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UNM considers relocating Chicana/o Studies from 'the casita'

Chicana/o studies casita
via Gabino Noriega
The building that houses the Chicana & Chicano Studies Department and the Southwest Hispanic Research Institute is fondly regarded as a place of community

The University of New Mexico is considering moving the Chicana & Chicano Studies department and the Southwest Hispanic Research Institute out of a building known as the casita which houses happy memories of community, music and cafecitos.

Following a study of the possibility of moving, UNM said in a statement that the building on Sigma Chi Road NE on campus is, "in such a state of disrepair, is not ADA accessible, and is not in compliance with New Mexico safety standards."

The statement said: "The University knows that the students and faculty love that building. It really breaks our hearts," but that a search is on for a new, larger space for the facilities housed there.

Chicana & Chicano Studies was recognized as a department of UNM in 2015. Since then it has grown and now offers graduate programs, including the only online Master's degree in the subject in the country.

PhD candidate Gabino Noriega said that the casita has gone beyond a structure that houses academic resources and has been a home for a community. He recalled the first time he went, "Everybody was just hanging out and talking, people busted out with instruments." He described it as a place to connect and feel at home.

"This is a place where community has been established," he said.

Noriega says he would like to see the building renovated. Some faculty and students participated in an event last month calling to save the casita.

Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.