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Arts & Culture

National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies returns to San Anto

Photo: Justin Parr, License: N/A

Justin Parr

NACCS Scholars: Drs. Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, Antonia Castañeda, and Arturo Madrid


In June 2012, four doctoral candidates, three from the University of California at Santa Barbara and one from Michigan State University, became the world’s first Ph.D. graduates in Chicano Studies. It was a feat over 40 years in the making. Today’s university programs in Ethnic Studies arose from the efforts of college faculty and students who, following the Civil Rights Movement, protested the lack of ethnic representation in university curricula in the fields of history, art, literature, political science, and the social sciences.

In San Antonio late in 1972, a group of Chicano social scientists met to discuss a common experience — exclusion from professional academic organizations. Recognizing their need for a venue in which they could present new research, they formed the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, which expects over 500 attendees at their annual conference in San Antonio March 20-23 at the Omni San Antonio Hotel.

In addition to the early group were professors of Spanish, like Arturo Madrid, now a professor of Modern Languages and Literatures at Trinity University and Chair of the 2013 NACCS Site Committee. “Many of us were preparing for academic careers and realized we didn’t have Chicano faculty. We needed to develop a field of study that addressed the historical experiences and cultural expression of Mexican Americans,” says Madrid. “The field now ranges widely from archeology and art to urban studies.”

However, amid the growth of NACCS and an increasing number of ethnic studies programs across the U.S., Chicano Studies continues to be challenged. Only two weeks ago in Acosta v. Huppenthal, a federal judge denied removing a ban on teaching Mexican American Studies in the Tucson Unified School District, a motion that ethnic studies supporters see as collapsing the past into the present. The court cited that the motion “did not meet the high threshold needed to establish a constitutional violation.”  In 2012, NACCS, along with over 20 other academic and community organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of MAS at TUSD and against HB 2281, the law state law that caused the ban, citing the First Amendment freedoms of the students and instructors as well as the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment: “The MAS program arose from a court-ordered effort to remedy discrimination against Mexican American students as part of a desegregation case requiring the district to remedy segregation and inequity.” 

In a press release concerning the brief, past NACCS Chair, Devon Pena stated, “This respected field of study has been unjustly targeted and demonized by Arizona authorities, which is strangling the pursuit of a comprehensive education and silencing the perspective of Mexican Americans.” NACCS also called into question the TUSD’s censorship of books by Mexican Americans authors like Sandra Cisneros, Tomas Rivera, and Rudolfo Anaya, whose award-winning novel, Bless Me, Ultima, was released this February as a film in theaters nation-wide.

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