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Opinion – Teaching Latino history in Colo. classrooms

Incorporating the Latino history of Colorado will be the task of at least 25 more history teachers in some of the larger districts in the state.

Some of the districts that will be involved in this new initiative include Adams 12 District and Cherry Creek. With the help of Metro State and other in-state programs, these high schools should have no problem implement Colorado’s Latino history.

The news was the subject of a recent article by the Denver Post’s Yesenia Robles.

The news is made on the same week that governor-elect and former mayor of Denver John Hickenlooper announced a plan that involved the largest budget cuts for K-12 and higher education in the state’s history.

But the news that history teachers will be teaching more on Latino history brings forth rather mixed emotions. After all, for a state whose name is a Spanish term for ‘red’ and who has always fostered a healthy Latino population, in 2011 this seems way overdue.

To add some perspective, according to the Denver Post article, the Denver Public Library’s 100,000-strong online photo collection only 136 digital artifacts are focused on Latinos.

That represents 1.36 percent of the Library’s collection. A 2009 U.S. Census estimated the Latino population in the state hovering around 20 percent.

So why did it take so long for teachers in the state to start educating students, a number of whom consider themselves Latinos, on a significant part of their heritage and state’s history?

I don’t believe there is anything discriminatory in this process, but I do think it might have been politics hindering the spread of Latino education across the state.

Just think of Arizona and its unfortunate anti-immigration law that soon seeped into the classroom, making it illegal for teachers to teach Mexican American programs.

The issue there was that Arizona saw the programs as a breeding ground for future activists. And the problem with this is…?

But back to the subject at hand.

It is a good sign knowing that this state is taking a different type of stance when it comes to Latino history education. As one of the teachers says in the Denver Post article, it’s not so much about teaching something different but rather exploring what else is out there to share.

Just don’t expect to learn anything about the Chicano civil rights movement, which was so prominent in Denver that it gave rise to such important and now legendary figures as Corky Gonzalez. You might have to wait until college to learn about that.

Even more important, and something the article may overlook, is how this may spark an enormous interest in Latino students sitting in these classes.

Imagine the child of an illegal immigrant coming home, with a smile and an energetic talk about how today in class he learned why the towns like Cortez, Durango, La Junta, Las Animas and Pueblo sport Spanish names.

Sure it sounds like a long shot, but I know it would have sparked my curiosity if my teacher taught me something similar. It’s special to have something in an enormous textbook, filled with names of famous white figures and African-American leaders, to see the names of a Latino on a few lines of texts.

It’s that sense of connection that helps spark curiosity.

So go out and explore, children of Colorado schools. For now, correct pronunciation not required.

About Esteban L. Hernandez

Reporter in Connecticut.


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