April Mayes

April Mayes

History; Pomona College, United States


Dear LASA Membership,

It would be a great honor to serve you as a member of the Executive Council. By professional training, I am a historian. By vocation, I am an educator. My practice as a scholar is grounded in collaboration, connection, and relationships. These values guide everything that I do, shaping my work as a professional academic, a mentor, a volunteer, and an advocate. I will bring these values to my work on the Executive Council.

What happens to professional, scholarly organizations such as LASA in the wake of COVID-19? We are not post-pandemic—that future is years away, if it will ever come. For now, concerns about COVID-19 will continue to drive key decisions that will impact how we plan future congresses and the degree to which we can meet in person and continue building intellectual and creative communities. There are so many reasons to mourn what we have lost—the demonstrations of affection in conference center hallways as friends greet each other; the poolside, bar-side, café-side informal conversations; the nervous meetings with editors in the book exhibition. The weight of the task that confronted LASA President Mara Viveros-Vigoya and the Executive Council this past spring left little time to grieve all that makes in-person, face-to-face LASA Congresses so special. Rather, the shift to a virtual Congress required creativity, deliberate planning, and strategic collaborations. For the near future, LASA will need an Executive Council comprised of people able to communicate with the membership and work with sections and their members to take the necessary precautions to keep Congresses as safe as possible.

As a member of the Executive Council, I will continue working on three goals outlined by past Executive Councils as LASA priorities: increasing support for sections; continuing to center saberes from Indigenous and African-descended intellectuals, activists, and community members; and, providing mentoring and unique opportunities for graduate students and emerging scholars.

One of my goals will be to work closely with section chairs to support the growth and development of sections during these difficult times. This new era also brings unique problems for sections, especially smaller ones. As a former co-chair of a small section, I am well aware of how the slightest hitch can nearly erase the hard work of building up membership and in keeping section members engaged. If elected to the Executive Council, my plan is to help LASA sections flourish despite the crisis in which we find ourselves. We can do this if we ask, what opportunities have opened up with the turn to the virtual and how might sections benefit from some of the advantages of an online Congress, among them, the possibility of reaching wider audiences? Supporting section growth and development can also come as a result of placing otros saberes at the forefront of our conversations, activities, and creative expressions at LASA. I am committed to working closely with sections to bring a critical mass of Indigenous and African-descended scholars, artists, and creatives to future LASA Congresses.

I will also bring to the Executive Council my years of experience working to make LASA a safe, intellectual and creative space for emerging scholars. As Co-Chairs of the Haiti-Dominican Republic section of LASA, Dr. Kiran Jayaram and I focused on mentoring graduate students and highlighting the work of emerging scholars. Working with emerging scholars can only strengthen LASA as an organization. Moreover, since many emerging scholars come to Latin American Studies trained in other disciplines, their greater involvement in LASA occasions an opportunity for them to add Latin American Studies methodologies and epistemologies to their discipline-specific experience. LASA has been such an important intellectual space for me. I hope to make it that space for the next generation.