Friday, October 10, 2008

Latino Heritage: Our Stories

Latino Heritage: Our Stories
By Ivette Sanchez

In 1947, seven years before Brown v. Board of Education, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Orange County affirmed the decision of Mendez v. Westminster School District, which stated that the segregation of Mexican and Mexican-American students into separate “Mexican schools” was unconstitutional. The case had arisen two years earlier in Los Angeles when five Mexican-American fathers—Thomas Estrada, William Guzman, Gonzalo Mendez, Frank Palomino, and Lorenzo Ramirez—with the help of civil rights organizations, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 5,000 Mexican-American families, challenging the practice of school segregation in the Orange County district of California. The plaintiffs claimed that children of Mexican ancestry, because of their national origin, were being discriminated against by being forced to attend separate “Mexican” schools in Orange County.

As discussed on the WGBH Educational Foundation Web site, Mexican Americans living in the Western territory of the United States had been engaging in a century-long struggle for equality far before Mendez. Educational codes in California had directly, and indirectly, worked to deny students not only of Mexican, but African-American, Asian-American, and Native American decent, the right to equal education. Conditions in Mexican-American schools were vastly inferior to those in white schools, often as a result of little state funding.

The senior district judge in Los Angeles ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 1946, finding segregated schools to be a denial of the equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment pertaining to access to education. As the first successful challenge to the “separate but equal” doctrine, Mendez v. Westminster set an important precedent for the arguments upheld in the Brown decision. Furthermore, Governor Earl Warren of California, who would later preside over Brown v. Board of Education as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, signed legislation repealing the remaining segregationist provisions in the California state educational statutes.

One can see how this case served as an important turning point not only for the status of the Latino community in California, but for people of all ancestries and skin colors across the nation.
The stories of individuals, such as Thomas Estrada and William Guzman impacting groups like those 5,000 Mexican families, are the kind of stories upon which Latino heritage and history are built. Latino history is unique in that it is the story of people who are linked very immediately to two cultures, two lands, and two narratives. More often than not, however, this dual identity allows us, as Latinos, to fall between the cracks of the historical narratives told by both cultures, leaving us with a truly minority voice. Latino stories, built out of elements from many sources, but not wholly belonging to one country, are often left untold, absent, and invisible.
On Oct. 1, 2008, in her keynote address at the opening ceremony for Latino Heritage Month, award-winning journalist and author Maria Hinojosa addressed this absence, speaking of her desire, even as an undergraduate at Barnard College, to “tell the stories of invisible people, stories that need to be told.” Indeed, throughout her accomplished career, Hinojosa has sought to tell the social and personal stories of the Latino community that are too often ignored and left untold by even modern media outlets. These stories range from the sociological issues of the prison system and gang culture to developing a Latino identity as a family and as a child.
Hinojosa received the Robert F. Kennedy award in 1995 for “Manhood Behind Bars,” a story for NPR, which documented how jail has become a rite of passage for some men of all races. In 2000, she published her second book, Raising Raul: Adventures Raising Myself and My Son, a motherhood memoir about raising a Latino child in a multicultural society. Hinojosa’s significance is in her devoted efforts to raise awareness of the voices and stories of the Latino community.

As Meylin Mota, BC ’09 and co-chair of the Latino Heritage Month committee, noted at the opening reception, this month-long celebration of Latino heritage aims to promote an awareness of Latino issues, struggles, and triumphs, bringing together individual and collective histories in order to form a deeper understanding of who we are today. The Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, once wrote, “Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar,” which translates, “Traveler, there is no path, you make it as you are walking.” The Latino identity by its very definition is one of a traveler, making paths across culture, time, and geography that are not easily recorded by traditional sources. It is essential that we trace these innumerable paths, if only to discover how it is we got to where we are today.
The author is a Columbia College sophomore. She is an associate editorial page editor.
TAGS: Latino Heritage, Mendez v. Westminister

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Here go again! The perpetuation of the myth of a Latino identity.

The fact is that that there are many historic differences between the Mexican Experience and of the non-White people from Spanish America in the Western USA and in the Eastern USA.
While in fact Mexicans of native heritage were obstracized and segregated in the West. that was not the experience of the Spanish settlers of Florida and Louisiana who in fact were part of the power structure and have always been part of the Southestern US civil society.

The largest number of new Spanish speaking arrivals were the Cubans in several weaves starting in the 1820's, then the 1850's and again in the 1880-90's as exiles, the children of European Spaniards and other European natiionals, Cuba a Spanish colony and at times province, suffered the oppression of the Spanish Colonial system. Many exiles returned to Cuba but many more remained and assimilated into the American Melting Pot. The latest weave in the late 1950's and early 1960's and in 1980's again has been very successful and many have assimilated into American society.

The same being true for many other arrivals from Central and South America that have settled in Florida and New York.

Puerto Ricans became part of the US after the Spanish American War and many have successfully assimilated but those from the lower socio-economic levels have had difficulties and and have been obstracized, descriminated and even gehttoized to a great degree but seem to begin to prosper and move on.

Non-Whites such as the Dominicans and from other countries, particular those of African ancestry, are still struggling to make a place for themselves but being inventive and hard working they are also beginning to make their mark in NYC.

So the Myth of a Latino Heritage is just that a MYTH.

Each country in Spanish America have its own history, folklore, music, culture although all speak more or less the same Spanish language sometimes they need to translate their ideas to each other.

The Real Heritage is those of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezula, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Chile, Peru, etc. Each one is a beautiful and glorious and at times sad Heritage but each is an individual Spanish American National Heritage - somewhat similar but not the same.

It is a shame that Spanish American peoples are being brain washed, pasteurized and homogenized by the ignorance of the general US tendency to create an artificial "Third Race" between the White and Black, basically to attempt to diminish the African American ambitions and just desiires for total equality.

Perpetuation of the Latino Myth does a tremendous diservice to the Spanish American peoples as well as to the US in genral general population.

If Europeans are whatever national origins they are, even if speaking the same language, why is it alright to homogenze Spanish American countries of origin? After all Germans are Germans, Austirans are Austrians, Swiss ae Swiss etc. and they all speak a form of German.

It is time to stop the stupidity of the homogenization of Spansih Americans.

Posted by: anonymous (not verified) October 11th, 2008 @ 12:32pm

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