Eva Longoria Talks Up the Power of Latinos, Latinas

Gently teasing UT administrators who were testing out their Spanish, Eva Longoria brought warmth and humor to the scholarly stage when she visited UT over the weekend.

The Hollywood actress and native Texan is also a student—she’s working on a master’s degree in Chicano studies from Cal State Northridge. Longoria gave Saturday’s keynote address at the Student Activities Center, concluding the 2012 Lozano Long Conference on “Central Americans and the Latino/a Landscape: New Configurations of Latino/a America.”

Longoria, whose stardom broke out on ABC’s Desperate Housewives, spoke about her South Texan upbringing, her work as a co-chair for President Obama’s reelection campaign, and her vested interest in philanthropy. But a central message resonated throughout the address: that the United States has everything to gain by embracing the growth of the Latino community and much to lose by rejecting it.

By any standard, Longoria engages in an impressive amount of philanthropy. She co-founded charities like Eva’s Heroes and is the national spokesperson for Padres Contra El Cancer (Parents Against Cancer). In addition, the Eva Longoria Fund raises money for a slew of organizations, including the United Farm Workers, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Dolores Huerta Association, and the National Council of la Raza.

“How many of you are Chicano? Tejano? Latina?” Longoria asked the UT crowd. Raised hands answered each of her questions.

“These labels demonstrate how much the Latin community has grown and just how diverse it is,” she said. “We are not a monolith, but we are also not our labels. We have one of the oldest histories in the United States and one that goes back to well before 1848.” (1848 references the end of the Mexican-American War and the ceding of Mexico’s remaining territories north of the Rio Grande to the United States).

Longoria said she will continue fighting for recognition and progression of the Latin American community through educational and legal policy, even if it means winning the small battles whenever she can.

“I refuse to use a saucer —sometimes when I go to restaurants the waiter will keep putting my cup on a saucer and I’ll keep taking it off,” she said. “My professor asked me if this was me rebelling against imperialism. I said, ‘Of course!'”

Photos by Brian Birzer. Courtesy the College of Liberal Arts.


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