk through the history of Mexico City to help her through her path of self-discovery.

Clavel’s novel informs the audience about many meaningful landmarks and events in the city including las estatuas del Paseo de la Reforma, which consists of 77 statues of important Mexican figures. It also discusses the Tlatelolco massacre of 1968, where hundreds of unarmed civilians were murdered by soldiers for protesting the government. These events, among many, shape Mexico City and its people.

Students and faculty were captivated and alarmed by this portion of the presentation. Karina Mousessian, a student attendee, explained her fascination with how the history and its invisibility were brought to life by the author.

“It was interesting to learn more about how the city itself changed, but a lot of the residents still perceive it how it used to be,” said Mousessian.

Angie Alvarez, a faculty attendee, explained how the presentation sparked curiosity.

“I’ve been to Mexico City, about 20 years ago,” said Alvarez.  “Now as an adult, listening to the things that she highlighted, like the statues, I want to see that and how does it look and what is the history behind each of them.”

Oceguerda encouraged students to see these concepts within their own lives and the cities that they personally grew up in. She wants them to take notice of how things have changed, to remember and celebrate them. 

“One of the things I experienced as a student was that I wasn’t learning about cultures that were interesting to me,” said Oceguerda. 

Ocegueda aimed to inform Latinx students that they can embrace the invisible side of their culture as they pursue their education and begin to make it visible.

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