Professor Álvaro Ramírez Explores Transnational Cultures in New Book

World Languages and Cultures Professor Álvaro Ramírez’s collection of essays, Postcards From a PostMexican (Somos en Escrito Literary Foundation Press, 2020), holds up a mirror to the changing cultures around us. In a time of political tension between the United States and Mexico, and debate over what it means to be Mexican or American, Ramírez abandons traditional labels and any notions of nationalism, but embraces a “PostMexican” identity. “I’m a PostMexican because I reshape myself. I’m an actor; I’m an agent. It’s not an identity that’s imposed on me; it’s an identity that I choose. My experiences have shaped that identity.”

Postcards From a PostMexican is a compilation of essays that I wrote for a blog where I analyze the transnational lives of Mexican communities that live in the U.S. and Mexico,” said Ramírez. “I write them with a critical eye, and infused with humor to make them light, but most importantly to me is to make them accessible.”

“What I want to do is take it to the people and say, ‘This is what we’re doing in college; this is what we’re discussing; these are the issues that are important in college right now, and they’re important to you, too, but here they are so you can read about these matters without the academic jargon.’ ”

Originally from a small farming village in Michoacán, Mexico, Ramírez migrated to Ohio when he was 12 years old and worked in California’s agricultural Central Valley before earning his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Southern California. “I began to see that I was a binational—that I was having this binational existence where I wasn’t just Mexican anymore, but I was being influenced a lot by what I was experiencing in the U.S.,” explained Ramírez. 

Since 1995, Ramírez has taught a Jan Term travel course, and since 2000, directed a semester-long study abroad program in Cuernavaca, Mexico, splitting most of his time between Mexico and the United States. “I was taking a lot of Chicano and Chicana students at that moment,” said Ramírez. “I noticed right away that there was a disconnect. What they were expecting, they were not finding. This was just at the moment when NAFTA went into effect, so the big wave of Americanism hadn’t even arrived completely, but I already saw that there was some kind of cultural disconnect.”  Professor Alvaro Ramirez with students on Jan Term

Ramírez said these unique travel experiences and classroom discussions with Saint Mary’s students over the years have inspired his ideas and informed Postcards From a PostMexican. “The classes have really helped me to understand all of these things—how cultures change, and how we change cultures—and the thing I really enjoy is just helping students find their way,” said Ramírez. “You make sense of it because your circumstances are different from mine, but remember that wherever you go, those circumstances change. It opens up the space for you to be, it frees you. My goal is that: to help students find that cultural freedom. 

“I feel very gratified when students write to me or when they come back and they say ‘That trip did change me in many ways.’ ” 

Ramírez’s Postcards From a PostMexican was awarded the Victor Villaseñor Best Latino Focused Nonfiction Bronze Award at the 2021 International Latino Book Awards. His collection of short stories Los norteados (Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016) received an Honorable Mention at the 2017 International Latino Book Awards. Ramírez teaches courses on Latin American and Spanish literature, Mexican and Chicano culture, and Mexican film. 

Learn more about the World Languages and Cultures Department here