That’s all I’m asking for.
Just one lecture.
In teaching my Modern Mexico history course, I decided to start drawing more parallels to moments in US History to help students better relate to the content. When we talked muralists, I mentioned People’s Park in San Diego. When we talked about Emiliano Zapata I mentioned the Gorras Blancas in New Mexico and their issues with access to land and water. When we talked about the Mexican rural police constabulary known as the Rurales, I mention the Texas Rangers and their butchering of Tejanos and Mexicans before, during, and after the Mexican Revolution. With these and other examples, I was generally greeted with blank stares or confused looks. Finally, one day after I made a union comparison that got zero response, I mentioned to students that if they were going to be high school teachers (our university is primarily a teacher training institution), that they should pay more attention in US History. To this, one of the co-presidents of MEChA enrolled in my class politely responded that frankly, after lecture she had to go home and look up the references to US History I made, because aside from Cesar Chavez and the Zoot Suiters, none of those incidents or people were taught in her US History classes.
So, today, US History teaching colleagues, I am asking that you find one traditional lecture you can swap out of your lineup and give that slot to a topic on Latinx history in the US. Maybe you drop one WW II lecture or (I'm not unreasonable) one Vietnam lecture and swap in a discussion of the American GI Forum, Hector Garcia, and the link to Latinx civil rights. Maybe you cut out a lecture on 1950s television and swap in a lecture on the Bracero program, or even an expanded lecture on the UFW that includes Larry Itliong and Dolores Huerta. Maybe one lecture on the New Deal gets set aside and there is a discussion of LULAC and their fight for civil rights. Bert Cornona, anyone? Ruben Salazar? Betita Martinez?
But I also have a bet for you. I bet that in the process you’ll find that it would be even easier to just integrate more Latinx history into your courses. I’m betting that you will find so many interesting, inspiring, and instructive stories that you'll pass up the one-lecture concept and just shoot for full integration.
Talking about Brown vs. Board of Ed? How easy it is to discuss the Alvarez vs. Lemon Grove or Mendez V. Westminster cases. Talking labor rights? Maybe show a little love to the mexicanos working in the railroads in Chicago and St. Louis. Talking about US expansionism? Squeeze in an explanation of the Herrera family and their fight for land rights in New Mexico. How about transnational anarchism and the Flores Magon brothers in the US?
I bet that when you talk about the 1960s/70s and a radical envisioning of the US, there would be some room for the East LA Blowouts next to the Berkeley free speech protests. I think you’ll find comfortable accommodations for Oscar Acosta in that Hunter S. Thompson discussion, or for Rudolfo Anaya next to the Black Panthers talk. Jackie Robinson? Slip in a discussion of Roberto Clemente and maybe Joe Kapp for good measure.
How about those culture classes? Consider the Chicanx roots of punk – thank you ? and the Mysterians. How about Richie Valens, Sunny and the Sun Glows, or Cannibal and the Headhunters slipped into that 50s rock and roll lecture? It will work just fine to slip in Gloria Estefan and Selena Quintanilla next to Madonna and Cyndi Lauper (you remember Madonna - she’s the Italian-American Selena).
I’m not saying you have to turn your US History class into a Chicanx Studies class. Far from it. But I know way too many US Historians who have goals of creating progressive, inclusive classroom histories who have hardly heard of any of the people or incidents I mentioned above, or if they have, they aren’t always making it into the class.
Maybe you’re the exception. Maybe you have five classes or have already obtained thematic integrative nirvana. But if you haven’t …
Start with one lecture.
Suggested reading list to get you started:
· Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States - Felipe Fernández-Armesto
· Occupied America, 8th Edition, Rodolfo Acuña
· Crucible of Struggle - Zaragosa Vargas
· From Out of the Shadows - Vicki L. Ruiz
· Latino USA - Ilan Stavans and Lalo Alcaraz
· Mexicanos: A History of Mexicans in the United States - Manuel G. Gonzales