5 Questions with Faculty: Jose Cruz

Jose Cruz and his study-abroad students at the Congreso de Diputados in Madrid, Spain.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 28, 2016) — José E. Cruz is an associate professor of political science and Latino studies in the Political Science Department, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. He came to UAlbany in 1994, right out of graduate school. His work focuses on the relationship between ethnic identity, political mobilization and political empowerment.

What are you working on now?

I am putting the finishing touches on two book manuscripts on ethnic identity and political participation. One is under contract with Rowman & Littlefield. The academic press of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College is interested in reviewing the second manuscript. I have a paper on diasporic citizenship under review by the Seminario de Otros Mundos at Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain, for possible presentation there in May 2017, and in the next few months I will resume work on an immigrant integration project with colleagues from the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society.

What made you decide to pursue this field?

I dropped out of the University of Puerto Rico in 1970 to become a political activist on the island. In 1971 I was a founding member of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. The party suffered an electoral debacle in 1976 and in 1980 I decided I better go back to school so I could get a real job.

I came to the United States in that year to go to University and, after getting a master’s in Latin American Studies, I decided to go for a Ph.D. in political science. I guess you could say that my disappointment with the practice of politics led me to focus on the study of politics. Even though my career as an activist had come to a dead end by 1980, I didn't want to leave politics altogether and I could not resist the lure of becoming a political intellectual.

What’s your favorite class to teach?

I love teaching my comparative courses on Latin American migration and urban politics. They are part of a faculty-led, study-abroad program in Madrid, Spain. It provides a teaching and research opportunity on the ground for me and, for the students, it is both an academic and cultural immersion experience.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

Well, two: James McBride's Kill'em and Leave, Searching for James Brown and the American Soul and Sarah Bakewell's, At the Existentialist Café, Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails.

What’s your favorite food to eat or cook?

Mofongo con camarones — deep-fried, mashed plantains with shrimp, onions, peppers and garlic, sautéed in a spicy mango chutney sauce.

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