Activists promote learning about Chicano culture at open house

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Lisa Ramos, Mexican-American studies program coordinator, hosts an open house April 16 in Chance. The open house was held to recognize leaders in the civil rights movement and to promote the Mexican- American studies program. Amaru Ruiz

Mexican-American studies courses fulfill core requirements at this college.

By Travis Doyle

Growing up white in Kansas would have been easier than growing up Hispanic, a member of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, told guests at a Mexican-American studies open house April 16 in Chance Academic Center.

“I wasn’t being who I really am, and when I would come to San Antonio it was like when you talk about the motherland when you have people coming back to their home where they feel comfortable,” Jane Velasquez said.

She was one of six Chicano activists honored by the Mexican-American studies program at an open house.

Twenty-five people attended the open house.

She and her family went north every year to pick fruit to make a living.

One year one of their trucks ended up breaking down in Kansas, and so her family stayed there.

“I feel like I would have been a different woman if I would have been here (San Antonio), if I would have grown up here rather than trying to figure out who I was when I was over there because there was a lot of discrimination. And it was like you were always on the bottom of the totem pole,” she said.

The Mexican-American studies program presented six posters to influential members of the local Chicano community, and the posters were created from interviews taken in spring 2018 in a HIST 2328, Mexican-American History 2, course at this college.

This is the third time the program has honored Chicano activists in San Antonio.

The posters of the activists were placed around the walls for guests to read about the background of the activists being honored and others.

Mariano Aguilar Jr., English and Mexican-American studies instructor, introduced the speakers.

“Many of the people that we see on these walls and sitting amongst you do not toot their own horns, and they’ve been fighting for this group they’ve been fighting for us for 40-50 years and never sought the spotlight,” he said.

“They don’t end up in books like a dictionary of Latino civil rights history that has names and names and names and ignores these people. We are person by person, activist by activist, interviewee by interviewing, rectifying that situation and our students in Dr. Ramos’ history class are leading the way. Every one of these activists is vital to what’s happened in San Antonio and vital that happen in Texas and vital what happened in Chicanismo.”

He referred to Dr. Lisa Ramos, Mexican-American studies coordinator.

Former San Antonio city council representative Maria Berriozabal said she thinks discrimination is different in this decade.

“Permission has been given for people to express hate, and that’s a very different environment, and I think it calls for a more profound understanding of who the person is,” she said.

“I think that’s why Mexican-American studies, African-American studies, all the different groups that are now having their own programs is important,” she said. “I don’t think there is anything more powerful than a person knowing who she is or he is, ‘sabiendo quien eres.’”

“Sabiendo quien eres” is a Spanish phrase meaning “knowing who you are.”

She said people should be proud of who they are and that people who are proud of their history should also be able to appreciate other people’s culture.

Berriozabal also talked about her involvement with the San Antonio City Council 1981-91.

She was the first Mexican-American woman elected to the city council.

“There were years of putting major investments in infrastructure that had not been done in years, and so the 1980s were also a time of investments in the streets and drainage and sidewalks in the inner city and in the South Side because those areas have been left behind for years,” she said in an interview April 17.

Paralegal studies freshman Cristina San Miguel said maintaining culture is important.

“It’s pretty important to me that we not lose our culture, and I feel like we are losing our culture, and a lot of it is just with us not even speaking our native language,” she said in an interview April 16. “So when I found out about this (the open house), I said I have to come because I don’t know a lot of the students. I’ve never taken any of these classes.”

San Miguel said her biggest takeaway from the event is that learning about oneself is important.

“Something that they kept saying that made sense to me was to inform yourself and to mobilize,” she said.

She said she likes to discuss politics with people she meets at her bus stop, and she usually tries to encourage them to vote.

“So it’s like I have to still remember that before I turn to even get other people to register to vote, I should be more informed on providing resources,” she said.

Ramos said the Mexican-American studies program helps people be proud of their Hispanic heritage.

“We’re trying to help students realize that there are so many ways to learn about the contributions their family members have made or people of their ethnicity have made because sometimes people are not proud to be of Mexican descent or they haven’t been taught about their history or taught Spanish at home,” she said.

The program also offers Mexican-American courses that fulfill the language, philosophy and culture core, the creative arts core and the history core in degree programs at this college.

Classes include HUMA 1305, Introduction to Mexican-American Studies; HUMA 1311, Mexican-American Fine Arts Appreciation; HIST 2327, Mexican-American History 1; HIST 2328, Mexican-American History 2; GOVT 2311, Mexican-American Politics; and ENGL 2351, Mexican-American Literature.

Interviews of the activists honored at the event are taken from the HIST 2328 class were recorded by students and placed online.

To view the videos, search “movimiento San Antonio” at

For more information about the Mexican-American studies program, call Ramos at 210-486-0761.


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