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Maxine Baca Zinn: 1942—: Sociologist

Determined To Set The Record Straight

Baca Zinn became interested in sociology because this discipline gave her the intellectual tools to understand the ethnic discrimination that she had become aware of as a child. She was determined to expose the myths of pluralism and integration and to explain what life was really like for Hispanics. As she told CHB, her goal in studying sociology was "to attempt to set the record straight about 'Spanish Americans,'" as Hispanics were called at that time. She was painfully aware in her sociology classes that her professors were not able to describe social life as she experienced it because they were predominantly white males. "There was very little consideration of the history of my people in the curriculum," Baca Zinn told CHB. "I couldn't relate to the descriptions of Hispanics that were being taught." In an effort to address this problem, Baca Zinn wrote her master's thesis on the study of power in a local urban barrio. She also introduced the first Chicano studies course at the University of New Mexico, which allowed her to expose many of the myths surrounding Hispanics. The course was well received at that time, and "Sociology of the Barrio" became a regular course at the University of New Mexico.

Baca Zinn earned a master of arts degree in sociology in 1970 and decided to pursue her doctorate. Since the University of New Mexico did not have a doctoral program, Baca Zinn went to the University of Oregon on a fellowship. She once again found an academic environment that encouraged progressive thought, and she was encouraged to continue her work on Latinos. At this time feminist sociology was also becoming more popular, and Baca Zinn incorporated this line of thinking into her work on Hispanics. Her dissertation was an ethnographic study of eight Mexican-American families in New Mexico, focusing on marital power in changing Chicano families. In 1973 she received a dissertation fellowship from the Ford Foundation to support her work.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Carlos Watson Biography - Was a Student Journalist to Stefan Zweig (1881–1942) BiographyMaxine Baca Zinn: 1942—: Sociologist Biography - Educational Experiences, Determined To Set The Record Straight, Challenged Mainstream Sociology, An Inspirational Teacher