Throughout the entire semester, as Omar Valerio-Jiménez taught a UI class on Mexican-American history, one shy young female student didn't utter a word. Then, inspired one day by the unexpected sight of a familiar face in a slide presentation, she finally broke her silence.
"That woman, that woman there," she said. "That's my grandmother."
The time-worn image of a Hispanic woman in Iowa, along with the student's surprise at seeing her relative, perfectly captured a theme of Valerio-Jiménez's course: Latino immigrants are a long-standing—yet often invisible—part of Iowa history.
In fact, when Valerio-Jiménez, an associate professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, joined the UI in 2006, even some of his colleagues in academia asked, "Are there Latinos in Iowa?"