Hispanic Heritage Month takes place each year from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Throughout the month, The Daily will highlight members of the university community who are of Hispanic heritage to celebrate their accomplishments and shed light on their experiences at CWRU.
John Flores is well versed in how the history of Spanish-speaking people in the United States has been erased. And as a member of a family with deep roots in Mexico, he’s committed to helping recover it.
Flores serves as a professor of immigration and labor history at Case Western Reserve University, where he specializes in the history of deportation and citizenship, transnational labor movements and the formation of racial and national identities. To this end, he focuses his research on recovering “the histories of Mexican and Latinx immigrants who have shaped the United States in profound ways.”
“I’m passionate about changing the way people think about immigration,” said Flores, reflecting on lessons learned from his grandmother, a devout Catholic who shaped his cultural upbringing. One lesson from his grandmother guides his work to this day: All human beings are connected and everyone should be treated with dignity.
“She believed that if you saw a person suffering, if you saw a person in need, it was your moral obligation to help them,” said Flores.
Spanish-speaking people have lived in and contributed to the United States since the colonial era, Flores explained, but they have a long history of being forcefully expelled from the country during times of economic and political crisis.
“As a consequence,” he continued, “Spanish-speaking people are underrepresented in Congress, in the professions, and in many other spheres of influence.”
Before Flores found his way to Case Western Reserve to delve into these issues, he studied labor history under Leon Fink and Eric Arnesen at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was involved with the immigrant rights movement. He became interested in CWRU when he learned of its newly-formed Social Justice Institute—a center focused on addressing society’s most trying inequalities.
“Rhonda Williams, the founder and former director of the institute, helped bring me to CWRU to help build the institute,” said Flores. “It has been a very rich and rewarding experience.”
Also at the university, Flores is the faculty advisor of La Alianza, a Latinx student organization that serves the community in a wide-range of ways. He regularly partners with Veronica Dahlberg, a tireless community leader, who founded and directs HOLA, an organization that works to improve the quality of life of the Latinx community of Ohio. Stay tuned to The Daily through Oct. 14 to learn about other Hispanic members of the university community.