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PAC's Center for…

Palo Alto College's Center for Mexican American Studies was featured in the March 21 issue of the San Antonio Express-News.
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PAC's Center for Mexican American Studies opens

Photo credit to Lisa Krantz/San Antonio Express-News

Palo Alto College's Center for Mexican American Studies was featured in the March 21 issue of the San Antonio Express-News. The article, written by Hector Saldaña, spotlights the center's grand opening ceremonies. Click here to read the full article on

Center for Mexican American Studies opens

By Hector Saldaña

Dedication ceremonies tend to be dull affairs. Not so with the launch Thursday of the new Center for Mexican American Studies at Palo Alto College.

Musician and educator Juan Tejeda, the center's program coordinator, put together a mini spring festival at the campus' central courtyard with a Native American blessing, Chicano poets, mariachis, activists, dancers and conjunto and punk rock musicians.

Bombasta's Roberto Livar was one of the Chicano rock musicians. He grew up in the neighborhood near Palo Alto.

“For this to be here on the South Side is special to us,” Livar said. “This is my family's hood.”

Jose Flores, an English professor at Austin Community College, also is a member of Grupo Xinachtli, which sang the opening invocation.

In that role, he plays the ceremonial concha, a 10-stringed instrument whose body is made from an armadillo shell.

“It's all ceremonial. We don't do birthdays,” Flores said before the solemn ceremonial songs and dance.

Copal incense, made from dried sap, burned and smoked in a sacred ceremonial clay chalice called a sahumador as members of Xinachtli gathered in the tree-lined lawn near Medina Hall, the center's new home.

The strains of ancient prayerful songs, accompanied by string instruments, leather-skinned drums and the haunting trumpet-like tone from a large sea shell, welcomed the first day of spring with “good energy,” he said.

“El Permiso” (“The Permission”) invoked the spirits of ancestral people. The offering of the flowers and canto de colores saw pedals scattered in all directions — purple to the north, red to the east, yellow to the south and white to the west.

Not everything was serious.

Slam poet Anthony Flores, also known as Anthony the Poet, drew wild applause and laughter with his dramatically delivered punk-rock love poem, “Huevos Rancheros,” which offered twisted Dr. Seuss-inspired lines like “todos los Spurs eat huevos rancheros” and “don't eat the Wheaties, try huevos rancheros.”

Thursday's crowd of students, faculty and guests never numbered much more than a 100 but its diversity was not lost on educators.

“There are many, many colors here,” said Michael Flores, Palo Alto president. “Our destinies, in many ways, are interwoven.”

Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie echoed the message as he looked out into the audience, several of whose members wore indigenous outfits. “Frankly, this is wonderful to see you in your colors and (singing) your music,” he said. “We often overlook our foundation and our roots.”

Performers included Alvaro Del Norte and Marcus Cazares of Piñata Protest, Bombasta, Conjunto Palo Alto, Mariachi Palomino, poets Rosemary Catacalos (“Braided Stories”) and Laurie Ann Guerrero (“Last Meal”) and members of the Native American Inter-Tribal Group.

Bombasta closed the event with the apropos “Nuevo Chicano,” a song whose hip-hop protagonist still connects with his Chicano Movement roots.

So does program advisor Tejeda, whose task is to coordinate the associate of arts degree in Mexican American Studies and plan on-campus and community events. He called Thursday's beginnings “a very special celebration.”