Growing up in the United States I not only identified as a Latina, but more so as Mexican-American. I was a young girl growing up in New York with a lot of diversity, and fortunate to experience the different cultures of other Latino countries. But as time went on and as I got older, I started realizing that school was very different for us. I had older cousins who were in High School that would talk about their experiences and how our history was not in their books. My oldest cousin would tell me if I wanted to learn more about my culture and where I came from, I had to read outside of just school books and do my own research because I was not going to get taught in school the things that I wanted to learn.
Unfortunately, that is how it was once I got to high school. The history books did not have any history on Latinos within the United States. The most that would be taught was on the Treaty of Hidalgo that ended the war between the United States and Mexico, and where Mexico ceded 55 percent of their land to the United States, which is now almost half of the country. An absurd treaty that made Mexico give away their land for free. Mexicans and Mexican-Americans played a huge role in the history of the United States, yet it was never mentioned in any of the United States history books I read.
It was interesting to see how some of the history of the Civil Rights Movement was in the books, yet, they lacked information on the civil rights issues that were happening with Latinos on the west coast. Just like they left out information on the Black Panthers within the African American community, they left out information on the Brown Berets, a Chicano organization that emerged during the Chicano movement in the 1960’s. There were massacres like the Porvenir massacre in Texas in the early 1900s, due to racism against Mexicans/Mexican-Americans, but these are also not in the books. This was history that all citizens should have known about and that still needs to be taught.
As Latinos, we are now the largest minority group in this country. It takes more than a month to cover the rich culture and history of all Latinos within the United States; it takes a lifetime. The school system should do better in educating their students on what this country’s history really looks like and how it was built from the backs of many Latinos. As they say, “we did not cross the border, the border crossed us.” Latinos have been in this country for years and it is just as much their country as any other immigrants.
Let us take advantage of our voice and our talents to show this country who we really are and what our ancestors have left behind for us, to continue the movement of our culture within. Latinos are not just immigrants that are coming from other countries, we are the history of this nation whether people like it or not. We have been around for decades, with history that is barely known. As Latinos, we are the only ones that are capable of telling our history as it is. We need to continue educating young kids on who they really are and where they come from, so that they know how to defend their identity. Latinos are much more than their food, their music and language, we are power. We are Guerreros!
Esmeralda Mendez is Mexican-American. She is the proud daughter of immigrant parents and have Latinx roots. Esmeralda is a dancer, poet, and passionate young woman.
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