Community Column: PAC celebrates Latinx Heritage Month
September 14, 2021
Each year, our nation comes together in September to celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. What began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 was expanded in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on Sept. 15 and ending on Oct. 15, now known as Hispanic Heritage Month.
With 85% of Palo Alto College students self-identifying as part of an ethnic or racial minority group, we encourage our community to embrace diverse perspectives. The Alamo Colleges District’s mission is to empower our diverse communities for success. In an effort to join the national celebration and to honor the indigenous heritages of South Texas, Palo Alto College kicks off the newly renamed Latinx Heritage Month with a series of free virtual events featuring many special guests.
The month-long series kicks off Sept. 15 with a keynote address from Cherríe Moraga, a internationally recognized poet, essayist and playwright. Moraga’s professional life began in 1981 with her co-editorship of the groundbreaking feminist anthology, “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.”
On Sept. 16 we will honor Diez y Seis de Septiembre and Hispanic Serving Institutions Week with a panel/plática discussing the current political movement challenging the use of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in our K-12 classrooms. This panel will explain what critical race theory is, the impact of this recent legislation on teachers and students, and the role of Hispanic Serving Institutions of higher education.
We’re also excited to hear from Lalo Alcaraz during a second keynote address on Sept. 21. Alcaraz is an award-winning visual/media artist and television/film writer who has been chronicling the ascendancy of Latinos in the U.S. for over a quarter-century. A busy Chicano artist, Alcaraz served as a cultural consultant on the Oscar-winning 2017 Day of the Dead-themed film “Coco.”
On Sept. 28, Palo Alto College commemorates National Voter Registration Day by hosting a panel focused on Latina civic engagement through public service. Panelists will discuss strategies and personal experiences related to voting mobilization, community organizing and public service. On Sept. 29, PAC will continue to highlight the work and successes of Latinas by hosting a “Latinas in STEM” panel, which will highlight the importance of increasing the representation of Latinas in STEM fields.
On Oct. 7, we will celebrate National Poetry Day with Lupe Mendez, a writer, educator, activist and 2022 Texas Poet Laureate. Mendez is the author of “Why I Am Like Tequila,” winner of the 2019 John A. Robertson Award for Best First Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters. This event also will feature a student reading from the Palo Alto College student literary journal “Eleven Rivers Review.”
Finally, we will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in honor of the heritage and contributions of our indigenous ancestors on Oct. 11. Latinx Heritage Month will end with a panel on the award-winning 2021 documentary film “Truly Texas Mexican: The Native American Roots of Texas Mexican Food,” which explores the regional indigenous roots of contemporary Texas Mexican food.
As we take time to learn about our nation’s history, it’s important to recognize the achievements and remember the challenges of our ancestors. By doing so, we’ll all gain a better understanding of our differences and backgrounds that ultimately make us one community.
This column by Dr. Robert Garza, president of Palo Alto College, was originally published in the San Antonio Express-News' Southside Reporter and mysanantonio.com.