News Column

Scholar to Discuss Hispanic Success

March 5, 2013

Melissa Montoya

hispanic woman

To inform students and the community about the rise of the U.S. Hispanic population, the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College will host scholar and historian David Montejano for its Latino Leadership Lecture Series.

The series began in 2011 and has since gained popularity and a widening audience, said Patricia M. Longoria, assistant director at the student union.

"It's provided awareness about Latino history and what Latinos have done to shape and form society," Longoria said. "It's important for our students here and also for the community. There are a lot of people who don't know enough about Latino history."

Twenty-five years after publishing his book, "Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas," Montejano, a professor of ethnic studies and history at the University of California, Berkeley, will discuss what has changed in the state since the 1980s for the Mexican-American population, he said during a phone interview.

Montejano said the situation for Mexican-Americans has improved since the 1930s because of the decline of agriculture, when many were farm workers to the Anglo farmer.

According to Montejano, almost two-thirds of Mexican-Americans labored on farms during the Great Depression, while today approximately 4 percent still toil in the fields.

He said through the years, because of the availability of education and the change in the economy, a growing number of Latinos in the region are moving toward white-collar jobs.

"The period of segregation in Texas coincides with the time when agriculture was a dominant economy, but that's no longer the case," Montejano said. "We live now in a much more urban-based type economy. Agriculture is still important, but it's no longer driving the whole economy."

Montejano said his purpose is to understand the progress of Mexican-Americans in the region and to learn how it has occurred.

"The way I'm approaching it is by looking at snapshots," he said. "Over time you see the changing class composition of the Mexican-American in Texas."

He concedes there are still issues for the Mexican-American population, but there is a general sense of betterment.

Among the challenges the largest minority group in the U.S. faces, Montejano said, is the way the rest of the country sees Hispanics and Latino-Americans, he said.

"If it's in Arizona, they don't make any distinctions between Mexican-Americans and Mexican immigrants," Montejano said. "There's always a question mark next to you."

Immigration, the country's relationship with Mexico, including the violence in Mexico, the large number of uninsured Latinos and the poverty many of them face are challenges this generation will have to deal with and hopefully fix, he said.

"I'm going to be bringing up these points, so you guys can pick up the torch," Montejano said referring to the youth.

In a world where history is usually written by winners, often white males, Manuel Medrano, a professor in the UTB history department, said it's important for historians to include the lesser known stories of Tejanos.

Medrano said the legendary Davy Crockett, the widely known frontiersman who perished during the Battle of the Alamo, is an example. While most people know of Crockett, many do not know of Gregorio Esparza, a Tejano who was killed during the same battle, he said.

"Very little is done to include the Tejano contribution," Medrano said. "Some of it has been Hollywood-ized and when you have that perspective in film, text and lore; it's easy to believe that's the only history."

Longoria said the series has proven to be successful.

"Students come out of here saying, 'wow, I didn't know that and that makes me proud of my culture,'" she said.

If You Go

What: Latino Leadership Lecture Series presents David Montejano

When: Tuesday, 12-2 p.m.

Where: UTB-TSC Student Union--El Gran Salon

Cost: Free

Source: (c)2013 The Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, Texas) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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