ABOUT LACASA CHICAGO
LACASA Chicago: Who we have been and who we are.
LACASA Chicago Books was founded as LACASA in 1998 by Professor Marc Zimmerman, as a project emanating from the Latin American and Latino Studies Program of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and UIC’s Great Cities Program. An anagram standing for Latin American and Latino/a Cultural Activities and Studies Arena, LACASA sought to help develop, support, and promote Chicago-related Latin American and Latina/o cultural and art exhibits, film series, and publications, with the overall goal of contributing to Chicago’s growing Latino infrastructure and relating Chicago activities with those in other like centers in other cities in the U.S., Latin America, the Caribbean and the world. In recent years, its emphasis has been on Chicago Latino history, literature, and art, along with a creative writing function focused on Ziimmerman’s Illusions of Memory autofiction book series but extending to other writers and projects. In 2023, we entered into a publications and distribution partnership with the revitalized MARCH Abrazo Press, the publishing arm of El Movimiento Artístico Chicano, to develop and promote new books on Chicago Mexican and Chicano themes. A similar relationship aimed at developing additional work centered on Puerto Rican themes, will be our next step.
Begun with funds from the Rockefeller Foundation and UIC’s Great Cities Institute, LACASA began a publication series, publishing two books, one, New World [Dis]Orders and Peripheral Strains, on postmodern trends in Latin American/Latino cultural studies, and the other, Globalización, nación, postmodernidad on globalization and postmodernity in Puerto Rico, and holding a major international conference, Mapping Latino Chicago, applying Globalization and Latin Cultural Studies theories to a consideration of urban processes in Latino Chicago and Latin America as a whole.
Moving with Zimmerman to the University of Houston (UH) in 2001, LACASA became renamed as LACASA and Global CASA, dealing with themes beyond Latin American and Latino worlds. Receiving major UH funding, working with several graduate students and young professors, and co-publishing with various Latin American and Latino publisher, Zimmerman moved ahead to coordinate and complete two publication series. First came, the consolidation of earlier Chicago-centered research as LACASA Studies in Latin American and Latino Globalization and Cultural Studies (LSGCS) withthe publication of successive collective volumes on Latin American globalization, Latin American cities, Latin American transnational processes, Latinos in U.S. cities, Central American Cultural Studies, and cultural trends leading to and emanating from the leftward turns in Latin America during the first decade of the new century. Then came a second project, Pre-post Positions, presenting Zimmerman’s evolving studies of theory and applications to European, as well as Latin and Central American cultural trends. Global CASA also began a series on creative writing, producing two volumes during the organization’s final Houston years.
Returning to Chicago in 2011, Zimmerman renewed original goals, relaunching his organization as LACASA Chicago, continuing his series on Central and Latin American Cultural Studies with several new volumes, but now emphasizing work on Chicago Latino themes and continuing to develop the Creative Writing emphasis. The Chicago studies include an emphasis on general and literary history, producing three volumes in this direction, including a major volume on early Mexican and Chicano Literature in the City, and a special emphasis in Chicago Latino art, the Chicago Latino/a Artists Series Project. Starting with his work on the autobiography of José Gamaliel González. Zimmerman then reached out to form a research team including René Arceo, Marta Ayala, Len Domínguez, Jeff Huebner, Diana Solís, and John Weber to interview early Chicago Mexican public artists, The Chicago Mexican Artists Project (CMAP); and Huebner helped Zimmerman launch interviews with Chicago Puerto Rican artists (CPRAP) , a project which Zimmerman now continues on his own. Some years ago, Zimmerman donated the group’s interview and photo bank, to the Archives of American Art Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., which has processed CLASP’s first batch and is still at work on a second, which includes many new, mainly Puerto Rican interviews, as well as considerable documentation of Chicago Central American art as well.* Zimmerman and others have published CDs and articles based on this project; a forthcoming book will summarize the findings of this project.
In the meantime, LACASA Chicago has developed its creative writing series in terms of Zimmerman’s Illusions of Memory autofiction books, dealing with but not limited to Latino-themed material. LACASA has also published a posthumous collection of stories and art work by Chicago Mexican doctor, Aaron Kerlow, and projects publishing creative work by other Latino writers and artists in the near future. Finally, in relation to these projects LACASA has carried out several presentations and exhibits and will continue the activity dimension of the project into the future. As director, Marc Zimmerman has lectured, read from his fiction, arranged exhibitions, and otherwise support and promote LACASA efforts at international and local events. His special relationship with Puerto Rico should lead to further development in this direction.
LACASA Chicago will also continue our history of seeking co-publication with Latin American and Latino publishing houses and groups; we will seek to increase our local, national and international presence and relevance.
This new LACASA Chicago website seeks to highlight all we have done and hope to do to promote the themes, issues and projects most dear to us. For those wishing to submit material, purchase books or donate to LACASA’s work, please visit our contact and submission tabs herein; you may simply write email@example.com or call 281-513-9475.
* For a note which only reflects the first, mainly Mexican interviews, visit https://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/marc-zimmerman-files-regarding-Latino-artists-17512#overview; for a more complete description of the project, see the Latino Chicago page of this website.
About Gamaliel Ramírez
Photo by Jesús Macarena
Gamaliel Ramírez, one of the first Chicago Ricans who devoted his life to art, produced a great body of art work, including murals throughout the city’s ethnic neighborhoods, and especially in predominantly Puerto Rican areas. Born in the Bronx, New York in 1949, Gamaliel spent most of his life in Chicago teaching and producing his art for over 35 years.
A self-taught artist, he developed techniques he drew from cubism and surrealism to create images portraying the culture and social situation of Puerto Ricans, Latinos and minorities in general. With poets David Hernández, Salima Rivera and others, Gamaliel co-founded the Association of the Latin Brotherhood of Artists (ALBA) in 1974, and later went on to develop Taller as a group focused on Latino culture, serving as Director for some twelve years.
Diagnosed with cancer and emphysema, he moved to Puerto Rico, producing and exhibiting his work, and developing website videos, but falling ill as he sought to repair his home in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Hospitalized for several months, he passed away on May 21, 2018 in the presence of his daughter and her children.
For a fuller account of his life and legacy, visit http://www.elbeisman.com/revista/post/remembering-gamaliel-ramrez Also consult the Smithsonian Institution’s digitalized collection of his work at thttps://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/marc-zimmerman-files-regarding-Latino-artists-17512#overview