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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Faculty & Staff

Profile Friday: Hispanic studies professor honored as LGBTQ pioneer


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Professor Guillermo De Los Reyes helped create first LGBT studies minor in Texas. | Dmitriy Borovykh/The Cougar

When it comes to being a professor, community involvement may be just as important as teaching and research. Nobody illustrates that better than Guillermo De Los Reyes.

As the associate professor of Latin American culture and literature and director of undergraduate studies, OutSmart Magazine has chosen De Los Reyes as one of the top LGBTQ Hispanic leaders of 2016. The publication is recognizing him for his many achievements in the spheres of Hispanic and LGBTQ issues.

“Both topics are so broad, and I just have my perspective,” De Los Reyes said. “But I’m looking at and considering all the other perspectives.”

Dance of accolades

De Los Reyes double majored in international relations and history. He also received an M.A. in Latin American history from the Universidad de las Américas in Puebla, Mexico.

He went on to get another M.A. in Latin American folklore and folklife at the University of Pennsylvania, where he stayed to get a multidisciplinary studies PhD.

In addition to academic pursuits, De Los Reyes has a passion for dancing — from folk and Cuban to jazz and modern styles. Even during his post-graduate years, he was invited to join the University of Pennsylvania’s dance troupe, but he ultimately chose a career in teaching.

“Every time I have the opportunity, I do it,” De Los Reyes said. “I took a little bit of ballet classes and I like to perform, but I guess right now my performance is in the classroom.”

De Los Reyes joined UH’s Department of Hispanic Studies over a decade ago and his passion for both learning and teaching has not been quelled since. His current research interests include studying Mason communities in the U.S. and Mexico as well as LGBTQ issues in colonial Mexico.

“When I was doing research for my first book on Freemasonry in Mexico, I had to use Inquisition records,” De Los Reyes said. “In those records, I found other cases that were related to my interest: My personal experience as a gay man. And I said, ‘Oh, I wonder what would happen to those men in colonial Mexico who were having sex with other men?’ I wanted to know more.”

De Los Reyes’ involvement with the LGBTQ community goes beyond research. Together with Maria Gonzales, who also made the OutSmart’s list, he played a big part in expanding UH’s Women’s Studies program into Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

In the process, the program added an LGBT studies minor to its roster — the first one in Texas.

At the same time, Gonzalez and De Los Reyes were already working on creating a resource center for LGBTQ students and faculty.

A professor for life

De Los Reyes is still involved as an associate director of the WGSS program and a board member for the LGBTQ Resource Center.

“I’m really happy that I was a part of that,” De Los Reyes said. “It was nothing before that. It’s nice to now collect the fruits from those little seeds that we planted.”

De Los Reyes’ work in the community goes beyond campus life. He is involved with national organizations such as GLAAD and contributed to the Houston Area Rainbow Collective History Collection. He also provided his expertise in hearings of asylum cases for LGBTQ persons from Latin America on a pro-bono basis.

“We need more professors like that,” Herb Agan, a psychology professor who serves on the LGBTQ advisory board with De Los Reyes, said. “This isn’t just a head trip. It’s a head and a heart trip — that’s what education’s about. He does that very well.”

Although his various titles can be overwhelming, De Los Reyes keeps a positive attitude. He said that it’s his students that help him stay active and passionate.

“When I go to the classroom, I’m full of energy,” De Los Reyes said. “It’s like I’m born again from that energy.”

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