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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

“We are under attack. We find ourselves in a position to affirm our place in society,” says Madrid. “We have the intellectual resources and capacity to invigorate this society. We represent the future.” This resource stems from the research of Chicano academics, many of whom work to challenge attempts to de-legitimize and suppress the Latino vote, to demonize immigrant communities, to restrict comprehensive educational initiatives, and access to housing and healthcare.

“We look to the scholarship of NACCS members. They have seen these issues, not just anecdotally; they also produce the scholarship. We’ve also focused on TUSD because it has been under assault and mischaracterization,” says Susan M. Green, chair elect of the NACCS Board. “The ability of young people to have access to Chicano studies is vital. Students of all backgrounds do well when they take Chicano studies.”

As host to the 40th annual NACCS conference, San Antonio is as historically important as it is culturally relevant. “Learning from Our Past, Defending Our Rights in the 21st Century,” this year’s conference theme, seeks to illustrate the continued civil rights struggle of Mexican Americans. Many of the major players in Chicano civil rights have come from San Antonio, and it is the oldest Mexican American community in the former Tejas, making it the politically attractive Mexican American cultural center is has become.

“San Antonio is an incubator of Chicano organizations: the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and others” says Madrid. “It has also had extraordinary political leadership: Henry B. Gonzalez, Maria Antonietta Berriozábal, Henry Cisneros, and now Julián and Joaquin Castro.”

Adding to that litany of firsts, Antonia Castañeda, a historian and co-chair of the NACCS 2013 Site Committe adds, “The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, the Mexican American Youth Organization, and the League of United Latin American Citizens began here. San Antonio is a major focal point for all of these reasons.” She also points out that many of the major players in civil rights cases had some origination in San Antonio, from Hernandez v. Texas the first Mexican American case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 to Edgewood v. Kirby, a landmark case citing discrepancy in public school financing in 1984.

San Antonio has also been home to five inductees to NACCS’ highest honor, a lifetime achievement award entitled NACCS Scholar. Castañeda is a founding member of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social, a professional organization for Chicana scholars. She also oversees the publication of new Chicana scholarship as co-editor of the Chicana Matters series at the University of Texas Press.  Madrid, who in 2004 served on the U.S. Secretary’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, was founding president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, as well as a board member at the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. He continues to teach and research for “Mexico, the Americas, and Spain,” a program at Trinity University.  Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, formerly a Stanford University professor and Associate Director of Creativity and Culture at the Rockefeller Foundation, has been awarded the Joseph Henry Medal by the Smithsonian Institute for Latino Initiatives. As a pioneering scholar of U.S. Latino art, he writes extensively about Chicano visual production. Norma Alarcón, Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley, founded Third Woman Press, which she developed in the late 70s. The press contributed works by Chicana and Latina authors, many of whom are now assigned in Chicana Studies courses.  Norma E. Cantú, former board member of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas at San Antonio, recently made her home in San Antonio and now continues her work at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in the Department of Latino Studies.

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