About a year and a half ago, I received an invitation to join the newly created Association for Spanish and Portuguese Mormon Studies. At the time it consisted of a website (now apparently defunct) and a google group, which members used to communicate. I have no idea who started the group (or whether it was initially an individual or group effort). It was an exciting prospect for those interested in the international Mormon experience. Especially noteworthy, I think, is that the group consisted of not only scholars located here in the United States (including a handful of bloggernacle regulars), but also a group of Latin American scholars who were eager to engage the various issues Mormon Studies in Latin America presents students and scholars.
Emails and messages sent out via the google group started in October 2007 and the frequency of discussion gradually increased over the course of the next few months. In addition to discussing research, talk of meeting and organizing in some official sense began to be considered. Suggestions were made to meet at MHA in 2008 and then again in 2009. Neither of these suggestions came to fruition (at least that I’m aware of. I attended both conferences and actively read each message posted and sent out on the group page). Some of the Latin American scholars didn’t think it appropriate of reasonable to have meetings for such a group in the U.S. (a fair concern to be sure). Ultimately, the group largely has ceased to exist.
This, I think, is quite unfortunate. While the Mormon experience in Latin America and among Spanish speakers is only a peripheral interest of mine (not to mention that my Spanish speaking (quite poor) and reading (fair) abilities aren’t up to par to really instigate things in a group consisting of primarily Spanish speakers, I would love to see the organization regather and move forward. The field of Mormon Studies desperately needs the presence of such a group. Here are my recommendations to anyone interested. Depending on the feedback here, I’ll possibly post this as a message on the group page (and would invite anyone willing to help me translate this into Spanish (and possibly Portuguese) so that it can reach those who do not speak English). Here are my suggestions to anyone interested in joining the group (or those who are already members):
- Join the google group.
- If possible, revamp the website or create a new one.
- Initiate and engage in conversation there. If possible, send messages in as many of the relevant languages as possible (Spanish, English, and Portuguese) so that it can reach the widest audience possible.
- Plan to assemble at either next year’s Mormon History Association annual meeting in Independence, Missouri or 2011’s meeting in St. George, Utah (perhaps a better location for the organization’s interests and regions of residence).
- Propose a session or two for next year’s (or 2011’s) MHA. If needed, propose a session that will be conducted in Spanish. Use that session (or those sessions) to gauge the interest in the group. The possible topics to propose a session on are endless (ranging from broad topics like “The Mormon Experience in Latin America” to more specific ones like “Changing Conceptions of Lamanites in Mormon Culture”).
- Seek out potential officers/board members that have the time and desire to be in charge of things for the first year or two. Depending on the response to this, perhaps the most feasible option for now is to continue proposing and presenting on relevant topics at already-established venues. As interest grows (and I’m confident it will), consider symposia and conferences solely for the Association.
I am more than willing to help out in any way that I can, but I am severely limited in many respects. I am a poor graduate student who doesn’t speak Spanish or Portuguese, whose own primary research interests lay far outside the subject(s) at hand, and who is moving to the east coast in August. If anyone knows anything more about the group’s status, wants to critique any of my suggestions, and/or has further suggestions on how to make this work, please discuss in the comments.