One of the most important milestones of the Princeton undergraduate experience is the senior thesis. Almost all departments require a thesis or some type of independent work. Writing a total of 28,000 words and 110 pages was definitely challenging, but extremely rewarding. I was able to embark on my own research project, choose a topic I was passionate about and put into practice all of the historical methods I had learned in class.
My senior thesis, ““Americanos Todos”: Redefining U.S. Latino and Latina Identity during the Second World War”, investigates the wartime experiences of Latinos who served in both the homefront and battlefront during World War II. Despite posing significant contributions to the war, Latinos remain neglected in dominant narratives of WWII. My work attempts to address this historical silencing and uncover the Latino wartime experience. I ultimately argue that the war influenced the emergence of new forms of identity by confounding what it meant to be “Latino” and “American” and catalyzed movements for inclusion that formed a Latino civil rights consciousness.
My research was based primarily on 47 interviews of Latinos and Latinas who participated in the war. Listening to their wartime experiences and how they championed sacrifice and patriotism despite encountering discrimination was extremely inspiring. They were constantly treated as second-class citizens and had to fight for their own inclusion and future in the country, motifs that resonate in modern discussions over Latino immigration.
The overall process of crafting my own arguments and contributing to the historiography really helped strengthen my writing and critical thinking skills. Moreover, turning in this thesis, the longest research project I have worked on, demonstrated that I could do anything I set my mind to. There were many times that I was stuck with my topic or didn’t know how to approach the primary source, but my adviser was always extremely supportive. Everyone is paired with an adviser for the thesis and my adviser was extremely generous with her time and provided instrumental feedback.
For prospective students, don't be afraid of the senior thesis! I know it seems daunting but Princeton prepares you and provides you with all of the resources and support you need to succeed. All of the papers I had written in other classes and previous independent work played a huge role in helping me navigate and complete my senior thesis. Looking back on my undergraduate career, writing my senior thesis is probably my proudest accomplishment.