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May 1 is Mexican-American Studies Day

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On March 16, 2015, a group of Mexican American Studies students, graduates, and supporters set out to Austin for the Day of Advocacy for Education Equity and Opportunity hosted by the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus (SHC) and Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC). Jose A. Yzñaga, a Mexican American Studies major at UTSA, reported on the events of March 16th.

“Buses arrived early morning in Austin from various cities and counties of Texas. A few people met with state representatives, then we attended the press conference and rally at the south steps of the capitol building. After the rally I personally spoke to Trey Martinez-Fisher, and State Senator Edde Lucio, Jr., from the valley. Each of them promised that they would do everything in their power to persuade others to vote with them to fund MAS programs in higher institutions and help put MAS Studies from Pre- K – 12th in high schools around the state.”

The National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS)—Tejas Foco sent letters to Texas legislators and to the Texas Public University Presidents and Chancellors in support of the “Latina/o K-12 and Higher Education Policy Agenda in Texas.” The policy was initiated by the Latina/o Education Task Force of  SHC and MALC. The policy recommends the funding and investment of Mexican American Studies centers, departments, and programs at institutions of higher education in Texas to be prioritized in order to meet the educational needs of Latina/o students.

Despite having high Mexican American/Latina/o student populations, only one Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies exists in Texas today. UT campuses with high Latina/o populations only offer programs without permanent funding. Others only have a minor in Mexican American Studies with a budget of about $1000 per year.

This marginalization and underfunding calls for the urgent need for funding and expansion of Mexican American/Latina/o programs in order to acknowledge this underrepresented group and to create a positive academic success of Mexican American/Chicana/o/Latina/o students in K-12 by providing a culturally relevant curriculum and pedagogy that inspires a positive self-identity. Yzñaga also reported:

My daughter, Nicole, and I spoke to Diego Bernal but he was not patient to hear us out, but he talked about his bills and needing support from us. So I told him that we would help him with his agenda if he supported ours. But he would not give us any assurance he would support us. So we went to visit other representatives asking them to support our cause. We did that until about four o’ clock.

The rally produced a lot of people supporting us and lots of on lookers. I was very pleased with the turnout, but I’m hopeful that the next time we rally for our discipline, that we can turnout just as many students as UTPA.

Overall, I feel we did our very best to get the word out for our future funding. I was satisfied with some of the answers we got from those opposing the bill and those who would support it. I learned a lot and hope there will be other times we can go back to learn more about the actual workings of our state government.”

Despite the numerous studies that show how Mexican American and Latina/o Studies have a positive impact on the academic success of Mexican American/Chicana/o Latina/o Students the programs and departments continue the fight against marginalization. In order for the community to reach a higher equality in education, urgent need for funds and expansion are needed by requesting our Legislators, Presidents and Chancellors, and the general public to support and request the funding, and the Departments and Programs in their schools.

Since the day of action, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Resolution No. 626 declaring May 1, 2015, Mexican-American Studies Day. 

The Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies and the Mexican American Studies Program is offering a Mexican American Studies Institute for current COEHD students. For more information or to register, click HERE.

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