Martha Gonzalez is a Chicana artivista (artist/activist) musician, feminist music theorist and Assistant Professor in the Intercollegiate Department of Chicana/o Latina/o Studies at Scripps/Claremont College. A Fulbright (2007-2008), Ford (2012-2013) and Woodrow Wilson Fellow (206-2017) her academic interest in music has been fueled by her own musicianship as a singer/songwriter and percussionist for Grammy Award winning band Quetzal. Quetzal has made considerable impact in the Los Angeles Chicano music scene. The relevance of Quetzal’s music and lyrics have been noted in a range of publications, from dissertations to scholarly books. In addition, Gonzalez along with her partner Quetzal Flores has been instrumental in catalyzing the transnational dialogue between Chican@s/Latin@ communities in the U.S and Jarocho communities in Veracruz, Mexico. Most recently, and as a testament to the body of music and community work Gonzalez has accomplished on and off the stage, in the summer of 2014 Gonzalez’s tarima (stomp box) and zapateado shoes were acquired by the National Museum of American History. Quetzal is scheduled to release “The Eternal Get Down” on Folkways label in the summer of 2016.
Areas of Expertise
My scholarly interests have been fueled by over twenty years of experience as an active music practitioner and community organizer via East Los Angeles rock group Quetzal (Grammy 2013). I arrived to academia with an extensive body of work as an artivista (artist/activist) and public intellectual. As a trained scholar in feminism with a focus on Chicana feminist theory, transnational studies, performance studies, and ethnomusicology, my scholarship articulates the various ways in which Chicano/a, Latino/a and other communities of color (in the U.S and transnationally) utilize music and other forms of creative expression not solely as politically charged commentary and/or community building projects, but as necessary dialectic tools toward various social justice ends. My experience in the expressive political economies of performance augments my research, academic perspective and teaching methods. In this way, I follow in the footsteps of women of color artists/activist/scholars who both produced and theorized their own cultural production (Anzaldua, Baca, Fusco). I am in the earliest stages of building the language around what I do as an artist, scholar and community activist through various participatory music methods. I seek to make these roles and methods legible to the academy as I live them- seamlessly. Ultimately, my goal is to fundamentally challenge the academy and what Barbara Christian called, 'the Eurocentric masculanist criteria for methodological adequacy.'
Dr. Gonzalez has been working closely with The Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) on implementing the Collective Songwriting method. She is also active in training other local artists in the method with the intention of expanding this important practice. To learn more on this process:
"Collective Songwriting in Boyle Heights"
Selected Research and Publications
- 2015 “Sobreviviendo: Immigration Stories and Testimonio in Song:” Center for Latino Research at University of De Paul University.
- 2014 “Creating a Mexican-AfroCuban American Beat” in What It Means to be American http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2014/12/05/creating-a-mexican-afro-cuban-american-beat/chronicles/who-we-were/ Zocalo Public Square. December.
- 2014 “Mixing in the Kitchen: Entre Mujeres Feminine Translocal Composition” in Performing Motherhood: Artistic, Activist and Everyday Enactments. Ontario, Canada. Demeter Press.
- 2014 “Introduction: Digital Humanities, Public Humanities.” New American Notes Online (NANO). New York City College of Technology. New York, July. http://www.nanocrit.com/issues/5/introduction-digital-humanities-public-humanities
- 2014 A de Activista. (Spanish Children’s literature and adaptation to Innosanto Nagara’s A is for Activist) Seven Stories Press, New York, New York.
- 2014 “Chican@ Artivistas at the Intersection of Hope and Imagination.” Journal of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldua Conference, El Mundo Zurdo. University of Texas Press. July.
Awards and Honors
- 2016-17 Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship. Claremont, CA.
- 2015 Digital Humanities @ The Claremont Colleges (DH@CC) Summer Institute Fellow. Claremont, CA.
- 2015 Ford Post-Doctoral Fellowship. Honorable Mention.
- 2015 Mujer de Paz Award, East Los Angeles Women’s Center (ELAWC). Los Angeles, California.
- 2014-2015 Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities Fellow, Dana and David Dornsife College of Arts and Sciences. University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
- 2014 National Museum of American History, memorialization of tarima and zapateado shoes (artifacts) for the “Homelife Exhibit” at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC.
- 2014 California Endowment for the Arts, Quetzal Honored for 20 years of Arts Service to the City of Los Angeles, CA.
- 2013 “Ruben Salazar Award” by Inner City Struggle (Quetzal). October, 13. Los Angeles CA.
- 2013 Encuentro de Jaraneros, “Por su difusión y trayectoria del Son Jarocho” (for efforts and musical trajectory in the son jarocho genre). October, 2. Los Angeles, CA.
- 2012-2013 Arts and Sciences Graduate Dissertation Deans Medal Award, University of Washington, Seattle.
- 2012-2013 Grammy Award for Best Latin/Alternative or Urban Rock Album, “Imaginaries” by Quetzal (Singer, Composer, Percussionist).
- 2012-2012 Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures.
- 2012-2013 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship.
- 2012-2013 University of Washington Vice-President for Minority Affairs and Vice Provost for Diversity Community Building Award.
- 2012-2013 Declared “Cultural Treasure of Boyle Heights” by Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and Building Healthy Communities.
Martha Gonzalez was born and raised in East Los Angeles and is a Chicana artivista (artist/activist), feminist music theorist and academic.
Her academic interest in music has been fueled by her own musicianship as a singer and percussionist for East L.A's Quetzal for the last 17 years. Quetzal has made considerable impact in the Los Angeles Chicano music scene. The unique blend of East Los Angeles sounds as well as the social justice content in the work has sparked dialogue and theoretical work among various artist communities, culture theorists, and scholars across the country, Mexico and Japan. The relevance of Quetzal's work has been noted in a range of publications from dissertations to scholarly books, most recently Patricia Zavella's I'm Neither Here Nor There: Mexicans' Quotidian Struggles with Migration and Poverty (Duke University Press, 2011). As a result, the U.S. Library of Congress and Kennedy Center extended an invitation to perform and speak in September of 2011 as a part of their "Homegrown" music series. In addition, the traveling exhibit "American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music" sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute, featured Quetzal as leaders and innovators of Chicano music. This feat coupled with their Grammy Award winning album on the Smithsonian Folkways label was released on May of 2012 titled "Imaginaries" marks the importance of her past and ongoing work.
As a musician, Gonzalez has collaborated, and/or toured with artist such as Los Lobos, Los Van Van, Jackson Brown, Susana Baca, Perla Batalla, Jaguares, Ozomatli, Jonathan Richman, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, ¡Cubanismo!, Taj Mahal, Tom Waits, Los Super Seven, Lila Downs, Raul Malo, Rick Treviño, Son De Madera, Relicario, Chuchumbe Charanga Cakewalk, The B-side Players, Teatro Campesino and Laura Rebolloso.
In these ways music pedagogy and transnational music movement experience has influenced Gonzalez's scholarship.
Intercollegiate Department of Chicano/a Latino/a Studies Courses:
• "Chican@ Music: From Genre to Experience"
• "Fandango as a DeColonial Tool"
• "Chicana, Latina, Gender and Popular Culture"
• "Women Who Rock: The Archive, Popular, Music and New Media"
• "Fronteras/Borders: Chicano/a, Latino/a Research Methods"
CORE Curriculum Courses:
• "Collective Songwriting: Theory and Knowledge Production"