Álvaro Huerta is an Associate Professor in Urban & Region Planning (URP) and Ethnic & Women’s Studies (EWS) at California State Polytechnic University. As an interdisciplinary scholar, Huerta conducts research on the intersecting domains of urban planning, Chicana/o-Latina/o studies, immigration, religion, social movements, social networks, and the informal economy. Among other scholarly publications, he’s the author of the award-winning book, Latina/o Immigrant Communities in the Xenophobic Era of Trump and Beyond (2019).
As a scholar-activist, Huerta advocates on behalf of los de abajo (those on the bottom). This includes engaging with marginalized and racialized communities, conducting academic and public lectures such as TEDx talks, advancing a more diversified and decolonized academy, and promoting ethical/moral theories/actions via social movements in America to create a more just and humane society.
Prior to pursuing an academic path, Huerta was a highly successful university/community activist. This includes co-organizing a Chicana/o-led hunger strike in defense of undocumented students at UCLA (November 11–19, 1987), directly influencing other student-led hunger strikes, such as UCLA (May 24–June 7, 1993), UCSB (April 27–May 5, 1994) and other campuses; co-founding the Association of Latin American Gardeners of Los Angeles (ALAGLA) and co-defeating a city law aimed at criminalizing Latino immigrant gardeners with punitive measures, such as misdemeanor charges, $1,000 fines, and up to six months in jail; and leading an environmental justice campaign to defeat a 550-megawatt power plant proposal on November 6, 2001 in Southeast Los Angeles.
For his social/racial justice and civic engagement actions, he has received numerous awards, such as the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning’s 2016 Edward Blakely Award—Advancing the Cause of Social and Racial Justice in Urban Planning, and the American Planning Association’s 2011 National Planning Leadership Award—Advancing Diversity & Social Change in Honor of Paul Davidoff. He has also received several academic fellowships/awards, such as the Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowship from 2006–10 and UC MEXUS Dissertation Research Grant, University of California from 2010–11.
Huerta is the son of Mexican immigrants and is a first-generation graduate, holding a PhD in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley—one of the first Chicana/os to do so. He also holds an MA in Urban Planning and a BA in History from UCLA.
Huerta has been impressed with Diane L. Moore as a leader, scholar, and education, motivating him to become an RPL Fellow upon learning that Moore was directing the inaugural Religion and Public Life Fellowship. Huerta feels that the initiative seeks to improve humanity, especially the marginalized of the world, which speaks to him personally, having experienced abject poverty, violence, and an overall sense of hopelessness. He is dedicated to taking part in efforts and initiatives that seek to address the societal problems that he and his family experienced in East Los Angeles, California, and Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.
As a fellow, Huerta hopes to encourage his students to be critical thinkers and to question. He says, “By posing questions and engaging in dialogue to students, following the teachings of the great Brazilian educator/philosopher, Paulo Freire, I value the ideas and practices of students, where we all learn from each other in a critical space of learning and engaging.” Huerta seeks to foster a leadership that is committed to improving the lives of those most vulnerable in his students, students having played major roles throughout the world in fighting for a more just and humane world.