Why Teaching Latino Literature/History in U.S. Schools Matters

Feb 26, 2012
4:32 PM

Though initially I wanted to follow the Tucson Unified School District's ban on Mexican studies classes and related books, as it unraveled, given the many conflicting versions and accounts of what was taking place, I gave up on covering it altogether.

That was until yesterday when I decided to attend a presentation by Librotraficante at John Jay College in Manhattan. Panelists Tony Diaz, Liana LopezSergio Troncoso, Rich Villar and guest speakers Pulitzer prize winner Oscar Hijuelos (The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love) and his wife Lori Carlson (Cool Salsa) lent their voices to object the banning of books as well as the ramifications that such motion can have on the Latino community as a whole. These experienced panelists, whose range in occupation go from radio host to writers, have one common passion; the love and preservation of Latino literature. While listening to them speak on the issue of TUSD banned books, which by the way have all been written by "minorities", I wonder what would happen if what had taken place in Tucson would spill over to the rest of the country. What would happen if, in the case of my blog Pa'lante Latino where we showcase Latino contributions to the U.S., were to be banned? Most importantly, what if the people I was trying to reach were prevented from reading their own history? Then it hit home. This is exactly what is happening in Tuscon, Arizona and it not only affects the students but the authors of the banned books as well. Their work, research and time has been undermined and discarded as irrelevant.

By attending the conference I have learned a new perspective on the TUSD Mexican Studies issue. At stake here is not just the blatant disregard for a writer's work and the banning of certain books that deal with Mexican studies, but also the lost opportunity for Latinos to learn about their culture and their history in the U.S. 

Edited by Victoria Cepeda