Why We Need Mexican-American Studies in Texas Schools

This week TFN launched #SupportMAS, a campaign to encourage the Texas State Board to add an elective course in Mexican-American studies to the state curriculum. In announcing the campaign, we asked a friend of TFN to explain why the state needs a MAS course. His message is below.

You can add your name to the petition by going to tfn.org/supportMAS.


By Ruben Garza
I’d like to ask for your support for a Mexican-American studies course in Texas schools. But before I tell you why, let me tell you a little about myself.

I grew up the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. My days were spent in places like Edinburg and McAllen, but also around communities like San Juan and Hidalgo. We have schools in the Valley named after men called Austin and Travis, and also Gonzalez, De Zavala and Chavez. You’ll find that our streets, neighborhoods and even rivers carry a similar mix of diverse names.

What’s fascinating to me is that you’ll find these names all over much of Texas. Make no mistake, Mexican-Americans helped shape Texas and its history, not just the Valley.

But in my case, I didn’t have a real chance to hear the story behind those names until I made it to college, where a Mexican-American studies program was offered.

Unfortunately, history could be repeating itself for millions of Texas schoolchildren, the majority of whom are Hispanic.

As it stands now, there is no Mexican-American studies course that carries the approval of the Texas State Board of Education. Until that changes, it is unlikely that school districts can offer such a course for its students, robbing them of a vital part of the story of Texas.

But the State Board of Education can make it happen and take an important move toward ensuring Texas students learn about the contributions people from all backgrounds have made to our nation’s history and culture.

The first step in this process is for the chair of the State Board of Education, Barbara Cargill, to bring Mexican-American studies up for consideration as an elective course in the state curriculum at the board’s next meeting in early April.

I ask you to please join me in expressing to Ms. Cargill that you support a Mexican-American studies course in our public schools.

Let’s make sure that students get the complete story of Texas in our schools.

Ruben Garza is a University of Texas-Pan American alum and a community organizer in the Rio Grande Valley.

4 thoughts on “Why We Need Mexican-American Studies in Texas Schools

  1. I agree with you Ruben, but here is the problem. White Anglo-Texans are scared. Let me give you a non-Texas example from my own family.

    My Anglo Tennessee aunt moved to San Francisco so she could be at her husband’s home port during World War II. He was stationed on a U.S. Navy ship in the Pacific war zone. Being there, she could be with him for a while when his ship came in for outfitting and resupply. Her first problem upon arrival was finding a place to live. She managed to find a room in the home of an Italian-American family, which had an American born daughter named Mary who was my aunt’s age. Every night, the Italian-American family would gather around the radio to hear news of the war. Then the deluge of tirades would begin: “These damned Americans bombed Monte Casino today. Have they no shame!!!” TFN will not let me use other bad words to describe the every night, hours-long oral screeds expelled in front of the radio against Americans in the Italian theater of World War II, but the upshot of it was this.

    This Italian family was living on American soil as American citizens. American boys were dying by the 1,000s every day fighting against Nazi troops on the ground in Italy. Yet, these Italian-Americans were gathering around their radio every night in their San Francisco home (with my aunt sitting there scared to death her husband might die any minute in the Pacific) and just cussing, slamming, and screeching at American troop actions in Italy as if it were the end of the world. It made my aunt so scared and angry that she could hardly live.

    San Francisco had a two or three generation family of Italians that for all intents and purposes had never left Italy. Their papers may have said “American Citizen,” but they considered themselves first and foremost to be cultural, citizen Italians who just happened by some odd circumstance to be living in the United States.

    This is precisely what conservative Anglo Texans are worried about with Hispanics in Texas, and they are totally and completely unwilling to tolerate it. You say: “Well, then what do they want us to do?”

    They want you to come to the United States because it is the only place in the world where you want to settle down and spend the rest of your life. They want to be certain that you have not come to recolonize Texas and make it part of Mexico again. They want you to renounce Mexico, Panama, Honduras, or wherever you came from originally—wash your hands clean of that old place forever. Comb all of the lice of Spaniard-induced faith (Catholic), Spaniard/Native American-induced culture, and Spaniard/Native American-induced language from your life. If you have something you refer to as “our Hispanic traditions” or “our Hispanic cultural pride,” they want you to wash yourself clean of it. Expel it from your being and existence forever. (You can keep Mexican food because they like it just like they let the Italians keep Lasagne.) In a word, they want to see you totally and completely Americanized (politically, culturally, and linguistically) so there is no remaining trace of Mexican/Mayan/Zapotec heritage in your life. If you can do this and prove to them that you are being conscientious and truthful in your efforts to change, they may finally feel you are safe and that you can be trusted as an American citizen. Anything less than this, anything less than this, anything at all, then you will be viewed as a threat to the American nation, American culture, and the American way of life. When they use the term (and you hear it all the time on ABC News, CNN, FOX News) “secure the border” with Mexico, they mean securing the traditional white Anglo culture from Hispanic cultural influence. No more Jarritos!!! You drink Fanta or NEHI from now on—or its curtains. And you can stamp everything I said above with “REPUBLICAN PARTY.

    My question for you Ruben is this:

    “Can your people do this?”

  2. Sorry. I didn’t finish my point below. The point is that a school course like the one you are asking for will be viewed as a threat because it looks like an attempt to teach the Hispanic culture (to Hispanic people) that they want you to be forgetting so you can—by your act of forgetting—prove that you are a real American.

  3. Ruben Garza, thank you for this article. I wanted to ask you to avoid using the term Hispanic to refer to indigenous peoples of Mexican heritage.

    Hispanic refers to Spain, Europe and it’s a term imposed by Anglos, White supremacists.

    Yes brother, we Native peoples need to study Mexican-American Studies, we still don’t know we belong to this continent.