Faculty Profile: Luis A. Marentes

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By Christina Freitas
English & History major, Class of ‘14

In our digital age, cultural conversations spread with ease across geographic boundaries, and global community, through social media, develops an entirely new meaning. In his latest research, Professor Luis Marentes explores the links between social media and Hispanic culture, identifying ways in which this medium contributes to stronger cultural immersion on all sides.

Born in Mexico, Marentes always believed he would become an engineer like his father. While his grandmother and mother both worked as teachers, Marentes remembered his affinity for math and science as a boy. “I was fascinated by the way in which these sciences explained our world,” he said.

While pursuing Industrial Engineering in college, Marentes soon discovered that this path did not match his desire to explore the whys behind his major, and other areas as well. “I was interested in the reason for the sciences, not just their application,” Marentes said. “I was also very interested in the arts and social sciences.”

After switching to and from Economics, Marentes finally settled in the University of Texas. While his studies there focused on Latin American literature, he also pursued Russian, adding a third language to his bilingual heritage. “In the midst of the Cold War I also figured that we were either going to speak with the Russians and understand each other, or we were going to blow each other off the planet,” he said.

This persistence led Marentes to complete a Russian major and later receive a PhD in Comparative Literature, for Latin American and Russian studies. Shortly after, he was hired within the Spanish Department at UMass.

Reflecting upon his roles as professor and advisor, Marentes has admired the same intellectual curiosity in his students. “I believe that education is a right, not a privilege,” he said. “It is also a great feeling to see students mature, in both their personality and professional ambitions.” In addition, Marentes coordinates two Study-Abroad programs for travel to Cuernavaca, Mexico and Granada, Spain.

Currently, Marentes is researching how mass media now shapes cultural community. Through online discussions concerning issues like immigration reform, Marentes has engaged in social media to discover how this space fosters cultural conversations. He hopes his research will further impact the way his students view modern debates. “I love to show my students how these central concerns of our contemporary society aren’t necessarily new, but have been part of world civilization for centuries,” he said.

This semester, he is teaching an IE course (Span 494RI) and “Spanish Translation for Community Health Services” (Span 497TC).