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Still Un/Masking the Self: Legal Education and the Experience of the Other

Almost twenty years ago, Prof. Margaret Montoya, a Latina alumna of Harvard University, wrote an article entitled Mascaras, Trenzas, Y Grenas: Un/Masking The Self While Un/Braiding Latina Stories And Legal Discourse, that addressed “the various masks (“máscaras”) used to control how people respond to us and the important role such masks play in the subordination of Outsiders.” Montoya raises the challenges and obstacles that face those who are (or perceive themselves to be) outsiders within legal education and legal discourse, and the negative effects this has for certain communities, the legal profession, and society at large.

Showcase Event

On Thursday, March 28, 2013 at Harvard Law School, we celebrated Prof. Margaret Montoya’s groundbreaking article Mascaras, Trenzas, Y Grenas: Un/Masking The Self While Un/Braiding Latina Stories And Legal Discourse, published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender almost twenty years ago. Prof. Montoya, a Latina alumna of Harvard University, addressed the challenges and obstacles that face those who are (or perceive themselves to be) outsiders within legal education and discourse, and the negative effects this has for the legal community.

This event featured a panel discussion between Prof. Montoya, Prof. Francisco Valdes, and Prof. Lani Guinier moderated by Prof. Laura Rosenbury. All are prominent critical race and gender theorists, and during the discussion they reflected on Professor Montoya’s article and what has changed and stayed constant since its publication. The reception featured a showcase of student response pieces and a chance to further explore the themes raised in the panel discussion.

Click here to watch a video recording of the event.

The event was cosponsored by JLG, La Alianza, BLS, WLA & APALSA.


The following submissions come from the community of students and professors who have been touched by Professor Montoya’s work. They have been reviewed briefly by JLG Editors only to ensure that they are relevant. The JLG does not assume responsibility for any miscited sources.

Related Article
Event panelist Professor Lani Guinier’s article Lessons and Challenges of Becoming Gentlemen closely relates to the theme of assimilation addressed in Máscaras. 

Video: Máscaras, Trenzas, y Greñas: A Template for Creating Name Narratives
Máscaras, Trenzas, y Greñas: A Template for Creating Name Narratives
Máscaras Trenzas y Greñas from Jessa Bunker on Vimeo.

About Margaret Montoya – from her UNM Faculty Profile

Margaret Montoya was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico to Ricardo and Virginia Montoya. She traces her ancestry to families who have been in New Mexico since it was  controlled by Spain in the early 19th Century and by México until 1848.

She attended Immaculate Conception School in Las Vegas, for elementary school, and when her family moved to Albuquerque, she attended and graduated from Highland High School. After many second chances, she graduated in 1972 with her bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University.

Upon deciding to go to law school, she was the first Latina to be accepted to Harvard Law School. When she graduated with her law degree in 1978, she won the prestigious Harvard University’s Sheldon Traveling Fellowship (also won by Justice Antonin Scalia), which allowed her to travel through Europe and Asia, studying affirmative action in Malaysia and India.

Montoya has been a member of the UNM law school faculty since 1992 and has taught courses in constitutional rights, torts, contracts, clinical law and employment law, and in her seminars, she examines issues of race, ethnicity, gender, culture and language.

You can read Prof. Montoya’s full profile here.