Con Voz Fuerte: Chicana Lit

Mexican-American literature takes on a different voice than other literary genres. Through the Latina author’s points of view, many readers have developed a different view on revolutionary topics, feminism, and what it means to be a Latina. The following five books were written by Chicana feminists, who paved the way and influence many Latina authors, and are highly recommended to read!

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1. In the Time Of The Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

In the Time of the Butterflies is based on a true story about the woes the Dominican Republic faced during the time of the unjust rule of dictator Rafael Trujillo (ruled 1930-1938; 1942-1961). It is a work of fiction that captures the story of 4 young sisters and their journey to free the Dominical Republic and spearhead the revolution.   This group of women is willing to put their lives on the line for a better cause. This is a great read that shows what it means to be a Latina feminist and how stand up for a cause despite being a woman; Alvarez explores the idea of what it means to be a martyr.

 

2)   What Night Brings by Carla Trujillo

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What Night Brings tells the story of an 11-year-old girl living with her family in California during the 1960′s, What Night Brings is a book about a young girl and her battle against her family (particularly her father) and her religion as she struggles to find her identity and her own sense of freedom. Told by the protagonist, this novel shows the life of a young Chicana living in a household of domestic abuse and her struggle to find her freedom despite living with an abusive father and a mother who lives for her husband. The content for this book may be mature for younger readers, but

 

3) The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

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The House On Mango Street is a narrative of short stories told by tween Esperanza Cordero, a young girl living in the barrio of Chicago. As a shy teen with a love of reading and writing, Esperanza is raised in a traditional, male-dominated society.  Described by many as “a voice for the voiceless,” it teaches its readers about some of the struggles facing Chicanas today (identity, gender roles, sexuality, and physical appearance, to name a few). Through Esperanza’s point of view, the stories focus on Esperanza’s life and the women she meets as she struggles to find a role model.

 

 

770924) Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia

Set in the 1930′s to the 1980′s, Garcia’s Dreaming In Cuban  is the story of three generations of women,Celia (grandmother), Lourdes (daughter) and Pilar (granddaughter). The women communicate telephonically, which is a known talent of women in their family, and share the obstacles they face with one another. Celia lives in Cuba during a tough time, while Pilar, having moved to the U.S. from Cuba at two years old, struggles with her cultural identity due to her Cuban roots and her Americanized lifestyle and interests. This is one of Pilar’s main struggles, as well as her less-than-cordial relationship with her mother. By communicating with Celia, Pilar receives help. Dreaming in Cubcan  is a great novel that shows the identity struggles Cuban-American and Cuban women face everyday, while also telling the tale of a family struggling to communicate and be located in different sides of the globe. A novel that discusses family, identity is surely a must-read.

198905) So Far From God by Ana Castillo

So Far from God is a novel with the perfect balance of comedy and tragedy. Reviewed positively by authors like Sandra Cisneros and Gloria Anzaldua as true to the experience of being Chicana, So Far From God is a humorous tragedy about family, love and hardships a mother faces in light of her husband Domingo’s disappearance in a town that believes in the supernatural. This novel is about Sofi and the struggles she faces.  The book is definitely a page-turner, as it shows the sad but strengthening Chicana experience of one woman and her four daughters.

 

Connecting with Your Culture

With additional contributions from Latinitas Staff

In a country as diverse as the U.S., it can be hard to be comfortable and establish one’s identity or connect with your culture. According to the PEW Research Center, about four decades since the label “Hispanic” was deemed official, 51 percent of Latinos prefer to identify themselves by their or their family’s country of origin, while 24 percent prefer what is called a “pan-ethnic” label in 2012.

Hispanic, Latino/a, Chican@, etc. everyone identifies and struggles with culture differently.

During the 2014 Latinitas Blog-a-thon for Hispanic Heritage Month, Claudia Mendoza shared her experience about identity.

“Throughout my life I have been at a constant limbo between my roots (Mexican) and my birthplace (American).  Struggling to identify myself was never fun and even more so now that I am attending a university.  I grew up speaking Spanglish and when I do so at school I am looked at funny because of it.  People either enjoy it or get annoyed by it.  Now that I am a 20 year old, I now understand what it is to be a Latina.  I have the best of both worlds: the modern American world mixed with the rich Mexican culture… I am extremely proud to be a Latina and I am honored to be a good representation of a Latina breaking barriers,” Medonza said.

When there’s a large presence of different cultures, standards and expectations can be created — both from inner and outer influences. However, there are many ways to connect to one’s own culture, without changing who you are at all.

“I’m overwhelmingly proud to be a part of the Hispanic community. If it weren’t for my culture who would I be? If it weren’t for my mother’s constant mantra of “back in my country we would say…,” I would be a completely different person. My fondest memories are of being in Panama eating my Abuelita’s arroz con leche as she would tell me stories of her childhood. Or dressing up in my Pollera during Festival and walking down the Panamanian streets as everyone would laugh and dance to the music blasting from the surrounding houses.

Memories that are so full of life and happiness are what make me so proud to be a Latina. American festivals just don’t have the same sort of life emanating from the very core of them. An intoxicating pride coming from my relatives and their friends just for being a member of their country. There aren’t any words to describe how amazing it feels to be surrounded by so many people who are celebrating just being alive … Hispanic pride, in my opinion, comes from our victories as a people and our unity,” shared Isabel Meza in her MyLatinitas.com blog.

Showing off your culture can be as easy as blogging about it during Hispanic Heritage Month or talking about it with your friends.

“The most important thing about connecting to your culture is by exposing other people to your culture and making sure the youth in your communities are exposed to it as well,” Rossie Lopez, a recent UTEP (University of Texas-El Paso) graduate said. ”

“[I] connect with my culture by showing pride in my heritage,” Lopez said.

Not sure how to connect with your culture like the ladies in the article? You can start by:

1073060_634345163243344_272352745_o1)  Doing research!

Hit the books outside of class and find out about your roots, traditions, holidays, etc. Learn a little bit more about your ancestors and find out where your culture really comes from and what makes it unique. You don’t need to connect with it right away, but the more you learn the more you can see your family history.

2) Talking to your family!

Culture tends to spread across older generations, so talk to your parents, grandparents and maybe even great grandparents! Chances are they know a lot. Not only will you learn a lot about your culture but you can also gain a better understanding on what kind of cultural/social backgrounds your older family members are coming from. Even if you don’t learn much about your culture, there’s no harm in getting to know your family better. 

2) Joining cultural clubs and organizations!

You’ve done your research and talked to your family. Still want to know more? Join a cultural club or organization at your school. There are after school clubs and organizations that are towards a specific culture group, and are even geared towards a culture group with a specific interest. Check your school’s website or talk to a teacher in order to see what’s available. You might even have the opportunity to start your own, how cool is that? Some middle and high-schools have Ballet Folklorico, Origami and other after-school programs that often involve an activity that comes from a specific culture. There is also usually a historical lesson about that specific culture in relation to the activity as well. If you live in Austin or El Paso, TX, check out Club Latinitas at your nearest public library or, if you’re lucky, there might even be one at your school!

 

1)  Sharing what you know with others!

When you are ready to connect with your culture,  put up posters of your favorite band, lyric or anything that signifies your culture. If you like it, and it celebrates your culture, don’t be afraid to show it! Wear that t-shirt or hang that poster. Show others you come from a different culture. Most will even embrace it or want to know more if you live in area where your cultural background is not common. You’ll be surprised at the positive feedback you’ll get.

Whether you identify with your culture 100 percent or not at all, ancestry is good historical knowledge, but diversity comes from culture. So even if you don’t identify strongly, that is okay, too. You can be who you want and diversity the culture you identify with and change others perceptions about it.

Q & A with Joyce Giraud

Joyce Giraud may appear to be just another Hollywood beauty queen, but don’t let the cover of this book fool you.

There are many words that you could use to describe the two-time Miss Puerto Rico, Joyce Giraud. The former Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star is enthusiastic, articulate, sweet and gorgeous, but most of all: busy. After all, Joyce has many roles to play; she’s a mother, a wife, a philanthropist, an actress and producer. Joyce is currently working on two projects; producing a show premiering this fall on a Latin channel and developing a scripted show that she plans to star in sometime in the future. Luckily, Joyce was happy to answer some questions and give some inspiring words.

Photo Credit: IMBD.com

Photo Credit: IMBD.com

What many people don’t know about Joyce is that she was an early high school and college graduate. By 19, Joyce had earned two degrees from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, one in Social Work and the other in Special Education.

“My mother always encouraged my brother and I to pursue education. She told me I could be a model or do pageants or whatever I wanted, but to study first,” said Joyce, and she did just that. With her education as a back up plan, like her mother suggested, Joyce found herself in the entertainment industry.

While she loves the entertainment industry, she admits it hasn’t always been easy. “Just last year, I had a girl I was on a show with say that I belonged in Miami with all the Latinas instead of LA,” she explains. Joyce was left in great disbelief, as she couldn’t believe she was dealing with racism in this day and age. However, being the optimist that she is, Joyce never lets much, if anything, put her down.

“I stay determined, I don’t let anything hold me back. If anything, I feed off [the negative] to do better things,” confidently adding, “If anyone ever has misconceptions, I often find myself proving them wrong.”

Joyce may have not pursued a career in the field she studied, but that doesn’t stop this Latina from believing in the importance of education, a subject she is passionate about. Education also served as one of the reasons why she started her own pageant, Queen of The Universe.

“[The Pageant] was started to give girls a platform to do amazing things,” she says proudly.

Joyce was inspired to partner with the United Nations Education Science and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, a charity that builds schools in Africa, after her mother-in-law helped open 500 schools. Having children of her own, Joyce strongly feels that, “No child should be denied the proper tools to succeed.”

It’s a breath of fresh air to speak to someone who has so much pride in being a Latina. Whether she’s on television or over the phone, Joyce speaks proudly about her background, but always remains humble.

Joyce credits “100%” of her success to her Puerto Rican upbringing by her mother, adding “I’m very proud of my background. I’m grateful to my mom because she made me the woman I am. She prepared me for life. [My upbringing] has shaped my values, my morals and outlook on life.”

There’s no denying that Joyce has become a role model for many Latinas; she’s successful, smart and ambitious.

When asked what she aspires for young Latinas, she says, “I want to encourage Latinitas to not give up on their dreams, they must persevere to achieve their goals. Education is the absolute key to a better future and a better generation. Looks fade, but one thing that remains is your brain and what you study.”

Women in Public Health

Being a happy and healthy girl is a goal many of us have, but we don’t always know how to achieve it. Public Health is the study of the health of a population or community, and can be used in many ways to teach members of a community about how they can lead a healthy lifestyle. Here is some advice that you can follow to stay healthy, given by five women at El Paso First Health Plans Inc. who have pursued careers in Public Health-related fields!

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Maritza earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a minor and Chemistry, and went on to earn a Master’s degree in Public Health. She works with pediatricians in the El Paso area to make sure things like vision/hearing screenings and vaccines are given properly. She advises young girls to “be active, I know sometimes it’s easy to get involved with things like Facebook and chatting with friends, but find something you enjoy doing and stay active.” Whether it be dancing, running, or playing your favorite sport, getting active in a way that is enjoyable for you will make it less of a chore, and more of a fun time!

Gilda worked as a Registered Nurse for 11 years, and helped with patient care at a hospital, tending to patient needs for 14 hour shifts at times. “Get plenty of rest, I’ve seen in my kids have a lot of crankiness the next day and in need of a nap when they don’t get rest. Stay hydrated, drink lots of water!” Gilda shares. It’s easy to overlook the basic needs of our body, but doing so can affect our ability to perform well throughout our daily routines.

Crystal studied Public Health at the New Mexico State University. She started out her career as a middle school and high school teacher, and now works with children who live with chronic diseases, like asthma and diabetes. She works to educate children on how to manage and take care of themselves, and wants to help these kids to live healthy lives even with chronic diseases. “Find balance, in physical activity, food, talking with friends. Being healthy is also physical, mental, and social. Teach yourself, the more you know the healthier you can be,” Crystal advises. Learning about wellness in all aspects will help you be healthier all-around!

Adriana is the Outreach and Marketing Manager at El Paso First Health Insurance. She says, “Don’t give up. Maybe you aren’t made to be in a sports team, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be active; you can race, exercise, or follow a fitness video. In learning to eat healthy, don’t give up at it, you learn as you go. Just remember that our body is our temple, we need to take care of it.” Changing to a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy and takes some trial and error, but every effort counts in working to keep our bodies well.

Michelle studied Health Education at the University of Texas at El Paso, and minored in community health. She works in public outreach for health needs, specifically in the area of prevention, combining her early love for the medical and education professions. She urges to all young girls, “Love yourself. If you love yourself and what you were given by nature, for all the great things and not so great things, you will be so much happier. Then you will want to take care of yourself and stay healthy because you love your body and want it to be well.”

Advice like this from those who have careers specialized in keeping communities healthy, and guidance from yearly check-ups with your doctor, are great ways to help steer you in the right direction towards a healthy lifestyle! If the health of a community and helping guide others towards healthy living is something that sparks your interest, pursuing a career in the Public Health field may be something for you to explore, just like these women did.

Mentally Preparing for College

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High school graduates are spending this summer as a mentally and physically preparing to transfer to college, either in-state or out of state. Using Frontrange.edu’s ”6 tips to Get You Mentally Prepared for College” as a guide, we came up with advice on our with the experience of Kimberly Carmona to share her advice on how to mentally prepare for college.

Two of the major tips fromFrontrange.edu were to”be open” and to be ready for something new. A couple of things you have to remember is that some colleges are much bigger and much more diverse than a single high school. Therefore, there won’t be a vast majority of people who act a certain way, or are only interested in certain things. Be prepared to meet and interact with people from different cultures, different personalities, and different lifestyles. It’s important to have an open mind instead of pre-determined thoughts on what everyone will be like. You’re going to meet some awesome people in college, but not everyone will be your BFF and vice versa — not everyone in college is standoffish. Don’t judge someone or an organization before you get to know them. After all, college is about trying new things and diving into the unknown. Therefore, having an open mind about it is key to relieve stress.

“I always wanted to go to a college far away from home so coming to UT [University of Texas at Austin] made me happy,” UT senior, Kimberly Carmona said.

While college is an exciting time for personal growth, college is also a time for academic growth. Often people with anxiety about college don’t take into consideration the academic anxiety of being a college student. While this is definitely not something to fret about over the summer, as it is something you learn to cope with through experience, it is still something to be aware of. In college you are going to have to study a lot and will need to complete more work than in high school, so the more mentally prepared you are the better. As a college student, you will meet professors with different work ethics and work load.

“I was under the assumption that I did not have to study until I failed my first exam,” Carmona said.

College is a time to get serious about your studies, which means you need to take the time to study seriously. While some may have already learned this in the high school, some students think college is all about having fun! You’re going to have fun, meet new people, make new friends friends, and learn more about yourself as a student and person, but you have to be prepared to take your academic responsibilities seriously.

In most college courses, there are no re-takes, submitting of corrections, or “late passes” for arriving to an exam late. Therefore, it’s important to do your best on the first attempt at schoolwork; you eliminate the stress of worrying about your final grade if you do well from the start.

“Failing that exam made me realize that I actually have to sit down and study weeks before an exam,” Carmona said.

From exams to homework, it is far better to study and try your best from the start instead of mid-semester.

“That exam mentally prepared me to study before any exam and that I had to work hard to stay here,” Carmona said.

Overall, take time out of your schedule for your homework. If you’re busy in the evening then do your homework during the day. If you only have time to work on homework at night, then make sure the assignment is not too lengthy and get some brain food to keep you alert at night while doing your schoolwork. In the end, never forget about yourself. Studying 24/7 without caring about your mind and body will impact you, so relax. College is a learning experience, so take it a day at a time.

While college is a big deal and large turning point in life, it is not something that requires “training” for the entire 3 months of your summer vacation. Just like most anxiety, it’s all in your head! Just remember to keep an open mind and embrace new things. And the best way to clear your mind is to do things that keep you relaxed and in a positive mood during this time right before heading to college.

Middle School Survival Guide

Starting middle school can be an exciting time, but also comes with a lot of uncertainty. Handling everything middle school throws at you is rough, but not impossible! Here are a few tips to help with surviving middle school when times get tough:

Steering Clear of Drama

Middle school can bring a lot of drama between friends and other not-so-friendly classmates. While it can be easy to fall into the drama, it’s better to try your best to just stay away from it!  Gladys, 16, advises, “Staying out of drama is the best thing to know [in order] to survive middle school. Try to find who your true friends are in order to avoid gossip and rumors.” Finding a group of friends you can trust and who don’t bring constant drama into your life, and making sure you aren’t adding to the spread of gossip and rumors, will make your middle school years much smoother and more enjoyable!

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Surround Yourself with Good Friends

Switching to different class periods throughout the day in middle school means constantly being mixed around with different people. All these new faces can be scary, but Hope, 14, suggests, “A way to survive middle school is to make at least one friend on the first day of school, after that make friends with one teacher. If you make an enemy try your best to stay away from [him/her].” Making the effort to be friendly to your classmates and teachers, and staying away from those who aren’t so nice to you, can help you create a supportive and happy group of friends to surround yourself by.

Getting Caught Up in the Social Life

While middle school is a time to make new friends and have fun, it’s easy to get caught up in the social life of school. Just remember that the social scene is not everything! Middle school can also be a great time to learn and grow in the classroom, and to  find things that interest you! Cristina, 16, says  her “…tips to survive middle school are to follow your heart and to not get carried away by the bad. Just work hard, get god grades and make memories.” Keeping a balance between school and friends is something that will help you now, in high school, and even college!

Staying True to YOU

This is a time when everyone is growing up and finding their way, and many students come across things that may not be healthy or feel right to them. Going with what you believe is the path for you can sometimes be against what most other classmates think is “cool.” Peer pressure can sometimes make students do what they feel isn’t the best road to take. Justine, 15, says, “during your middle school years, you are going to be introduced to new things that are good and bad. You get to realize who your true friends are; just stay focused on getting through those rough years and stay true to what you know and believe in.” Staying true to your heart and what you think is right, despite what all the others are doing, will help you be happier with yourself and your choices.

Middle school is a fantastic time to learn more about yourself, so be adventurous, take an elective in something you’ve always wanted to try, join a sport, and find what interests you! The challenges of middle school life will be there, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to handle them and be successful while doing it. Use these tips, advice from family and peers, and your heart to guide you along the way, and enjoy these wonderful middle school years!

Girls in STEM

STEM, short for career fields in Science, Technology, Engineering, and/or Math, careers are at the height of their demand. With this demand comes the push for more girls to join these fields and pursue these majors in college. This might be a recent revelation, but some major companies are on board for these changes. Google intends to compliment this growing demand with their programs to educate girls about computer coding, and scholarship foundations eagerly await female applicants so they can fund a college career because the world wants more girls doing great things. In the interest of getting a feel for what opportunities a STEM major can help you achieve, the following are some interviews from girls pursuing science majors and the amazing opportunities they have experienced:

Celina ProvencioTrinity University junior and Biology major with a Spanish minor, Celina Provencio, became interested in the medical field shortly after arriving at college her freshmen year.  She had previously enjoyed her AP biology class in high school, but she wasn’t set on being a doctor until college. She says, “[Her] love for science and knowledge of the human body has brought [her] to this decision.” When asked if she feels exceptional as a girl pursuing this career she says that, “The challenge is equal for men and women, but I do see less women, which might intimidate others.”

During the summer of 2014, she was a student research assistant at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio where she interned in a lab conducting studies on the effects of a drug as potential treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.  In this position, she assisted in examining the drug’s effects on mice with dementia. Celina will continue with this research project in the fall where she will help present the findings in December 2014. She also hopes to attend a conference for Neuroscience research in Washington D.C. in the fall. Her advice for Latinitas readers pursuing a medical career is: “Although it can be intimidating, as long as you have a passion for it… you can be successful in college and a medical career, and this applies to any pursuit.”

Alyssa IzquierdoAnother Trinity University junior, Alyssa Izquierdo, who is majoring in Neuroscience for a career in research and clinical psychology, tells Latinitas about her research internship and why she loves science. When she looked in to Trinity, she knew she wished to pursue  something in cognitive health, and she was interested in exploring how to help people with mental illnesses. With a degree in Neuroscience, she hopes to combine her love of biology and cognitive health for a fresh perspective on the treatment of mental health.

This past summer, she was a student assistant in a research project involving a drug that mimicked Parkinson’s disease in marmoset monkeys for the purpose of detecting the disease with an earlier diagnosis via the help of behavioral tests. Her role as a student assisted was counting and documenting diseased neurons for research data. Alyssa also hopes to attend a conference for Neuroscience research in Washington D.C. in the fall. As a student research assistant, she finds that it is encouraging that she has mentor professor and peer tutor who are both female. “I hope people start seeing that just because you’re a woman, it does not mean you can’t get your name out there in science. The female [professors] I have met at Trinity are some of the most brilliant scientists I can think of,” she said.

Her advice for girls is: “Take [a variety] of classes to see what you like, and talk to professors of different fields.” She also encourages girls, even those not interested in pursuing a medical career, to never fear taking science classes, as it can be a very rewarding experience.

Caileen TallantContrary to what we might believe, pursuing a medical career does not necessarily mean you have to eat, sleep, and breath science all of the time. Caileen Tallant,a junior at Trinity University offers her perspective on being a Music Composition major with minors in Biology and Chemistry. Caileen feels that she is making the most of her time spent at college by majoring in one of her greatest passions while also working towards a future career in medicine. She hopes to appeal to medical school in her application by majoring in something outside of the standard chemistry and biology majors.

The research that she is involved in consists of a  computational chemistry lab, where she programs the computer to run tests on alternative ways to remove toxins from the environment. The potential use of this research is meant to offer a way to make cleaner water and she looks forward to continuing this research in the fall. She wishes to leave these encouraging words for readers: “Go for it. You can do whatever you put your mind to. Look towards your end goal, and if you work your hardest, you can reach it”.

For more information on STEM related careers, visit: http://nerdgirls.com. A website for girls and teens interested in embracing their smart-girl individuality. 

College VS High School

1377110_668942723116921_1505867867_nIt’s been a year since I’ve graduated from high school. While I was in high school, my teachers constantly told me I was going to have loads of homework, would not have any free-time, and professors would be strict.  Now that I have experienced a full year of college, it isn’t quite as scary as I feared. On my first day of school at the El Paso Community College, I was worried about getting lost in a big campus, but, once I passed through the sliding doors, everything turned out okay. At first I was nervous and scared, but I had more confidence in myself when a professor greeted and me helped with my classes.

My favorite part of college is the freedom to pick your own classes, make your own schedule and spend time where you like. Going to college gives you more freedom and responsibilities that were not offered in high school.

Here are some tips to help make your transition from high school to college a little easier:

1. BUY YOUR BOOKS ONLINE OR USED!
College is not always fun and games. For me, purchasing expensive books every semester was my least and most difficult part of my freshman year. College books are very expensive! They range from $40.00-$300.00. On my first semester I spent $250 on 3 books — that’s right, only 3 books.

During my second semester as a college student, I learned that buying used books or buying them online was a cheaper alternative.  I bought a used book for $8 and I rented my other book for $30. Some colleges provide the opportunity to rent your books, but there are also online vendors, like Chegg.com and Amazon.com, that offer a cheaper renting option for students. It’s always best to compare prices at the book store and online before making a decision. Therefore, never buy new books, unless that’s your last option, and always investigate before hand, just in case.

2. NEVER, EVER, PROCRASTINATE ON PROJECTS.
I had to learn this the hard way; it gets to you pretty bad when you fall behind. Sometimes, professors assign a project at the beginning of the semester, which is due towards the end of the semester. Instead of waiting until the last week to work on the project, start right away on the first day and break up the project into smaller pieces. The more you procrastinate, the more you’ll regret it.

3. MAKE FRIENDS IN CLASS AND EXCHANGE CONTACT INFORMATION.
Not making friends is the one thing I regret not doing during my first year of college. During class, I would stay quiet and mind my own business. I did talk to some people, but I never switched numbers. Trust me on this one! If a teacher assigns something and you have questions about the guidelines or when it’s due, having a buddy or two for back up will help.

4. IF YOU’RE ILL, CONTACT YOUR PROFESSOR A.S.A.P.
There are times when your immune system decides to give up and you magically catch a cold. You might think that you’ll never get sick, but don’t let your body fool you, it can happen in 24 hours. When this happens, it’s best to either: A.) E-mail your professor B.) Call your professor AND/OR C.) Call or text your buddy to inform them you won’t be attending class

5. IF YOU OWN A VEHICLE, PARK OUTSIDE THE CAMPUS OR BUY THE PARKING STICKER.
Most colleges or universities will charge you for a parking sticker/permit, which can range from $45-$600 for the school year. The last thing you want is to have to pay a fine for parking illegally. Check with your school’s parking website for more information. If paying to park is a hassle, consider taking the bus to school — make sure you’re never late!

6. BRING MONEY OR LUNCH, YOU’LL GET HUNGRY.
Unless you’re on a meal plan, chances are you’re going to have to pay for your own lunch. Most colleges have their own food court, food stands, and snacks available throughout campus. Dining at school may not always be an option so pack your lunch. I always bring snacks during my breaks in order to avoid driving home and back  to school when I get hungry.

7. GO TO CLASS!
Remember how in high school you would get detention for being late to class or ditching class? Well, in college you have more freedom and don’t get detention. Don’t let this fool you! Your actions do have consequences. If you don’t attend class, it can affect your grade or enrollment in the class. Some professors count attendance and participation as a portion of your grade. Always attend class and make sure to pay attention to the lesson.

8. FIND YOUR FAVORITE SPOT.
Sometimes school can push you to the edge, so it’s important to find your favorite spots around campus to relax for a few minutes or even have a good place to study. Don’t be afraid to explore your campus, you never know what you might find. My favorite spot would be the student union and the library. At the union I would play video games and meet new people, while the library would give me the peace and quiet I needed. Plus, visiting the library helped me catch up homework so I wouldn’t have to worry about it at home.

College can have its ups and downs, but you have more freedom and opportunities to meet the most amazing people! So, before you go off thinking college is going to be hard, test the waters first and then decide whether it’s fun or not. Just remember these few tips and have an excellent freshman year!

In Defense of MAS

DSCN1653Universities are slowly beginning to offer more opportunities in cultural studies for its students. As a Latina, knowing that the university I currently attend – the University of Texas at Austin – offers students the ability to get a degree in Asian, Asian American, Islamic, Jewish, and Middle Eastern Studies (just to name a few), really made me want to learn about the Mexican American Studies degree. Sooner than later, I decided to double major in it. For me, my heritage played a lot into this decision, but it really does not matter if you identify as Mexican American or not. It also does not matter if you know a lot of this culture because there are so many more things the Mexican American Studies degree can do for you.

Is a Mexican American Studies degree worth it?

It is important to understand the criticism that the idea of Mexican American Studies has been facing for the past couple of years. With schools in Arizona, Texas, and California struggling to offer Mexican American Studies in their schools, it is only harder for colleges and universities to do the same– especially when the degree can definitely be put into good use.

With a Mexican American Studies degree, for example, you can become a Study Abroad Coordinator for a university or Marketing and Advertising Manager for a big international corporation.

The degree also allows you to tailor another interest you might be pursuing as well. For example, if you are a government major and decide to get another degree at the same time in Mexican American Studies, then you can possibly become an Affirmative Action Specialist. If you’re a communications major and get a dual degree, you can possibly become a writer for a Latin@ based organization, or a foreign policy news analyst.

For Estela Maldonado, coming back to school to get a Mexican American studies degree meant being able to help more people. After having a son, she said coming back to school to major in Mexican American Studies meant she would be able to tell her son “more about where he comes from.” A frequent volunteer in events that raise awareness over immigration and labor form, she said, “with my degree, I can be a more informed member of the community I choose to take part in.”

Where can I study this?

Texas is not the only state that offers a Mexican American studies degree. There are different programs such as the Latino Studies Program at Cornell University, the Center for Latino Policy Research at UC Berkeley, and the Hispanic Research Center where this or a similar degree can be studied.  Within these programs there are classes that are offered in areas such as Spanish literature, anthropology, and political science. Some course titles offered at the University of Texas at Austin, for example, include classes like “Introduction to Cultural Studies; “Mexico: From Aztlan to Zapata”; and “Chicanos and Film: Representation of la Raza.” At the University of Houston, you might take “MAS 3341: Mexican American Experience through Film” or “MAS 3342: Mexican Immigration to the United States.” If you go out of state, you can take classes like “MAS 485: Mexicana/Chicana Women’s History” or “MAS 369: Mexico Since Independence” at the University of Arizona.

Taking classes in these degree programs ask for an array of skills. It is not like your typical degree program where you might only be conducting experiments or attending meetings. Depending on the institution and track you choose (i.e. cultural studies, policy studies), the things you will be doing coincide.

For example, if you want to focus on studying the cultural side of Mexican American studies, you might be studying Mexican American literature, movies, and history.  Because the Mexican American Studies degree is more of a specialization in cultural studies (since you can also study Asian American History, African American History, etc.), schools usually have an option for you to focus more on the political or social history side of Mexican American Studies. Other universities, such as Our Lady of the Lake University, offer more general courses in Mexican American Studies focusing on more of an overview in the area.

Recently, South Texas College in McAllen, Texas became the first college to offer a Mexican American Studies degree that can be earned completely online. There are currently 28 colleges and universities across the United States that offer a Mexican American Studies as a degree. But in other schools such as the University of Arizona, new Ph.D. and doctoral programs are now being offered.

So whatever the case may be, there are many possibilities for you to make the Mexican American studies fit to your needs. Do not be afraid to do some research and reach out to admissions offices about their Mexican American studies degree. You will not regret your decision!

Literature in the Classroom

booksIn Arizona, a ban prohibited Mexican-American literature from being taught and distributed inside the classroom. While the ban was later lifted, this stemmed an outrage that spread much further than upset Arizona residents. Mexican American Studies activists protested and created the Librotraficante movement to help bring awareness to the representation of Latinos in the classroom.  The banning of books led to a wider discussion of the incorporation of Mexican-American literature and courses in high schools.

“As a Mexican-American, Chicana, Latina female I always loved when I got the chance to read literature from my own culture… At Fulmore we read The House On Mango Street and it was great because for once I could connect to what I was reading,” said Elena Galdeano, 18.

Mexican-American literature has many different influences and roots that don’t come from other types of literature. Chicana literature can teach lessons historically, and morally, about the plight of Latino culture throughout history.

“I never had a Mexican-American literature class when I was in [college] there may have been some on Southwestern Literature but I didn’t know they were there,” said Patricia Garcia, professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Looking back at the progress of Mexican-American literature in the classroom, Garcia said she “… didn’t realize that that was a possibility to make that [Mexican American Studies] [her] field at the time.”

Now, more colleges and universities are incorporating Latin American and Mexican American Studies degrees, also known as Chican@ Studies, and courses, but the representation of Latinos in the classroom and literary field continue to be underrepresented.

According to a study performed by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Education, of the 5,000 children’s books published by people of color during the year 2013, about 57 of them were about Latinos. While in 2002, there were actually 94. The number of Latino authors boomed in 2009, with a total of 60 authors, however, in 2013, the number dropped to 48.

“In classes it was usually ‘white’ stories written by ‘white’ people, and while some on those stories were great, but different, [with Latino literature] I was able to relate to how the author had lived and how people looked at them,” Galdeano said.

In April 2014, the Texas Board of Education denied the implementation of a Mexican-American studies elective in high schools, and instead voted to include ethnic studies electives dealing with not only Mexican-American studio, but also about African-American, American Indian and Asian-Americans studies. In July 2014, the Texas Board of Education postponed the adoption of Proposition 2016 materials to November 2015.

“A lot of schools already have it, and the argument is ‘schools are already doing this, let’s formalize it so that a school that wants to have this class already has a curriculum they can adopt,” said Garcia.

In light of what studies have shown, and what the Texas Board of Education is trying to do, some attitudes on Mexican-American studies in the classroom are changing, however, it appears there is still a ways to go.

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