The two speakers sat across from each other deep in conversation like close friends meeting for lunch.
Attendees observed a dialogue between Gustavo Arellano, a Chicano and Chicana studies professor and OC Weekly editor, and Jody Agius Vallejo, a USC sociology professor and author of Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican American Middle Class, during the second lecture of “Gustavo’s Awesome Lecture Series!” Thursday at the Fullerton Public Library.
It was as if there was no audience and they were not clutching microphones.
“It’s a conversation, you just take my lead, don’t be nervous, just be yourself and everything will take care of itself because if you do that the audience becomes engaged, they pay attention … I love doing it,” said Arellano.
The lecture series consists of Arellano interviewing individuals he finds “fascinating” including scholars, authors and musicians. The lectures are held on the last Thursday of every month at 7 p.m.
“I like Gustavo’s interviewing style, I like the casual nature of it and the fact that it’s a little bit freewheeling and I especially like events like this where they do incorporate a lot of questions and answers … It’s the type of atmosphere and gathering here which I think creates a free flow of information,” said Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker.
Arellano said he got the idea for the series after the Chicano and Chicana Studies Department at Cal State Fullerton held a symposium on a 1943 civil rights case that received an overwhelming audience.
The civil rights case, Doss v. Bernal, discussed a Mexican man’s struggle to purchase a house in a strictly white neighborhood in Fullerton due to a clause which prevented individuals other than caucasians from living there.
Arellano said he wants to shed light on people, like Alex Bernal, who he feels aren’t getting enough notice in society and who he finds interesting.
“These are people who I think, I mean if you want to get all jargony about it, they’re outliers. These are people who are excelling in their field that I think deserve more attention than what they are currently getting and so I want to help them get that attention,” Arellano said.
This week’s interview with Vallejo discussed the “forgotten” Mexican-American middle class in southern California, specifically in Orange County.
Vallejo said she wanted the audience to understand that there is a middle class Mexican American population, that it’s growing, that they face some challenges because of the very negative stereotypes in society.
She added that this population is important to the future of America.
Angela Gonzalez, a Fullerton resident and attendee of the event, said she felt she could really relate to the lecture.
“I feel like she (Vallejo) just read … my life story … My kids and me will be third generation, but I hope I can still keep that same culture, talking to them in Spanish,” said Gonzalez.
At the end of the interview Arellano and Vallejo invited the audience into the conversation by taking questions.
The lecture series is set to continue through the end of July and may resume again after August.
“I just think it’s a great thing that they are doing here at the Fullerton Public Library … It’s not just about the books but kind of more a community environment … more of a diverse approach to what a library can be,” said Randall Solis, a history major at Fullerton College.