Desmadre: An Introduction for Gustavo Arellano
by Araceli Centanino
Welcome everyone and thank you so much for coming to our Inaugural Mendoza Family Distinguished Lecture. I am Araceli Centanino and I teach Ethnic Studies and History here at Irvine Valley College. I am so excited and honored to introduce our speaker tonight, Gustavo Arellano.
Gustavo Arellano is, for my money, one of the most significant Latino voices in journalism today, and certainly one of the most prolific. I first came to Arellano’s work when I read a tribute he wrote to the late chef, author, and travel documentarian, Anthony Bourdain. I loved the way Arellano highlighted Bourdain’s respect and acknowledgement of Latinos, especially immigrants, centrality to American kitchens. I soon found Arellano’s voice and name popping up again and again, offering his take on so many issues: ranging from food and food culture to Southern California and Orange County history, immigration, Latino issues and beyond. Arellano’s writing was so engaging and refreshing for me. I really appreciated how Arellano wove in Spanish words effortlessly into his work, which replicated the everyday language and speech patterns of Latinos. I also chuckled and felt inspired in equal measure by Arellano’s penchant for raising desmadre–or chaos, disorder, mess – by asking hard questions, refusing to write the easy story, complicating histories and narratives that force us to interrogate the world around us and our own communities, even if its unsettling or uncomfortable.
And indeed, Arellano has made a whole career out of raising desmadre: as a former investigative journalist and editor of the alternative OC Weekly Arellano wrote incisively and fiercely about our county of many complexities and contradictions. In a county that often feels like it is caught in a tug of war between its past and its present, Arellano’s work has felt like a sort of lighthouse–especially for me, who is new to Orange County–helping us to see the problems; but also, the beauty and reasons to be hopeful. More recently, Arellano is a columnist at the LA Times. In addition, Arellano is an author of several books including Ask a Mexican, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, and is co-author of A People’s Guide to Orange County. Many of these titles are available for purchase outside. As the son of Mexican immigrant parents and lifelong resident of Orange County, Arellano knows the issues he writes about intimately, and that’s part of what makes his voice so unique and deeply needed in our information/media landscape. May we all follow his lead and have the courage to use our voices to raise a little more desmadre in our day-to-day lives.
Please join me in welcoming Gustavo Arellano!
Dr. Araceli Centanino is Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies and History at Irvine Valley College. Araceli began her academic career as a community college student at Grossmont College in San Diego. In 2012, Araceli graduated from the University of California San Diego with a B.A. in History and a thematic emphasis in Race, Ethnicity, and Migration. Araceli then went on to complete an M.A. in History from UCLA in 2015, followed by a PhD in History in 2021, also from UCLA. Her dissertation focused on the history of policing, public schools, and Black and Chicano student movements in Los Angeles between 1945-1985. Before joining Irvine Valley College, Araceli taught as an adjunct instructor in the departments of History, as well as Ethnic, Gender, and Social Justice Studies, at Cuyamaca College, Grossmont College, and Santa Monica College.