Guest blogger Tina Aguilar is an arts advocate, Cara Mia Board Member and teaches humanities/cultural studies at Brookhaven College.
Crystal City 1969, currently onstage at Cara Mia Theatre Company, is based in part on the experiences of student leaders Diana Serna Aguilera and Mario Treviño. They recently shared some of their memories with me of those turbulent times in a recent discussion:
Tina Aguilar: What are some of your memories and experiences as a young person?
Mario Treviño: I think the experience made us grow very rapidly. I think we had instant fame and recognition in the Chicano Movement. At 16 and 17 I was doing things that most people don’t do until later on in life or not at all. I was one of several speakers to speak at the largest anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. There were over 1 million anti-war protesters at the rally where I spoke. I was also asked to present a seminar to college seniors at the University of Ohio whose major was bilingual education. There were many opportunities for us to speak about the plight of the Chicano students all over the United States.
T.A.: What do you want to tell other families and the greater Chicano community about this heritage and how it connects to present Latino circumstances?
M.T.: Be proud of who you are and where you come from. Enjoy school and learn as much as you can. Never forget your mother language (Spanish), especially in the Southern states, because with that language many opportunities will be opened up to you. Your heritage is so full of history and so colorful, enjoy it and share it with those who didn’t have the privilege of being born into it.
T.A.: How would you describe your family heritage and influences?
Serna Aguilera: I am a fourth generation Texan. My experience includes being born into a political family. We talked about issues at the dinner table, and I asked my parents for their advice when things intensified with the high school policies. I lost friends over the Crystal City issues but always felt confident with my voice. My mother, Olivia Serna, is part of American history as the first Latina elected to our city council and then mayor in 1979. Recognizing that participation in the community makes a difference was a concept that made an impression on me.
T.A.: What about education for the increasing Latino population today?
S.A.: I think an increase of Mexican American teachers that can serve as role models can have an impact. School districts need to hire culturally sensitive educators that truly believe that all children can learn. Offering classes on cultural diversity and increasing curriculum that teaches Mexican American contributions and history will support the needs of our student populations.