Minnesota Professor to Share Insights from Bike Trip

These days, it's not uncommon for people to travel 12,000 miles.

Louis Mendoza did just that - mostly on a bicycle. His mission? To better understand what he calls the "Latinoization" of the United States and the role Latino communities play in the cultural life of the country.

Mendoza speaks on "A Journey Across Our America: Latino Reflections on Culture, Change and Belonging," at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, Quad 264, Saint John's University. The event is free and open to the public.

On July 1, 2007, Mendoza -- associate professor of Chicano studies and associate vice provost for equity and diversity at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities - set out on his bike trip around America. Starting in San Jose, Calif., he traveled nearly 12,000 miles mostly by bike (but also traveling by car, train, bus, ferry and hitchhiking). He headed east through Minnesota to Massachusetts, turned south to Florida and then west along the Gulf Coast and through the southwestern U.S. before returning to Minnesota on Dec. 20, 2007.

Mendoza said in a January 2008 interview with CNN that Latino immigration has pushed past the southeast, northeast and southern parts of the U.S. This "new geography," as he called it, helped save small town America as Latino immigrants came there to live and work. On his trip, he explored the relationship between place, language and experience that shape American culture and identity.

A native of Houston, Mendoza has a bachelor's degree in English and cultural studies from the University of Houston. He earned his master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently working on two books on his journey across America.

His speech is part of the spring semester series on Latino Popular Culture and Identity in the United States. The series is sponsored by the Latino/Latin American studies department at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University

Posted February 8, 2010