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Raza Rising: Chicanos in North Texas (Number 10 in the Al Filo: Mexican American Studies Series)

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Chapter 1: Reading

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Chapter 1

Reading

My affinity for books started in my early schooling in Chicago. I helped the nuns of St. Charles Borromeo Elementary School to unbox new shipments of library books, catalog, and shelve them. The smooth feel and fresh smell of new books in hand was enjoyable. I suspected that it pleased the nuns as well, because they spoke to me about how important it was to take care of books and, more importantly, to read them.

Elementary school was challenging; my nun teachers and librarians must have known that for boys and girls from the Chicago inner-city, where many lived in tenement homes and both parents earned just enough to put food on their table most days of the week, an education was our freedom pass from poverty.

Pursed-lipped sisters were tough in order to harden us for the rigors of overcoming language barriers and violence (street gangs were rampant).

They instilled a hardy faith in books. Bless these demanding nuns who worked with thousands of inner-city children, preaching and teaching this message of freedom and faith. They were educational missionaries working to give children a belief in their skills to search and learn.

 

Chapter 2: Policy

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Chapter 2

Policy

In an effort to hold schools accountable for the students’ learning, states across the country implemented high-stakes testing. Some parents and legislatures questioned the validity of the tests and claim that the tests hampered teaching and student learning.

Please answer the following multiple-choice statement: Forty thousand seniors failed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) and did not graduate in 2007 because: a.) School administrators and teachers failed to teach to all socioeconomic levels. b.) Legislators delayed too long in implementing equitable school finance reform. c.) Distracted or uneducated parents failed to stress the importance of education. d.) Unmotivated students spent too little time reading and studying. e.) All the above.

If you selected "e," you chose correctly. If you answered incorrectly, volunteer at a local school for a day.

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Raza Rising

Reporter Katherine Cromer Brock, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, wrote on

 

Chapter 3: Foreign Language Skills

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Chapter 3

Foreign Language Skills

Aside from immigration, few issues raise the ire of the non-Spanish speaking population of the United States more than the freedom to speak

Spanish in public. Movements to enact English as the official language of the country have periodically swept the country only to face defeat.

In the meantime, some politicians point to bilingual classes and Spanish translations of government documents as divisive and unnecessary expenses. As the Mexican American population grows, the use of Spanish will increase and elicit raucous debate.

One important way to stimulate bilingualism is to encourage increased proficiency in foreign languages among all children. However, there are still some outdated attitudes that prevail.

Stories abound in the Chicano community of how Anglo and Mexican

American teachers meted out physical punishment to Spanish-speaking,

Mexican American students. Such a backward attitude to foreign languages not only physically and emotionally hurt Mexican American students but it arrested an understanding and acceptance of the social and economic values of a polyglot citizenry. No bilingual education or

 

Chapter 4: Education Innovators

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Chapter 4

Education Innovators

I learned about Chemistry Professor Ricardo Rodríguez and his work with Mexican American youth when writing about the recipients of the Hispanic Heritage Awards. Professor Rodríguez ensured that his

Chemistry Summer Camp kids learn Isaac Newton’s Three Laws of

Motion, the four forces of flight, and how to make ice cream and slime.

He also expects them to improve their English.

Since 1991, Rodríguez has concocted in his Texas Wesleyan University laboratory a three-week science camp to sharpen the analytical and language skills of inner city , fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders. He normally averaged eighty-five to ninety-five students per summer session. In the summer of 2013, he signed up ninety-nine students. He closed registration when he received 110 applicants because the laboratories could not accommodate any additional students. Several inner-city Fort Worth middle schools were allowed fifteen slots each to recommend students for the summer session.

 

Chapter 5: La Familia

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Chapter 5

La Familia

The blue-eyed Latina yearned to find the Mexican heritage that her parents had hidden from her. She told me after a speech to her professional library association that her parents decided that a total dip in the melting pot was the American baptism needed for success in this country.

They didn't want any of that second-class, hyphenated American status— they sought the full loaf of white-bread respectability, not half.

Yessirree, they wanted her to become a Yankee Doodle Dandy, too, but their wishes didn't stick. Now, as an adult with children, she longed to form soft vowels and roll r's.

She had a wistful desire to walk in the forbidden Latin Quarter; she wanted to live the Mexican American life and savor its history and culture.

She sought to reattach the hyphen and cross over as an Americana to become a Mexicana. She wanted to mambo to the cultural rhythms that were denied her but that she felt intuitively. With the growing Chicano presence in the country and state, she'll find plenty of opportunity to fulfill this cultural attraction.

 

Chapter 6: Mexican Culture

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Chapter 6

Mexican Culture

One way of warming up to the cultural shifts in this country is to take a trip to México. This will open the cultural senses to the joys of living the Mexican life. Despite the true horrors of the drug cartel wars, visitors to this beautiful country can revel in México lindo life if they would just suspend their native culture for a short while and embrace Mexican joy.

At center stage in a small amphitheater stood a painted white-faced clown reciting jokes and poetry to hundreds of young Mexicans, who laughed and cheered at his lyrical words. With the sounds of Pacific waves crashing on the shores of Puerto Vallarta as a backdrop, the bigfooted, baggy-pants payaso told his audience his carefully crafted words were meant especially for this crowd tonight and no others. The audience clapped and in appreciation placed dinero in a hat on the stage. The clown sifted through the money, held up a coin and asked if the person who had donated the twenty-centavos piece wished some change.

 

Chapter 7: White Privilege

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Chapter 7

White Privilege

This Mexican transformation for even a short time may be near impossible to discard for those holding white superiority attitudes. This piece stirred the ire of several readers. I find the race question a taboo subject often resulting in hurt feelings, miscommunication, and guilt.

Given the pride that many white Southerners have for the Confederacy and the Alamo, any talk about racial oppression roils them to heated defensiveness. History is still with us in today’s stringent racial divisions.

The 2012 Republican and Democratic Conventions offered stark contrasts of the racial make up of the delegates. What would Abraham Lincoln have said to see his party’s nearly all white delegation?

Robert Jensen’s book, The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege, courageously exposes the minds and hearts of whites benefiting from what he calls a “white-supremacist society.” Jensen was not a minority radical spouting Anglo-blue-eyed-devil rhetoric and a call for racial conflict. He described himself as “white as white gets in the

 

Chapter 8: Cultural Competency

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Chapter 8

Cultural Competency

To eliminate the disease of racism and restore a healthy society, whites should steel their hearts and minds for political change and accept their darker brothers and sisters. They should also learn to live in a world that has become increasingly diverse. The future will reward those who learn to travel well between cultural worlds.

I worked seventeen years in hospitals as a medical social worker and director of medical social work departments. The medical culture, steeped in protocol and technology, required strict attention to detail and timely communication with patients and the healthcare team. But what if the patients and their families spoke only Spanish and the team spoke only

English? Enter the bilingual social worker to save the day. Even better, enter the bilingual nurse or doctor who spoke Spanish and understood the culture. In the helping professions, nurturing cultural competency is the prescribed medicine for healthy outcomes.

 

Chapter 9: Letters

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Chapter 9

Letters

Mexican American dance, song, literature, and paintings reflect the beauty, dreams, and aspirations of a colorful, passionate people. A wellrounded view of Chicanos must examine their arts to appreciate their resiliency in the face of oppressive treatment and their hopes that the future brings amorous, financial, and spiritual riches.

Psychological and demographic research by scholars may provide standard deviations, projections, and chi-square results to satisfy statisticians, government grants, and politicians. Deeper awareness of the

Chicano/a’s experience requires a poet’s voice. I measure the Chicano/ a’s heart with riffs of rhythmic words—not by an Access database. In their humility, Mexican Americans haven’t made it easy to penetrate their worlds. For a people who will soon become the Texas majority and deserve pulpits and power, some Chicanos still speak with whispers and insincerity lest they offend.

But they do offend—they insult their own people with their cultural selfdeprecation and avoidance of eyes and speaking of truth. They languish like assimilated shadows—muted, distorted, following, falling in step.

 

Chapter 10: Sports

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Chapter 10

Sports

Watching the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 World

Series Games always raised fans’ excitement. This was especially true for residents of Arlington, Texas—my residence and the location of the

Texas Rangers baseball team. Despite going to the World Series twice in a row and losing twice in a row, the Rangers stirred our hearts. Latinos in

North Texas were especially overjoyed to see Nelson Cruz, Adrián Beltré,

Elvis Andrus, and Yorvit Torrealba play marvelously for the Rangers.

Latinos have infused baseball with a dynamism not seen since the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Baseball has transformed to béisbol and we’re all joyous for the change.

Latino cheers for Roberto Clemente, Luis Aparicio, and Juan Marichal still resonate. For Latino players, beisbol is the field of American Dreams.

The diamond is literally the level playing ground where their bats, gloves, and speed shine.

Despite slim chances, Latino players hone their throwing, hitting, and running skills and try out in droves to play ball. Encouraged by American scouts and the lure of money, Caribbean players compete to get into the big leagues. Most don’t succeed and return to struggle on their tropical

 

Chapter 11: Chicano Political Power

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Chapter 11

Chicano Political Power

If su voto es su voz—your vote is your voice—then Chicanos are uncharacteristically quiet. Chicanos bellow gritos at Mexican rancheras, cheer at

Mexican Independence Day parades, and scream on the battlefield, but they whisper at the voting booths. Instead, Chicanos should be roaring their selection as a people on the first Tuesday of November.

Voting is like choral singing: The American democratic opera sounds flat when a large part of the chorus is not projecting its electoral voice.

The US Census Bureau reported that 9.7 million Chicanos voted in the

2008 election, compared with 16.1 million blacks and 100 million Anglos.

Forty-nine percent of eligible Chicanos voted, compared with 65 percent of all eligible non-Hispanic Americans.2

A key indicator of voting participation is voter registration. The Census

Bureau found that in the 2008 elections, 59 percent of Chicano citizens were registered to vote, compared with 69 percent of black and 73 percent of Anglo citizens. Of those Chicanos registered to vote in 2008, 84 percent did.3 To increase Chicano voter participation, the number of registered

Chicano voters needs to grow.

 

Chapter 12: Immigration Reform

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Chapter 12

Immigration Reform

At a news conference on April 4, 2006, on the stage of the historic

Rose Marine Theater, an immigrant drama played to a group of Chicano activists, TV cameras, and reporters. Four speakers foreshadowed the

March for Justice scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. April 9, 2006, at the

Tarrant County Courthouse and end at the federal courthouse. Speaking in Spanish and English for the bilingual audience and media, the speakers shared their experiences as immigrants or those of their families. Here was the heart of the immigration conflict. This issue was as hot as chewing a chile because it bites into family ties, personal identity, and political power.

Conservative talk-show jocks, lawmakers, and Anglos howled about how wrong it was for undocumented immigrants to come, uninvited, to receive social services, public education, and healthcare. Even some naturalized Chicanos cried foul to think that even though they played by the rules, those who didn't might also gain legal permission to stay. Their struggle to earn their US identity was precious. They said undocumented immigrants violated the sovereignty of the United States.

 

Chapter 13: Community Mobilization

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Chapter 13

Community Mobilization

From the eighteenth-century Boston Tea Party to the twenty-firstcentury Tea Party movement, American citizens have taken to the streets to protest their opposition to governmental policies. The Occupy Wall

Street and similar movements across the country have proclaimed the common man’s and woman’s anger toward corporate greed. Chicanos, too, have taken part in protest movements, from Vietnam War protest marches in Los Angeles to immigration reform marches across the country. Chicanos have learned the importance of demonstrative protests if we’re to be heard above the din of competing voices.

I want my teenaged son to value the dove of peace over the dog of war, and so we march. On sunny afternoons, his fingers fly like fluttering butterflies over the piano keys to the jazz piece, “Body and Soul”; I hope these same hands never point or fire a gun at another human in the dark.

I wish them to milk melodies from notes, not bullets from gats. To calm the dog and coo the dove, we marched alongside thousands of peace lovers of all ages and races on a brisk Saturday afternoon in Dallas to protest the US invasion of Iraq, this mad war against foreign madmen.

 

Chapter 14: Criminal Justice

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Chapter 14

Criminal Justice

National and local data have shown that African American and Chicano adults and youth are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated. The facile argument raised is that blind justice administers sanctions based on the evidence presented and not on color of the defendants. Closer examination of the justice system reveals blind justice peeking at the accused and meting out justice influenced by the defendant’s hue.

Several years ago, Dallas County commissioners agreed to fund the construction of one of the biggest juvenile detention facilities in the state.

Quite visible along Interstate 30 as you enter Dallas from the west, it consists of gray, institutional buildings surrounded by a tall chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. The prediction "If you build it, they will come" was becoming all too true.

With the help of a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Dallas

County Juvenile Services administrators have decided to reduce the practice of locking up minority kids and instead create innovative programs and culturally competent alternatives. The program was called the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative and was still in operation as of 2015.

 

Chapter 15: Tejanos

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Chapter 15

Tejanos

A complete understanding of Mexican Americans in the United States requires acceptance of their contribution to the settlement of the Texas frontier. The early Tejanos brought European and Mexican Indian cultures to the Texas plains, forests, and ravines in hopes of expanding New

Spain’s influence. The introduction of presidios, ranching, the horse, and cattle revolutionized the Indian and Anglo settlers’ way of life. With the current rapid growth of the Chicano population throughout the country but especially the Southwest, a renewed interest in this country’s

Chicano roots has arisen.

History at times is like a wild mustang that needs to be caught and tamed before you can ride. The history of Tejanos — Mexicans living in Texas — in the formation of the state has wandered afar, with little notice by mainstream historians and schoolbooks. The Tejanos' story was elusive until recent historians lassoed a closer look at the life and times of Mexicans in the Coahuila y Texas frontiers.

 

Chapter 16: Chicanos at War

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Chapter 16

Chicanos at War

From the American Revolution to the Afghanistan engagement,

Chicanos have fought alongside Anglos and Blacks in their country’s wars. A review of Chicanos’ military service will forge a deeper understanding of their claim to first class citizenship status. The Félix Longoria story dramatizes the treatment that many Mexican American soldiers faced after returning from fighting for their country.

Beatrice Longoria longed for her husband, Private Félix Longoria, to come home from the war. She yearned to see again his broad, handsome face, his dark hair and eyes, his winsome smile highlighted by a thin mustache. He had left her and their four-year-old daughter in Three

Rivers, Texas, when his country called him and thousands of other young men during World War II to make the world safe for democracy. Men like thirty-two-year-old US Representative Lyndon B. Johnson enlisted in the Navy the day after the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941.

 

Chapter 17: Chicano Heroes

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Chapter 17

Chicano Heroes

In the summer of 2011, the Texas Board of Education wrangled about the inclusion of Thurgood Marshall and César Chávez in the school history books. Conservative members resisted their inclusion, stating that their contributions didn’t rise to the level of Thomas Jefferson and other traditional American heroes. Public pressure and moderate and liberal school board members prevailed in the final decision to include these heroic, historical figures. Chicano students need to learn about outstanding Mexican Americans who struggled mightily to overcome personal and social barriers to reach the peak of their chosen fields. All students may then understand that great Americans come in all colors.

On the cool morning of March 17, 1966, César Chávez, cane in hand, told about seventy farm workers waiting for him, “Nos vamos.” The words

“We go” launched the most pivotal march in the struggle of La Causa,

The Cause. Farm workers took turns carrying the banner of the Virgen de Guadalupe along the 350-mile Easter march from Delano, California, to Sacramento — the state capital.

 

Chapter 18: Mexican Indigenous Roots

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Chapter 18

Mexican Indigenous Roots

Thanksgiving and Christmas, two of the most popular holidays of the year, have Mexican indigenous roots often overlooked. Mayan and Aztec civilizations still fascinate twenty-first-century men and women for their art, religion, architecture, math, and conquests.

In the holiday season, modern lovers of Mexican cuisine should pay tribute to the Aztecs for tamales, tortillas, peppers, and chocolate. Less commonly known is their cultivation of a popular holiday plant they called Cuetlaxochitl.

After the Spanish conquest, the Mexicans named the brightly colored plant Flor de Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve Flower. Botanists call the plant Euphorbia pulcherrima — the "very beautiful" Euphorbia. We now know this popular, festive greenery as the poinsettia.41

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Raza Rising

Photo 31. Matachines

Courtesy of the Delsa P. Pérez Collection, Genealogy, History, and Archives

Unit, Fort Worth Library

Matachines are processing with the Virgen de Guadalupe at the Fort Worth Convention

 

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