SDSU Celebrates 50 Years Of Chicana-Chicano Studies
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / October 9, 2019
San Diego State University's Chicana and Chicano Studies Department was one of the first of its kind in the nation when it was established in 1969 as Mexican American studies.
Speaker 1: 00:00 The Chicana and Chicano studies department at San Diego state university is marking a major milestone. This year. It's 50th anniversary. The department was among the first of its kind in the nation when it was created in 1969 amid the Chicano rights movement, the idea was to offer a different approach to teaching American history by focusing on the history, culture, and contributions of Mexican Americans. I spoke with Arturo Casares, who was an active student in the departments early years, and with associate professor of Chicano studies, Roberto Hernandez. Here's that interview. Roberto. Arturo, welcome to you both on thinking of Roberto. Start with the, uh, Chicano Chicano studies program at SDSU. It wouldn't be here today without the blueprint that was recreated for these programs across the nation. Yeah. So the plan that Santa Barbara is a document that was produced after a major conference and gathering of, uh, both students, faculty, staff, uh, from across the state of California who gathered in Santa Barbara.
Speaker 1: 01:02 Uh, but even that gathering itself, I would say little as possible because of all the activity, all the student movements and broader Chicano movement that was already unfolding, uh, across the Southwest. And so the student component or the academic component of that, um, manifested itself as this gathering where, you know, they came up with a blueprint for curriculum for program building, for the creation of Chicana and Chicano studies departments across the state and our taro students. Such as yourself that you played a pivotal role in the creation of Chicano studies nationwide. Why was this so important to you and other students?
Speaker 2: 01:38 Well, um, basically because, uh, I felt that, you know, my, and all the other students that we were, that were involved in this plan, uh, were not really part of the process. We were not recognized on, uh, the campuses throughout California. And we felt that we needed to, um, create the steps and the, um, implanted implementation of Chicano studies programs. And that's why, you know, we were very much into, um, becoming a part of the plan. And although there were differences between us, we felt that the plan rec recognized and gave a, a lot of, um, of identity to the plan. Uh, our language United us, since we had faced so much discrimination, um, prejudice and, and we felt that, uh, we wanted to be part of an inclusion that included our identity in classes that would be taught in Chicano studies.
Speaker 1: 02:47 So it was time to get a voice and a place at the table. Right. And for both of you, what kind of impact has the Chicano studies had on students? All we need to do is look up towards places like, uh, and see that, uh, whether it be a state legislature, teachers across the County or across the state, across the nation, local, political, you know, local political leaders all have backgrounds in Chicano, Chicano studies. And, and I say that to emphasize that one of the things that, uh, we do separate from the actual content of history, we will, the content of knowledge is to also provide a space where, uh, where individuals are empowered and have a better sense of self. And, you know, studies have shown that the more students are able to have a sense of self and see, even themselves reflected in the curriculum in the teachers that that's gonna improve their, uh, possibilities for success.
Speaker 2: 03:42 Our tourism in my, my feeling was that S we choke on, you know, the implementation of Chicano studies that there was, uh, a high interest of, of, uh, students being recruited because we, as part of the, of the community here, we're emphasizing the recruitment of Chicano students, Latino students, Hispanic students. Uh, and it was a big responsibility because we were out there at the high schools. That's where, that's the, uh, the time that we started having the high school conferences, the Chicano high school conference was just still going on. And Roberto, so there's
Speaker 1: 04:26 been a debate over what ethnic studies curriculum should look like at the high school level. And critics say these programs are too exclusive. You think that criticism is valid or no, actually on the contrary, right. I think what we need to do is we need to look at the history of not only ethnic studies, but the history of the traditional disciplines in the university to see how ethnic studies emerged as the voices excluded from the traditional departments. Right. Whereas, uh, some of the critics that have argued that is exclusive, you know, have reduced it to simply histories of different communities. That actually to me is rather offensive in that it doesn't recognize ethnic studies for what it has historically been, which is the inclusion of those voices that have been excluded. You know, part of the distinction Chicano studies was also to produce not just knowledge for knowledge sake, but knowledge in the service of our broader communities.
Speaker 1: 05:25 And I think that's been a hallmark of our department of the field as a whole. And in this current context, you know, it translates to, you know, how do we make sense of a, you know, a rigorous study and analysis of power, power relations, PR at the local level, at the state level, at the national level. I would love as much as I'm a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies, I would love to not have to be, which is to say that I would love for our histories, our knowledge to actually be part and of the entire curriculum, but until the entire traditional curriculum, we should, this day remains exclusive until we're actually part of the canonical writings and different disciplines. There will still be a need for Chicano, Chicano studies, ethnic studies, Africana studies, women's studies. Yeah. LGBT studies. Right. This is why weeks is because of that need.
Speaker 2: 06:21 And you know, traditionally the people that are supposed to impart this part of history really have not because, and if they do it, they do it kind of like an experimental research way. Whereas like now, you know, as administrators, as leaders of of these, you know, efforts in the departments, we can plug in our history not only as looking at it through a microscope, but as part of being it in part of that, having lived history, haven't lived it. Having, having gone through the whole process of starting as a, you know, as a child in the Barrio. You know, all the way to becoming a professor at the university, and we can, we can instill that in the other youth Chicano youth that are coming up.
Speaker 1: 07:18 I've been speaking with Roberto Hernandez, associate professor of Chicano studies at San Diego state university, and our Touro Casarez, founding director of the nonprofit Barrio station, serving Latino youth in Barrio Logan. Thank you both very much on thinking of San Diego state as holding a series of events to celebrate the history of Chicano Chicano studies department. We've got a link on our website, kpbs.org.