Indiana State University Newsroom

Professor hopes doll display stimulates diversity, race discussions

September 21, 2009

An Indiana State University professor has left his Dora the Explorer and Cinco De Mayo Barbie dolls sitting on a shelf in the library.

But it's not because he forgot to pick up his toys when he was done playing with them: quite the opposite, actually.

Gerardo Cummings, an assistant professor of Spanish, has arranged the doll exhibit in Cunningham Memorial Library this month to bring attention to Hispanic and Latino role models.

He hopes the 39-piece exhibit will set in motion ongoing dialogue about diversity, he said, and demonstrate that "Hispanics, Latinos and Mexicans are already accepted in the consciousness of this country."

Cummings began purchasing Hispanic and Latino toys and figurines about three years ago, but at the time he had no definite plans for them. The more he collected, the more he became aware of how American toy manufacturers were embracing the minority culture, and he was intrigued.

"Some of the toys have a negative association ... but most of the representations are positive," he said. With this display "I'm trying to show an aspect of the culture that will be something people haven't seen before."

Most of the plush, figurines, and dolls in the library exhibit are likenesses of people who have represented his culture in a positive way, he said. Likenesses of the boy group Menudo that attained popularity in the mid-1980s are among Cummings' collection. The performers became ambassadors to the United Nations, Cummings said.

A figurine of Pedro, the Mexican character from the movie "Napoleon Dynamite" who ran for class president and shocked his peers with his win, is also showcased in Cummings' display.

"High school and college students all over the United States were wearing ‘Vote For Pedro' after that movie came out," Cummings said. "That's how much people have accepted that character, as well as Latinos."

As pleased as Cummings is with this level of cultural acceptance, he believes there's much more work to be done. The election of an African-American U.S. president allows us an opportunity to discuss race and diversity like never before, he said, and we should make use of the opportunity.

That's one reason Cummings was so compelled to organize the library exhibit as well as the activities that are underway from now until Oct. 15.

Throughout Hispanic Awareness Month, several movie presentations and scholarly discussions are planned. All films will be shown in Holmstedt Hall 103 beginning at 6 p.m. The schedule includes:

• Graduate student Christopher Baumunk showing and leading a discussion on Sept. 24 about the Argentinian romantic comedy "Un Novio Para Mi Mujer."

• Associate professor of history Timothy Hawkins showing and leading a discussion on Sept. 29 about the film "The Mission."

• Assistant professor of interior design Juan Jurado showing and leading a discussion on Oct. 6 about Ecuadorian feminist director Tania Hermida's "Que Tan Lejos."

• Assistant professor of English Aaron Morales showing and leading a discussion on Oct. 13 about "The Crime of Father Amaro," a controversial Mexican film in which a Catholic priest entangles himself on matters of the flesh while remaining an ardent believer of his faith.

Additionally, IU professor of Spanish and Portuguese Clancy Clements on Sept. 28 will lead the discussion "Language Ecology and Contact-induced Language Change." Clements' presentation takes place in Root Hall A-008. A reception at 5 p.m. in the languages, literatures and linguisitics department lounge will precede the presentation.

For more information about the display or the events scheduled as part of Hispanic Awareness Month, contact Cummings.

Contact: Gerardo T. Cummings, assistant professor of Spanish, Indiana State University, at 812-237-2359 or

Writer: Rachel Wedding McClelland, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University at 812-237-3790 or