By Sierra Russell
Hispanic culture enjoys a rich heritage in the southwest, and has been reflected in the Aztec Press over the past 40 years.
Topics such as immigration, border issues, folkloric dance, art and education have frequently been featured. Bilingual education has also been a major focus, especially in early issues.
A 1975 issue quoted Henry Oyama, then director of PCC’s bilingual program: “There is increasing awareness that bilingual education is in the national interest.”
At the time, PCC had one of the highest-ranking bilingual programs in the United States. In the late 1970s, a wide variety of courses were taught in both Spanish and English, including welding, electronics, art, math and psychology.
In a 1977 issue, Athletic Director Larry Toledo called the language program at PCC “the first true approach by any community college to attempt a true bilingual program.”
Throughout the ‘70s and early ‘80s, many articles were printed in Spanish. They often dealt with politics, education, art and culture.
Armando Miguelez wrote a series called “La Cultura Chicana” that highlighted literature, music, philosophy, folklore and theater. In one article, Los Murales, Miguelez took a close look at Tucson murals and explained the culture behind them.
Miguelez also wrote a series entitled “La Voz del Pueblo,” which focused on education and politics. In one article, “Los Inmigrantes: Mito y Realidad,” Miguelez examined the lives of Mexican immigrants in the southwest.
An editorial by Delfina Alvarez, “We Were Taught to Forget the Language of our Land,” described how students were trying to revive the Spanish language. She recalled that in kindergarten, “it was prohibited for us ‘native speakers’ to speak our mother tongue, even in the schoolyard.”
According to a study conducted by the Board of Education in 1969, one third of Spanish-speaking children in the United States were considered mentally challenged because they could not speak English.
The assistant dean of students in the late 1970s, Elizabeth Gonzales, said, “The child would want to assimilate into the dominant culture. Unfortunately, he would never be able to dominate either language and it would lead to emotional problems because he did not feel part of either culture.”
The language department at PCC has always considered Hispanic culture to be a valuable thread in bilingual education. This is evident in the classes taught.
For instance, some Spanish 202 classes currently use a textbook entitled “Civilizacion y Cultura” and discuss topics such as views on family life, holidays, death and economics in the Hispanic world.
Spanish instructor Aristeo Brito, now retired, was quoted in a 1977 issue. “I try to stress the culture of the Mexican-American. I want to make the students more aware of their background… bilingual education involves more than just teaching the classes.”
Over the years, many classes taught in Spanish have been dropped due to lack of funding. At the same time, language classes such as Korean, Turkish and Yaqui have been added.
PCC’s Spanish program still offers a variety of courses that focus on more than grammar. A sampling includes Latin America on Film, Elementary Spanish for Finance and Business, and Social & Cultural Spanish: Dance from Post-Colonial to Contemporary.
Dolores Duran-Cerda teaches Introduction to Literature in Spanish. “The class is taught exclusively in Spanish, and we analyze the symbols and metaphors in poetry and literature,” she said.
A tool available for every student is a language lab. There is a lab on every campus, with faculty willing to help with questions and concerns.
Bilingual education continues to play an integral role at PCC, allowing students to communicate with their neighbors and each other.