CMAS celebrates 40th, hosts panel

The Center for Mexican American Studies celebrated its 40th year, Wednesday, since its establishment after Director Tatcho Mindiola, Jr. and Associate Director Lorenzo Cano brought together some of the founding members for their Fall Speaker series.

The panel of speakers included former Mexican American Youth Organization members Jaime de la Isla, Mario Garza, Elliot Navarro, Maria Jimenez and Cynthia Perez.

During the 1960s and ’70s, Mindiola and his organization were involved with the “Chicano Movement,” to empower those of Mexican descent. The members of MAYO fought, not only for the recruitment and retention of Mexican Americans, but the establishment of an ethnic studies program on campus, Mindiola said.

According to Mindiola, UH had fewer than 300 students of Mexican descent on campus at that time, and the administration told them that a Mexican American-centered course wouldn’t be considered academic.

Recently, UH was granted the title of Hispanic Opportunity College for achieving a 25 percent Hispanic enrollment.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the University and it speaks to the successes of these people who are pioneers,” said Monica Perales, associate professor for Mexican American history. “But I don’t think it means we’ve achieved everything that needs to be achieved.”

The panelists encouraged students to think critically on what was happening in the world around them and to their people.

The audience was not only filled with Hispanic students; this event was also presented to students of other races.

English senior Lanetta Dickens was one of the non-Hispanic students attending.

“Hispanics and African-Americans come together as one in this agenda to have better opportunities for education,” she said. “We need our ethnic study programs to cultivate our identity and our community.”

Garza shared final words for the students to keep in mind.

“Our fight is still going on and it will continue,” he said. “Just because you guys have a Center for Mexican American Studies now doesn’t mean you always will.”

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