Yolanda Leyva

Liberal Arts Building
El Paso Texas, 79968
Phone Logo(915) 747-7048


Yolanda Chavez Leyva
Associate Professor, History - Center for Inter-American and Border Studies (CIBS)
Director, Institute of Oral History

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, 2021 was a productive year. I continued work on my manuscript, “Interpreting Latinx History at Museums and Historic Sites.” I have drafted the introduction and four chapters. In addition, I contributed a book chapter titled “Years of Depression, Years of Hope: The New Deal on the Border” to Teaching the New Deal (Peter Lang, 2021). I published an article in the Global Studies of Childhood, “Behind each beautiful painting is a child longing to be free”: Deep visual listening and children’s art during times of crisis.” I had an article accepted to Words and Silences/ Palabras y Silencios, the journal of the International Oral History Association, titled “Crossing the Border with Oral History” that introduces a theory exploring how oral history can act as an intervention in maintaining the relationship between space and memory. I submitted a book review to the New Mexico Historical Review.” In collaboration with doctoral candidate Angelina Martinez, I co-authored a 50+ page long expert report on the history of Mexican American education in El Paso for the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aide as part of a lawsuit against EPISD. As a public/oral historian, I continued creating ways to engage the public with border and Mexican American History. This included working with the Smithsonian Latino Center as a curatorial consultant for Presente!, the first Latinx-center exhibit at the National Museum of American History. I scripted and narrated a video for La Frontera Speaks based on an oral history of a former Bracero, Mr. Juan Virgen Diaz. I successfully applied for a Humanities Texas Relief Grant to fund a doctoral candidate to create a walking tour of S. Oregon Street using technology (QRC’s or Augmented Realty). I completed administering a grant from Humanities Texas Cares Act to purchase equipment for the Association of Applied Borderlands History (a RSO that I advise) to continue digitizing thousands of primary documents related to the Bracero Program, creating an archive at the Border Farmworkers Center. As director of the Institute of Oral History, a long-time component of the History Department, I administered the day-to-day workings of the IOH, including supervising two staff, two doctoral students, and two work-studies students. I also raised the visibility of the IOH. I organized a virtual open house in February, continued over-seeing the creation of videos for the project La Frontera Speaks that featured our PhD students, oral histories, and the technical work by our Mellon Undergraduate Fellow. Because of our video series, the Texas Association of Digital Libraries awarded us the 2021 Outreach Award. https://www.tdl.org/awards/winners/ In November, I oversaw an online Dia de los Muertos celebration that commemorated the lives of four oral history narrators who had passed away recently. This event provided our research assistants the opportunity to script the event and highlight their creativity while involving the families of the four men. I conducted an oral history training online that is available on our FB page. I supervised several Mellon Fellows, including one undergraduate, and three MA students, who all contributed to the IOH. I mentored two new PhD students and supervised three students working on their portfolios. I served on the dissertation committees three students, including one in Rhetoric & Writing. I am also happy to report that I worked with a faculty member at Northern New Mexico College to add her 100+ oral histories of punkeros (border punk rockers) to our collection. I taught a public history graduate class in the spring, an undergraduate history of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez in the summer, and a graduate Borderlands Literature and Methodology course in the fall semester. I also supervised graduate public history internships and independent readings as well as two dissertators. Students in the spring public history class conducted research on the Segundo Barrio to contribute to our newest public history project, The Barrios of El Paso, an on-going collection and interpretation of Mexican/ Mexican American history of neighborhoods that continue to exist and that no longer exist. I was particularly active in collaborating with local and national organizations. I presented an oral history workshop at the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society Conference. I worked with local historians and County Judge Iliana Holguin on a proposal to the Mellon Foundation to create a digital archive (not funded) and with the City of Socorro to seek funding from the Mellon Foundation’s Humanities in Place Program to request funding for the only Bracero Museum in the nation (funded at $750,000). I was named Lead Historian of the project and was funded to bring in two of our doctoral candidates as Mellon Research Fellows. I worked with the Smithsonian Latino Center to solidify the Smithsonian Pathways Program that will take four UTEP undergraduate students to DC for a semester to work with the Smithsonian. I participated in a collaboration between UTEP and NMSU, created by Kerry Doyle, to bring museum practitioners together. I presented lectures both locally and internationally. I was invited to present at the Virtual Global Allyship Summit in January that brought together organizers and scholars from across the globe to discuss how to fight hate and create unity. https://togetherweremember.org/virtual-global-allyship-summit In June, I was invited to speak at United Fronteras, an international project documenting work on borders. https://unitedfronteras.github.io/ I presented a public lecture and also held a workshop at the University of Kansas Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities. https://idrh.ku.edu/ I participated in a conversation with artist Beili Liu about art and justice on the border for the Humanities Institute at the University of Texas. https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/latinostudies/events/art-and-social-justi... In service to the Department, College, and profession, I directed the Public History Search Committee and worked with my colleagues Jeff Shepherd and Dean O’Hearn on the Indigenous land acknowledgment statement. I was the department Senator in the Faculty Senate. I worked on the Long range planning committee. I served on the Community Engagement Leadership Committee where I created a video module on equity v equality. I served in an advisory role for COURI. At the Dean’s request, I served on the Museum Taskforce and the Centennial Mural committee. At the national level, I am a member of the council for the Oral History Association where I worked with the committee on committees, and was liaison with the Publications and Advocacy committees. I serve as an NEH scholar for the NEH and Mellon-funded Museo del Westside in San Antonio. In 2021, I reviewed an oral history manuscript for Columbia University Press and an article for the journal Genealogy. I also gave a number of interviews both locally and nationally, including this one for NPR: https://www.latinousa.org/2021/11/05/teresaurrea/


  1. Public History
  2. US-Mexican Border history
  3. Mexican American history
  4. El Paso history