Chicano-Latino Experience series brings awareness of Chicano culture

Tuesday night, Nov. 4, the APU Department of Modern Languages continued its Chicano/Latino Experience series with a conversation on bilingualism theory, research and a Chicano’s journey. Dr. Pedro Olvera, the keynote speaker and associate professor in the Department of School Counseling and School Psychology, presented on his experiences as a Chicano academician.

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Dr. Pedro Olvera poses for picture after his conversation on the Chicano-Latino culture. Photo credit: Jessie Gomez

Olvera, a Mexican-American, opened by retelling his experiences growing up as a Chicano. During the presentation, Olvera stated that this was the first time he had used the term “Chicano” in a public forum.

Chicano is a wide-spread term that many Mexican-American’s choose to identify with. Prior to the Chicano movement in America, the term was not widely accepted within the Mexican-American community. The term became widely used during the Chicano movement to express an identity, of cultural, ethnic and community pride.

“Growing up, my dad would always tell me, you know that you are Mexican, right?” Olvera said. “The term ‘Chicano’ was a sort of derogatory term before.”

Olvera explained that his father would continuously remind him about his heritage and culture.

“Mexican-Americans don’t feel like they are full Mexican or full American. So this is what is called ‘the hyphen’ in society,” said the organizer of the series, professor Marcela Rojas.

Dr. Linda Chiang, professor in the School of Education, attended and expressed her deep connection with Olvera’s experiences as a child as well as the importance of bilingualism.

Olvera “talks a lot about school and education. This is a good way to raise awareness on how bilingualism is dealt with in our schools,” Chiang said. “[He] also mentioned how discrimination also happens within the same racial group.”

Olvera discussed various ways in which schools have incorporated bilingualism into their daily schooling.

“Many students are placed in special-education programs because the school system does not have programs to support these [Spanish-speaking] students,” said Olvera. “It’s not that they have a learning disability, they just don’t know the [English] language.”

According to Olvera, his kindergartener is currently enrolled in a dual-immersion program, which consists of 90 percent of instruction in Spanish and 10 percent of instruction in English. By the time his children reach the fifth grade, both English and Spanish instruction will be at 50 percent. Olvera stated that culture and language go together and cannot be separated.

“A big thing that we need to improve on is embracing bilingualism within the U.S.,” Olvera said. “We need more interconnectedness with one another in order to learn from each other, and I think that is the purpose of these conversations.”

This series is part of the Chicano and Latino conversations, which Rojas hopes sparks a larger discussion among APU students, faculty and administration.

“Two years ago I decided to start these conversations in the sense that I don’t think we have these conversations at this school,” Rojas said. “This school is changing and so many Hispanic people are coming to APU. I think we need to have these conversations.”

Rojas said she invites faculty members from varying departments on campus to speak in order to expand the discussion within other disciplines at APU.

“I started inviting professors from different departments and started to ask them, ‘What is your experience with Chicano culture?'” Rojas said. “I really like the conversation, and I would love to have more people coming.”

The Department of Modern Languages is planning sessions for the coming semester. For more information on the Chicano and Latino Experience series, contact professor Rojas in the Spanish department.

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