By Hannah Lathen/reporter
One SE professor is trying to bring more education and recognition to the Latino community and stray away from stereotypes during National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations at TCC Sept. 15-Oct. 15.
“One of my main concerns with Hispanic Heritage Month is to convey to the public a more sort of accurate understanding of the Hispanic community, the Latino community and its history as it is tied, for example, to Texas or the national progress,” SE history associate professor J. Joel Tovanche said.
During Hispanic Heritage Month at TCC, Tovanche has held lectures that cover parts of Hispanic history in America many are unaware happened.
“A lot of people don’t recognize the fact that Mexican-Americans were also segregated in public schools in the Southwest for a long time,” he said. “I also have done a talk on the lynching of Mexican-Americans in the Southwest in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Hundreds were lynched, and this is something that is not generally known by the public because we often associate lynching with African-Americans.”
Tovanche wants a deeper understanding of the communities but also to celebrate its contributions to society. He ties this into his Mexican-American History classes as well.
“My students of all backgrounds are astounded to recognize the contributions in war, the contributions to political leadership that Mexican-Americans have made,” he said. “Unless you show that, then people that are looking in at the community maybe will look at this community as not being in the national American fabric, not having contributed as much as others, therefore, not as deserving as others.”
It is important that everyone in the community, not just Latinos, understand not only the history but the contributions Hispanics have made in the progress of the nation, he said.
“You want to have the arts and the music, and that is important, but I think it is also important to talk about the nation-building that this community has actually engaged in,” he said.
Tovanche also strives to push the community away from stereotypes that he has seen portrayed by both Latino and non-Latino students on TCC campuses particularly in Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
“Out come the sombreros. Out come the mariachi. All of the stereotypical things that feed into what they think is the normal or traditional view that a lot of outsiders depict kind of badly,” he said.
NE Spanish instructor Humberto Rodriguez said with the current political climate, it is important for people to get to know each other, and Hispanic Heritage Month is a way of doing that.
“The more we know each other, and the more we understand each other, the better,” he said.
NE foreign language adjunct instructor Lindsay Puente said any celebration of the unique histories of the cultures and people is important to fully representing everyone involved in the community.
“The best way to grow and the best way to learn is to step out of your box, which is another thing a month of celebrating cultures that may seem ‘other’ to people helps us to be a better group of citizens and a better community,” he said.
NE student Alex Sandoval said he hopes Hispanic Heritage Month brings out an appreciation for all of the many different Hispanic cultures.
“There’s Cubans. There’s Dominicans, Salvadorians, Colombians, Bolivians,” he said. “There’s more than Mexican.”