RECONSTRUCTING IDENTITY/REVISING RESISTANCE: A HISTORY OF NUEVOMEXICANO/A STUDENTS AT
RECONSTRUCTING IDENTITY/REVISING RESISTANCE:
A HISTORY OF NUEVOMEXICANO/A STUDENTS AT
NEW MEXICO HIGHLANDS UNIVERSITY, 1910-1973 by
Juan Martín Gallegos
Copyright © Juan Martín Gallegos 2013
A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
For the Degree of
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
WITH A MAJOR IN RHETORIC, COMPOSITION, AND THE TEACHING OF ENGLISH
In the Graduate College
THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
As members of the Dissertation Committee, we certify that we have read the dissertation prepared by Juan Martín Gallegos, entitled Reconstructing Identity/Revising Resistance: A
History of Nuevomexicano/a Students at New Mexico Highlands University, 1910-1973 and recommend that it be accepted as fulfilling the dissertation requirement for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
Date: April 16, 2014
Date: April 16, 2014
Thomas P. Miller
Date: April 16, 2014
Final approval and acceptance of this dissertation is contingent upon the candidate’s submission of the final copies of the dissertation to the Graduate College.
I hereby certify that I have read this dissertation prepared under my direction and recommend that it be accepted as fulfilling the dissertation requirement.
________________________________________________ Date: April 16, 2014
Dissertation Director: Damián Baca
STATEMENT BY AUTHOR
This dissertation has been submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of Arizona and is deposited in the University Library to be made available to borrowers under rules of the Library.
Brief quotations from this dissertation are allowable without special permission, provided that an accurate acknowledgement of the source is made. Requests for permission for extended quotation from or reproduction of this manuscript in whole or in part may be granted by the copyright holder.
SIGNED: Juan Martín Gallegos
First, I would like to thank the members of my committee, Drs. Damián Baca, Thomas P.
Miller, and Cristina Ramirez. Dr. Baca, for the constant encouragement and for planting the hope that someday some of these words might make it out into the world. It was an honor to have a fellow Nuevomexicano guide me through this process. Dr. Miller, who during our first comps meeting recommended getting the dissertation done in a year. I’m looking forward to getting back to New Mexico and getting to work. Dr. Ramirez, who, with her detailed marginal comments, encouraged the development of my academic prose, and who most importantly made me feel like the work was important.
To Ms. Lisa Quesenberry, for finding me the space to work when I needed that occasional escape from real world responsibility. I can’t measure the value of that quiet time.
To my family in Las Vegas. Auntie Joan, Uncle Arthur, and Grandpa Juan for helping us make the move to Tucson and Grandma Phyllis for her prayers. To my dad, Thomas F.
Gallegos, and mom, Martha J. Gallegos, there is just too much to list here. Thank you for keeping the home safe. I can’t wait to get back.
To my wife, Cathy, and my daughter, Angelica. For reminding me every day of what really matters. I’ve cherished this time in Tucson and could have never done it without you.
To my two favorite people in the world: the Big Brown Bear is in the house.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1: PRACTICES OF RESISTANCE, PRACTICES OF ACCOMMODATION:
COMPLICATING LATINO/A IDENTITY ………………………………………………….….9
Understanding Resistance ………………………………………………………………15
Constructing Latino/a Identity ………………………………………………………….18
A Brief Introduction to New Mexico Highlands University …………………………...24
CHAPTER 2: NEW INSTITUTIONS, NEW LITERACIES: CONSTRUCTING THE
Conquest and the Establishment of New Institutions …………………………………..33
The Nuevomexicano/a Press: Preserving Nuevomexicano/a Culture and Constructing
New Identities ………………………………………………………………….………..35
Institutions of Learning as Sites of Cultural Conflicts ………………………………….45
Composing on Campus …………………………………………………………………51
Constructing an Authentic Spanish Past ………………………………………………..55
CHAPTER 3: DISCIPLINES THAT DEFINE, INTERNATIONAL IDENTITIES, AND THE
SILENT REVOLUTION ………………………………………………………………..65
Context: the Depression and Federal Programs ………………………………………..69
Research and Specialization: Educational Research and the Problem of
Nuevomexicano/a Education ……………………………………………………………71
From Las Vegas to Peru: Latino/a Education, Pan-American Film, and Shifting
Nuevomexicano/a Identity ………………………………………………………………76
Southwest History: Erasing the Latino/a Perspective ………………………………….83
Veterans Return Home: Democracy, Social Justice, and Race ………………………..85
Forming Fraternities and Composing Constitutions: The Silent Nuevomexicano/a
CHAPTER 4: BLACK POWER, THE CHICANO/A MOVEMENT, AND THE
TRANSFORMATION OF NMHU ……………………………………………………..95
The Chicano/a Movement Comes to New Mexico ……………………………………..98
An Emerging Chicano/a Identity ………………………………………………………102
No Longer Silent: the Sit-in of 1970 ………………………………………………….108
La Vela, La Mecha: The Chicano/a School Newspaper …………….………………..116
Power to the People: Stuart, Price, and the Foundations of Public Protest at NMHU 125
The Development of Ethnic Studies …………………………………………………..134
CHAPTER 5: NMHU: A VISION REALIZED……………………………………………...139
Accommodation as Resistance ………………………………………………………...143
Student Population in the 2000s ……………………………………………………….147
The Results of Student Resistance ……………………………………………………..149
Rhetoric and Compositions: A Need for More Research ……………………………..155
Beyond NMHU ………………………………………………………………..............159
WORKS CITED ……….………………………………………………………………………162
This dissertation addresses the development of Nuevomexicano/a student identity at New
Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) during three periods: (1) New Mexico’s Territorial period and early statehood, (2) the 1940s, and (3) the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Nuevomexicano/a student identity was shaped through a process of accommodating to and resisting institutional powers. Since 1898, Nuevomexicano/a students have been active members of the university community, despite periods when they constituted a small portion of the student body and the institution’s frequent disregard for Nuevomexicano/a culture and language. As they participated in campus activities, Nuevomexicano/as reconstructed their individual and collective identities, appropriating terms such as Spanish or Chicano/a, as a rhetorical strategy to revise their relationships with the university. Extralocal institutions, including government institutions, national protest movements, and international organizations shaped public conversations about cultural identity. During the first two periods, students employed subtle strategies of resistance that included presenting speeches and reorganizing student government. Often labeled as accommodationist, these strategies represent viable rhetorical strategies that provided students access to dominant literacies, which were used to promote social change. In the 1970s,
Chicano/a students utilized more aggressive practices, such as a weeklong sit-in, to radically alter the institutional culture at NMHU. In the forty years since the sit-in, NMHU has developed into a university that supports its Nuevomexicano/a students and incorporates elements of their culture into the university’s social fabric.
CHAPTER 1: PRACTICES OF RESISTANCE, PRACTICES OF ACCOMMODATION:
COMPLICATING LATINO/A IDENTITY
This dissertation revises conceptualizations of accommodation and resistance by tracing the changing identities of Nuevomexicano/a
students at New Mexico Highlands University
(NMHU) from 1910 to 1973. Located in Las Vegas, NM, and designated a Hispanic-Serving
Institution (HSI) by the federal government, NMHU has historically offered Nuevomexicano/as access to postsecondary institutions and professional positions, and although they were underrepresented at the university through most of its history, Nuevomexicano/a students operated through authorized institutional organizations, such as the student government, fraternities, and the student press, to promote institutional change at NMHU, resisting restrictive, insensitive, or racist practices, while rarely publicly framing these activities as resistance. Since
1898, Nuevomexicano/a students have been active members of the university community, despite periods when they constituted a small portion of the student body and the institution’s frequent disregard for Nuevomexicano/a culture and language. As they participated in campus activities,
Nuevomexicano/as reconstructed their individual and collective identities, appropriating terms such as Spanish or Chicano/a, as a rhetorical strategy to revise their relationships with the university. Extralocal institutions, including government institutions such as the U.S. military, national protest movements, international organizations like the Office of Inter-American
In The Language of Blood, Nieto-Phillips explains the difficulties in determining an appropriate label for New
Mexicans who claim Spanish or Mexican descent. Because it is one term that the “New Mexico’s Spanish-speaking population” have historically used to label themselves, Nieto uses the term Nuevomexicano/a throughout his book. I will be using this term as a “neutral” term to describe New Mexicans who claim Spanish or Mexican descent. Of course, there can be no actually neutral term. However, Nuevomexicano/a is not loaded with the ideological weight of a term like Chicano/a, which rose to prominence as part of the Civil Rights Movement. I will use the term
Latino/a as a general designation for the broader national group of those claiming Spanish descent, including Cubans and Puerto Ricans. According to Jorge J.E. Garcia, Latino/a designates “persons of Latin American descent, regardless of their ancestry” (5). The question of nomenclature serves a significant role in this study, and terminology will shift accordingly in each chapter.
Affairs, and changing trends in academic disciplines, shaped public conversations about cultural identity, and campus activities proliferated ideologies of accommodation and resistance. Using
Dorothy Smith’s institutional ethnography to illustrate the relationships between extralocal institutions, and Nuevomexicano/a students as they engaged in everyday activities, such as writing speeches, publishing the school newspaper, attending school-sponsored lectures, and participating in student government, I argue that Nuevomexicano/a student identity was shaped through a process of accommodating to and resisting institutional powers. During this process,
Nuevomexicano/as engaged in activities that some would label as accommodationist. Practices and perspectives often labeled as accommodationist represent viable rhetorical strategies that provide Latino/as with access to dominant literacies, which can be used to agitate for social change, while resistance activities, involving the negotiation of university bureaucracy and the utilization of dominant literacies, often employed practices learned while accommodating to
American or Anglo institutions.
At each point in NMHU’s history, students rhetorically constructed their communal identity as Nuevomexicano/as, as college students, and as Nuevomexicano/as students. They constructed their identities by affiliating themselves with Nuevomexicano/as community, by engaging relevant Nuevomexicano/as issues that impact their communities inside and outside of the university. They constructed their identities as college students in the university, engaging in issues that impact all students, despite cultural background. Finally, they constructed their identities as Nuevomexicano/as college students by engaging those concerns that particularly impact them as Nuevomexicano/as at NMHU. Throughout this process, Nuevomexicano/a
I am alternating using the term American and Anglo throughout this dissertation. When writing of New Mexico prior to 1912, I am referring to White populations as Americans to reference the incoming White populations from the United States. These included Anglo-Americans and German and Irish immigrants. Eventually earning statehood in 1912, New Mexico remained a territory for 66 years. For periods after 1912, I will be using Anglo to reference White populations.
11 students reconstructed their public personas as they engaged relevant social and political issues, rhetorically renaming themselves according to their political need. Arguing for
Nuevomexicano/a political and linguistic equality, student Aurora Lucero refers to herself as
Spanish-American. After WWII, Donaldo “Tiny” Martinez does not make specific references to the Nuevomexicano/a community or to a larger Latino/a community. However, the activities of the Alpha Zeta Iota (AZI) fraternity, of whom Martinez was a member, show a clear understanding of their position as Nuevomexicano/as at NMHU. By restructuring the student government, AZI provide Nuevomexicano/a students a voice in campus politics. Before the onset of the Chicano/a Movements, students at NMHU referred to themselves as Spanish-
Americans, but drawing from the national Chicano/a Student Movement, Nuevomexicano/as relabeled themselves Chicano/as, and incorporated a more confrontational dimension to their resistance efforts.
In order to understand changing Nuevomexicano/a student identity and rhetorical strategies of resistance, we need a framework for analyzing how local events and everyday activities interact with pervasive institutions that exist outside of the local environment and one that integrates an understanding of ideology, institutional practices, and power. At NMHU, local activities, influenced by extralocal institutions, functioned to circulate ideologies of accommodation and resistance, shaping student identity. Sociologist Dorothy Smith’s institutional ethnography (IE) offers a methodology for understanding the everyday as a component of larger institutions and relations of power. Broadly describing her institutional ethnography, Smith explains that a person’s everyday life is “determined, shaped, organized by social processes beyond her experience and arising out of the interrelations of many such experienced worlds” (The Everyday World 134). Because everyday activities are shaped by
forces beyond their immediate experience and are organized by unobservable social relations,
12 institutional ethnography begins with the analysis of everyday, “with the activities of actual individuals whose activity produces the social relations that they live” (90). Everyday activities are not seen in isolation as solely local phenomenon but are connected to large social process that extend beyond the local and are viewed as part of the ruling order.
Institutional ethnography accounts for three elements working in conjunction: ideology, work, and social relations. Smith defines ideology as “those ideas and images through which the class that rules the society by virtue of its domination of the means of production orders, organizes, and sanctions the social relations that sustain its domination” (54). These ideas and images are not neutral; they are produced by specialists and people engaged in the process of ruling. For Smith, the means of production includes the production of knowledge, not simply the production of capital. Ideology is situated in the institutions that form “a complex of relations forming part of the ruling apparatus, organized around a distinctive function—education, health care, law, and the like” (160). Broadly, work is conceived as the everyday practices of active subjects. Although located in a temporal and concrete location, work is a transmitter of institutional ideologies and is transmitted through institutional discourses. For example, a teacher’s training has provided them with the vocabulary to assess student behavior as appropriate or inappropriate and provides the teacher with a set of specific responses to that behavior. Work is situated in a local setting, but this local setting is tied to larger complex systems of social relations. Drawing on Karl Marx, Smith defines social relations as “concerted sequences or courses of social action implicating more than one individual whose participants are not necessarily present or know to other” (155). Social relations exist at the core of local and extralocal interactions. In The Conceptual Practices of Power, Smith further clarifies social
relations, expanding on their use as an analytical device used to understand how local activities
13 as they are “articulated to social courses of action beyond the immediate, time, place, and complement of people” (151). By employing the concept of social relations, researchers can move beyond directly observable activity to ascertain the impact of external institutions on local institutions. Placed in relationship to each other, the three elements circulate dominant belief systems work functions to circulate ideologies, while ideologies organize social relations.
For example, in chapter 4, we will see that the Black Power Movement and Chicano/a movement influenced student writing in the school newspaper and the ways students chose to resist the policies that restricted Chicano/a influence on campus. Through the poetry and histories published in the school newspaper, students circulated Chicano/a ideologies, shaping identity to include Mexicano/a and Native American perspectives, and influenced by student protests throughout the nation, Chicano/a students employed an organized sit-in and occupation of the administration building in order to promote Chicano/a perspectives. The sit-in, supported by local educators and politicians, reorganized the social relationship between Chicano/as at
NMHU, empowering Chicano/a students. Although NMHU is a small university in a small town, Chicano/a students on campus contributed to a national shift in education, where the
Latino/a perspective became more substantial and influential than it had been in early generations.
IE’s focus on discourse lends itself to an application of the historical study of student writing. Drawing on Foucault, Smith defines discourse as “a conversation in which utterances are abstracted from particular participants located in particular spatiotemporal settings” (The
Everyday World 61). In an effort to understand the sociological implications of discourse, she disconnects the utterance from the speaker themselves. An understanding of how discourse
propagates institutional power is not dependent on the detachment of utterance and speaker. In
14 this dissertation, the written texts NMHU students represent larger social and cultural changes.
However, many of the authors we will be looking at maintain unique positions in New Mexican history. For example, Donald “Tiny” Martinez developed into a powerful New Mexican politician after he graduated NMHU and attended law school. Martinez’s career does not reflect the common Nuevomexicano’s.
More importantly, Smith conceives of discourse as an active component of social relations. Specifically, “texts organize relations within textual discourse, both with respect to how local happenings are entered into its interpretive practices and to how its social relations are organized” (Texts, Facts 123). At NMHU, local social relations were organized according to institutional practices beyond the university. In the 1940s, historiography of the Southwest excluded Mexican perspectives and shaped the local understanding of racism against
Nuevomexicano/as by failing to establish a common language for discussing local problems and for erasing historical trends. In addition, interpretive practices originating beyond the university framed the interpretation of events at the university. In the 1970s, those Chicano/a students engaged in the sit-in found their experience reinterpreted through the discursive practices of the press, who portrayed these students as violent.
Although the complicated relationship between Anglo institutions and Latino/a identity has historically been framed dichotomously as either assimilative/ accommodative and resistant, viewing cultural transformation as either limits the potential for understanding how Latino/a college students change as they negotiate postsecondary institutions, limits the potential for the emergence of new identities, and limits the utilization of strategies for transforming universities where Latino/as are not present, successful, or valued. It would be simplistic to merely see the
15 activities of Nuevomexicano/a students, who transformed NMHU from a university that did not initially serve the local Nuevomexicano/a community to one that concentrates on its
Nuevomexicano/a population, only as acts of accommodation or resistance. Instead,
Nuevomexicano/a strategies for changing NMHU arose from a history of accommodating to, adapting to, and resisting Anglo institutions, and varied according to their goals and the limitations of the times in which they lived.
Recognizing the association of rhetoric and power, rhetoric and composition, as a discipline, has recognized the writing classroom as a political space, where dominant discourses are proliferated and authority is negotiated. Historically, rhetorical education has provided ruling classes with the codes to maintain their political power, where “ruling groups in the West have usually understood, if only tacitly, that maintaining power requires the uses of rhetoric to win the assent of the governed” (Berlin xv). The relationship between power and rhetoric is not restricted to the proliferation of dominant discourses, and scholars in rhetoric and composition have investigated how students have utilized rhetoric to resist racism and inequity both inside and outside of the classroom. Focusing on the contributions of African-American writer Lydia
Maria Child and Native American writer Zitkala-Ša, scholar Jessica Enoch offers a number of options for understanding resistance as it is understood in rhetoric and composition.
For Enoch, resistance is primarily discursive, an act that takes place on the written page and the minds of readers. Resistance is a challenge to accepted norms, and does not necessarily provoke evident change to those engaged in the debate. While many of the situations Enoch writes about have changed over time, she does not attempt to argue that specific changes resulted
from the discursive activities of her subjects. Resistance represents the willingness to speak out
16 and is not measured in immediate changes. When explaining the role of Lydia Maria Child’s
The Freedman’s Book in the rhetorical education of newly freed slaves, Enoch offers the following as potential forms of resistance: “pushing against” social norms and values (48), employing a “rhetorical strategy of disruptive questioning” (63), “challenging oppressive conditions by interrogating social norms” (63), upsetting “the rhetorical concept of decorum”
(70), and resisting “the idea that they [formerly freed slaves] should follow the rules of dominant society’s rhetorical game” (71). In this chapter, resistance involves challenging social norms and dominant concepts and represents a way of thinking; however, it is not clear whether Child’s book succeeded in circulating these patterns of thinking. In another chapter, Enoch frames
Zitkala-Ša’s resistance as “a strategic critique of off-reservation Indian education in general and the Carlisle School more particularly” (73). Specifically, when Zitkala-Ša “resists her gendered role and speaks out against Carlisle’s educational narrative, she intervenes in the school’s iteration of rhetorical education by claiming what Scott Lyons has called ‘rhetorical sovereignity’” (74). Quoting Lyons, Enoch defines rhetorical sovereignity as ‘the inherent right of peoples to determine their own communicative needs and desires . . . to decide for themselves the goals, modes, styles, and languages of public discourse” (75). Zitkala-Ša resists forms of colonial education through her public writing by “complicating understandings of the corporeality of rhetorical education” (117). Finally Child and Zitkala-Ša, “refigure historical perceptions of the docile and apolitical female teacher but also connect with and revise traditional understandings of rhetorical education” (166) and challenge “the expectations of whiteness in the figure of the female teacher” (170).
Henry A. Giroux’s theories of radical pedagogies correspond with Enoch’s representations of resistance. Giroux explains that resistance “must have a revealing function,
17 one that contains a critique of domination and provides theoretical opportunities for selfreflection and for struggle in the interest of self-emancipation and social emancipation” (109).
Oppositional behavior itself does not constitute resistance if it attempts to repress social contradictions, so the act of speaking out does not constitute resistance if speaking does not call attention to emancipation and social justice. In addition, “the value of the resistance construct lies in its critical function, in its potential to speak to the radical possibilities embedded in its own logic and to the interests contained in the object of its expression” (109). I believe, that by using Enoch’s sense of resistance, the activities of Nuevomexicano/as in each chapter of this dissertation could be described as acts of resistance. However, Giroux’s framework for understanding resistance, while largely in line with Enoch’s, does complicate the potential for describing them as resistant. Because this dissertation focuses on the public writing of
Nuevomexicano/a students often communicating through institutionally sanctioned spaces, we do not always see the public “critique of domination” that Giroux describes. It is not until the 1960s that NMHU students begin to employ these sanctioned spaces to resist the institutional practices that they regarded as discriminatory. Instead of seeking out the public critique, we must also consider the how students negotiate the university to promote change.
Just as it is naive to view the activities of Nuevomexicano/a students solely as resistance, it is also one-dimensional to view the activities of students at NMHU as accommodation or assimilation. As NMHU graduates, Aurora contributed to Nuevomexicano/a culture by conserving cultural activities in her folkloric publications, while Tiny used his substantial political power to defend the rights of NMHU students in the 1970s. Their time at NMHU
inevitably affected their professional positions after they graduated. At NMHU, Aurora and
Tiny maintained their Nuevomexicano/a identities, while acquiring the discursive practices to advance their careers. According to Giroux, “Schools produce social formations around class, gender, and racial exploitation, but at the same time they contain contradictory pluralities that generate possibilities for both mediation and the contestation of dominant ideologies and practices” (115). NMHU’s location in a Nuevomexicano/a community and its future designation as a HSI provides elevated possibilities as Nuevomexicano/a students balance the influences of dominant ideologies with their shifting identities.
Constructing Latino/a Identity
Over the last thirty years, Latino/a scholars have framed the Latino/a college experience as the negotiation of identities, as the conflict between home and academic culture, and as the accumulation of new academic literacies. Drawing on their personal experiences in academia, scholars like Juan Guerra have identified the acquisition of transcultural rhetorics as a vital component of a successful Latino student’s academic performance. Guerra defines one transcultural practice as transcultural repositioning, a rhetorical skill “that members of our community must self-consciously regulate and not simply intuitively, if they wish to move back and forth with ease and comfort between and among different languages and dialects, different social classes, different cultural and artistic forms” (8). Describing his experiences, Guerra implies that the ability to move back and forth develops from exposure to different communities and learning to communicate within these communities. Students who develop transcultural rhetorics “develop the ability to decide what to do in particular contexts” that then allows them to
“create new uses of language and rhetorical gestures within old contexts, as well as new ones”
(Rodriguez Connal 215-16). Central to transcultural literacy practices is the ability to adapt to
19 new institutions and new audiences. This ability coincides with the Latino/a ability to employ a variety of labels to self-identify. Depending on the circumstances, Guerra has referred to himself as chicano, hispano, latino, tejano, mexicano americano, mexicano, and Hispanic.
Discussions of transcultural rhetorics have been confined to understanding how student writers compose academic discourse and how they could successfully maintain their home language and develop a new academic identity. However, we do not have a sense of how
Latino/a students have written historically, and how they have balanced academic and home identities. Rhetoricians such as John Hammerback have analyzed the rhetoric of Cesar Chavez.
As a renowned social activist and orator, Chavez’s rhetoric has had a broad impact on the
Chicano movement. However, Chavez’s activities are restricted to a short period and may not reflect the rhetorical practices of those who have not achieved his stature. Narratives like
Villanueva’s Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color have provided us with a limited historical understanding of Latino/a literacy practices. Born in 1948, Villanueva’s college experience spans the late 1970s to the mid 1980s. Don Paul Abbot, Walter Mignolo, and Ronald
J. Morgan have researched how the conjunction of Spanish and indigenous literacies changed the
Latin American identities in the 16 th
centuries, while Bernardo P. Gallegos has studied literacy practices in New Mexico between 1693 and 1821. Villanueva and Baca’s Rhetorics of
the Americas: 3114 BCE to 2012 CE has offered a significant contribution to understanding of the rhetorics of the Western Hemisphere.
Rhetoric and composition’s understanding of how Latino/a students employ transcultural rhetorics primarily springs from personal narratives produced by scholars such as Victor
Villanueva, Guerra, Raul Ybarra, and Diana Cardenas. Our understanding of Latino/a writers to
this point has been established through personal narrative that is framed through personal, self-
20 reflective rhetorical analysis. Personal narrative and ethnography have been relevant in helping us understand developing Latino/a writers, how identity and language interact, and the politics of literacy education but these studies and methodologies are limited. Frequently represented as struggling writers, Latino/a college students have not been recognized as competent public rhetors who successfully exhibit an understanding of dominant literacies. Instead, scholars have solely focused on negotiation, accommodation, acculturation, assimilation, or resistance as it occurs as students engage classroom practices. Latino/as are almost always represented as outsiders, not as insiders engaging academic and public institutions. They are initially controlled by new literacy practices, eventually mastering them.
In Bootstraps, Victor Villanueva describes the difficulties of accumulating these literacies and navigating academic institutions where Latino/as have not traditionally been successful. Villanueva’s experience typifies the experiences of other Latino/a scholars and exemplifies a transcultural rhetorical paradigm. As a child, Villanueva develops an interest in reading and writing, but eventually drops out of school and is later drafted to Vietnam. After the war, he starts a family, and returns to school, where he is impacted by Floyd, a writing teacher with a critical pedagogy. Villanueva earns an AA and moves on to his BA. Motivated by a low essay, he begins to teach himself to write, all while balancing life as a husband and father. His minority status earns him a place in a graduate program, where his writing difficulties continue.
He discovers rhetoric, and moves on to his PhD. Poverty remains a part of his life throughout his educational career, even after he becomes a professor. Villanueva’s narrative is a tale of success, where he negotiates his place in the academic community, and learns the conventions of academic literacy. Because of his training as a rhetoric and composition scholar, Villanueva is
able to frame his transformation through rhetorical and linguistic models, all while recognizing
21 the realities of racism in the American educational system.
Villanueva’s narrative standardized rhetoric and composition’s approaches for understanding the Latino/a college student. Within his account are the essential elements of the recognized Latino/a college experience. Broadly, the Latino/a experience in the personal narrative is expressed as the following plot: a poor student, sometimes monolingual in Spanish, either growing up in the barrio or as migrant farm worker, struggles through a racist academic institutional system, and eventually overcomes the limitations of their linguistic heritage, usually with the support of an understanding instructor. Through this process, writers exist in a liminal state, feeling alienated from their home communities and unsure of their position in academia.
Dorothy Smith’s conceptualization of regulatory texts provide us an understanding of how Villanueva’s narrative has established a narrative for understanding Latino/a students and for rhetoric and compositions approach to writing about Latino/as. According to Smith, research acts as “coordinators of institutional activity which texts regulate other texts” (“Incorporating
Texts” 79). As winner of the 1995 David H. Russell Award for research, Bootstraps is recognized by the discipline as significant contributor to scholarship, and it functions as a
“regulatory text,” a text that “regulate[s] and standardize[s] texts that enter directly into the organization of work in multiple settings” (79). As a regulatory text, Bootstraps determines that
Latino/as are typically outsiders. Building on Villanueva’s use of the personal narrative,
Latino/a researchers use their own experiences to report their sense of alienation and how they have adapted to their situations with the Latino/a as outsider, who experiences a conflict between home culture and academic ways of thought, becoming our guiding. Knowing little about the
Latino/a students in the class, the informed instructor familiar with the research and with the
22 narrative of authenticity it produces, pictures Latino/a students as a young Victor Villanueva, or a young Raul Ybarra, or a young Diana Cardenas. Because we have not researched and written about successful Latino/a college writers or Latino/as who do not necessarily view their ethnicity as the primary lens for self-identity, we have erased a diverse group of students from our scholarship. To be clear, I am not diminishing the experiences of Villanueva and others, as their narratives are a starting point for understanding Latino/a writers. However, the accumulation of similar narratives produces an essentialist characterization of Latino/a students and scholars and constructs an authentic Latino/a experience according to which others are compared. This narrative of authenticity limits the potential for understanding a wide range of Latino/a writers.
Scholars in rhetoric and composition are yet to produce a base of knowledge concerning monolingual English-speaking students or students who are not first-generation or poor.
In addition, this characterization produces an additional level of marginalization, where those Latino/as whose histories or politics do not match the model find themselves on the edges of Latino/a society by regulating who is considered an authentic member of the community. As a politically conservative Republican, Nuevomexicana Linda Chavez, who has served in positions in President Reagan’s and President H. W. Bush’s administrations, has throughout her career argued against programs like Affirmative Action, claiming that they promote a culture of entitlement and dependence. Contributing to her conservatism, Chavez’s college experiences in the 1960s and the 1970s reflect a pattern of exclusion, with other Latino/as ostracizing her because of her skin color, language practices, and her marriage to a Jewish man. As an English instructor at the University of California-Los Angeles in 1970, Chavez found the Chicano/a students resistant to her teaching Chicano/a literature. Called a “honky” by her students, who said she talked “like a gabacho” (An Unlikely Conservative 73), Chavez later found herself the
target of a campaign of harassment that included somebody defecating in her car, threats that a
23 bomb would be placed in her car, and being woken from sleep at night by scraping on her window. The harassment only stopped when leaders of the local MEChA (Movimiento
Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán), a Chicano/a student organization group, threatened to beat those who were involved. Chavez explained her relationship with her Chicano/a students and those who harassed her, writing” in their eyes I was a traitor. I had married an Anglo, adopted Anglo values, and was accepted in the Anglo world” (83). Comparing Chavez to an essentialist model of Latinidad, students did not recognize a Hispanic, the term Chavez uses to describe herself, who as an instructor was there to help them or as fellow Latino/a who was proving herself successful in the American educational system. The narrative of authenticity continued to impact Chavez as she continued with her education, resulting in the loss of a Ford Foundation fellowship for underrepresented students because she “hadn’t lived up to their image of what a disadvantaged Mexican American looked, sounded, or behaved like” (66). Her high GRE scores, her decision to “study Samuel Beckett instead of Octavio Paz” (66), her lack of accent, and her light skin, compounded by her inability to speak Spanish, moved her into a category where the fellowship committee denied her Hispanic identity.
Although personal narratives have been invaluable in contributing to understanding how successful Latino/as have navigated educational institutions, they have inadvertently produced a narrative of authenticity that produces a model for Latinidad that potentially marginalizes
Latino/as that do not conform to the model within their own communities. Authenticity erases the potentiality for cultural change, for strategies for resisting institutionalized racism, and for basic survival offered by accommodation. In The Decolonial Imaginary, Emma Pérez, recognizes that “few have probed how assimilation may be a tactic, an interstitial move for
survival” (81). It is from observations such as Pérez’s that Latino/a scholars can draw lines of
24 inquiry for understanding Latino/a experience that take historical context into consideration and recognize a multitude of identities.
A Brief Introduction to New Mexico Highlands University
On February 6, 1893, New Mexico Territorial Councilor Albert Fall introduced Council
Bill No. 20, which promoted the establishment and maintenance of a normal school in Silver
City, New Mexico. In response, Councilors Felix Martinez and John D. Veeder, both of Las
Vegas, New Mexico, argued for the establishment of a normal school in Las Vegas. American expansion into New Mexico in the 19 th
century resulted in an economic boom in both cities.
With the opening of the Santa Fe Trail in 1821 and the arrival of the train in 1879, Las Vegas had developed into the center of commerce in New Mexico, and the discovery of silver near
Silver City provided the city with a substantial source of income. Martinez and Veeder contended that Las Vegas was better equipped to support the normal school, while Fall maintained that Silver City was the most progressive city in New Mexico and that Grant County boasted the most diligent taxpayers (Vigil 20). The debates between Martinez and Veeder, representatives from northeastern New Mexico, and Fall, from the southwest, continued throughout the morning. After the lunch recess, Martinez called for resolution to the issue, asking the Territorial Council to consider two options, Fall’s argument for a school in Silver City and Martinez’s support of schools in both cities. Unexpectedly, Councilor James (Santiago)
Hubbell motioned for the dismissal of both Fall’s and Martinez’s proposals, offering Los Lunas as a centrally located site for the normal university. Hubbell’s motion failed, but resulted in the adoption of Martinez’s amendment and the establishment of New Mexico Normal School in Las
Vegas and New Mexico Western State Teachers College (now Western New Mexico University) in Silver City.
Local politics and funding problems stalled the opening of New Mexico Normal School
(renamed New Mexico Normal University in 1902 and then New Mexico Highlands University in 1941). The difficulties of determining where to build the school reflected the divisions between the established Nuevomexicano/a community and arriving Americans. At the time, Las
Vegas consisted of two municipal governments. On the west side of the Gallinas River lived the the Nuevomexicano/a community who settled the area, while Americans built their city along the train tracks on the east side of the river. The struggle to claim the university resulted in the placement of the school along the east banks of the Gallinas. When students arrived for classes in
October 1898, Springer Hall was still under construction.
Despite its slow start, NMHU has significantly impacted the educational history of
Nuevomexicano/as. Its location in a historically Latino community opened up new opportunities for a population that to this point had no established system of education. The population itself would impact the evolution of the university from 19 th
century teaching school to a Hispanic-
Serving Institution (HSI) in the 21 st
century. Although established to serve the local population,
NMHU initially remained largely isolated from the Nuevomexicano/a community, and failed to recognize the presence of Nuevomexicano/a students. The first recognition of the NMHU’s location in a Nuevomexicano/a community occurred in 1910 when the new women’s dormitory was named La Casa de Ramona (Vigil 38). Still, the dorm was named after a character in Helen
Hunt Jackson’s popular 1884 novel, Ramona, and not after a local community member. The university ignored local history, choosing instead a fictitious romantic figure. Perhaps administrators attempted to acknowledge their Nuevomexicano/a students, but they instead
erased the presence of the local community. It did not regularly admit Nuevomexicano/a students until the 1920s, and did not hire its first permanent Nuevomexicano/a faculty member
26 until 1918 (39). When Felix Martinez gave the commencement speech in 1914, only one of thirty-eight graduates were Spanish-surnamed (39). Over the last 120 years, NMHU has evolved into an institution that serves all New Mexican populations. As of 2008, NMHU boasted a 50%
Latino student body, with Native Americans composing 7% of the population and African-
Americans an additional 4%. In addition, NMHU was listed at 43 of the top 100 schools for awarding masters degrees to Latinos (“Self-Study” 14).
The establishment of NMHU exemplifies a trend of institutional changes in New Mexico that started in the 19 th
Century. The arrival of the Americans resulted in the formation, diffusion, and integration of new institutions to Nuevomexicano/a society. These institutions brought new literacy practices with them, transforming the local community. With more access to the printing press, Nuevomexicano/as adapted newspapers for their own purposes. Changing public literacy practices and government mandates resulted in the establishment of a state school system and the establishment of post-secondary institutions. As part of the new educational system, NMHU offered Nuevomexicano/as access to dominant discourses and eventual access to positions of power in the emerging American political structure. Although it has opened opportunities to
Nuevomexicano/as, NMHU’s history represents a struggle between Nuevomexicano/as interesting in maintaining their culture and progressing in new American institutions and those institutions that either disregarded their culture or attempted to alter or eradicate it.
The history of Nuevomexicano/as at NMHU represents a history of negotiation, accommodation, and resistance. This dissertation will examine student activities in three time periods when Nuevomexicano/a student writing and activities illustrated changing relationships
27 with the university and extralocal institutions, and when these relationships resulted in the emergence of new student identities and strategies of resistance. Throughout this process,
Nuevomexicano/a students reconstructed their public identities as they engaged relevant social and political issues, rhetorically renaming themselves according to their political need, and using the literacies they acquired in the university to challenge practices that marginalized
Nuevomexicano/as. As part of this dissertation, I challenge scholars of rhetoric and composition and of the histories of Latino/as to see accommodation and resistance operating simultaneously and challenge representations of cultural authenticity.
In particular, the activities of Nuevomexicano/a students at NMHU represent the simultaneous operation of accommodation and resistance. Chapter 2 reviews the establishment of American institutions, and the introduction of new literacy practices, which disseminated
American culture and were appropriated by Nuevomexicano/as as they resisted American hegemony, while also attempting to preserve their own culture. The writing of Aurora Lucero, as a student in 1910 and later as a folklore scholar, propagated an authentic Spanish identity as a rhetorical device to resist American dominance but which also erased Nuevomexicano/as Native
American heritage. In Chapter 3, I will be looking at the 1940s, when in the years following
WWII, Donaldo “Tiny” Martinez served as editor of The Candle, the student newspaper, and published articles that engaged issues of social justice more readily than in the years before the war. Despite his concern for social justice, Tiny rarely engaged Latino/a issues in the school newspaper, and following the erasure of a Nuevomexicano/a perspective in Southwest history at the time, he published articles about African-American and Native American matters. On campus, Nuevomexicano/as engaged in authorized forms of resistance, using their knowledge of the university bureaucracy to increase their authority on campus and to elevate the presence of
Nuevomexicano/as on campus, without publicly calling attention to their efforts. Influenced by professors and administrators who specialized in Latin American systems of education, students turned to Pan-Americanism as a way of understanding their Latino/a identities, while rarely using a particular term to describe themselves. In Chapter 4, I will look at the 1970s, when students directly engaged Latino/a issues and showed solidarity with the Chicano Movement by relabeling themselves as Chicano/as. In the weeks following the Kent State Massacre, NMHU students peacefully protested the university’s decision to hire an Anglo president rather than a
Latino/a one. These protests resulted in the eventual hiring of a Latino president as well as the establishment of an ethnic studies program, reflecting a change where Nuevomexicano/as moved from the margins of campus culture to the center. Chapter 5 projects forward from the 1970s to the 2000s and 2010s, when NMHU has established cultural and academic programs that support and value its Latino/a population. In order to build on local history and culture, I offer a localbased pedagogy for NMHU and for other HSIs. The successful transformation of NMHU into a university that serves its local communities is built on the activities of Nuevomexicano/a students, who employed a variety of strategies to resist those policies that marginalized them.
CHAPTER 2: NEW INSTITUTIONS, NEW LITERACIES: CONSTRUCTING THE
On December 29, 1910, sixteen year old Aurora Lucero stood on the stage of Ilfeld
Auditorium on the NMHU campus (then New Mexico Normal University) and presented her speech “Shall the Spanish Language be Taught in the Schools of New Mexico?” and argued for the preservation of the Spanish language and culture. Presented during a contest sponsored by the Interscholastic Oratorical Association, approximately six months after the signing of the
1910 Enabling Act by President William Howard Taft and about a month after the drafting of a
New Mexico state constitution, Lucero called on her audience to “see to it that the Spanish language is not driven from the public schools of New Mexico” (“Shall the Spanish Language”).
Spanish newspapers translated and published Lucero’s speech, and after receiving multiple requests for information on the contest, NMHU printed and distributed copies of the speech.
When considering the influence of Aurora’s father, Antonio, who worked as assistant editor for the popular newspaper La Voz del Pueblo, the preeminent Spanish newspaper, which published down the street from NMHU, who taught Spanish literature as a member of the NMHU faculty, and who would later be elected New Mexico Secretary of State, it is not surprising that Lucero would continue to impact Nuevomexicano/a culture for the next fifty years.
Aurora’s speech and her career as an educator and folklorist are representative of changing Nuevomexicano literacies and cultural identity during the Territorial Period and early years of statehood when American institutions established themselves in New Mexico. With the new entrenchment of these new institutions, specifically the press and the schools, emerged new genres and technologies that expanded new literacy practices that operated to Americanize
Nuevomexicano/as while providing them with new opportunities to maintain their culture and
30 resist Americanization. The substantial escalation of print after the arrival of immigrating
Americans increased the use of English in Spanish-speaking Las Vegas and provided
Nuevomexicano/a editors, publishing in Spanish and English, with the technology for endorsing
Nuevomexicano/a perspectives, preserving local history, and promoting Nuevomexicano/a literature. Coupled with the proliferation of print institutions, American educational institutions slowly embedded themselves into the lives of Nuevomexicano/as, inciting the debate over whether Spanish or English should be the language of instruction. The process by which
American institutions implanted themselves into the daily lives of Nuevomexicano/as integrated them into larger American culture and American language practices, while also providing them the means to resist cultural assimilation. During this process, Nuevomexicano/as reshaped their cultural identity, employing a Spanish identity as an effort to argue for statehood.
Although in later chapters I will focus more on activities on the NMHU campus, in this chapter I will concentrate on the changing ecology of literacy in New Mexico to establish how early interactions between American extralocal institutions, which were introduced to New
Mexico, transformed Nuevomexicano/as, yet were also employed by Nuevomexicano/as as a form of resistance to Americanization. The dichotomy of accommodating to American institutions by learning English, establishing schools, and publishing newspapers, while also utilizing these same institutions to resist Americanization offers new perspectives for revising our understanding of accommodation and resistance, whereby accommodation and resistance operate simultaneously as literacy practices that preserved and transformed Nuevomexicano/a identity.
David Barton’s ecological model for literacy provides scholars with a lens for understanding the complex interactions of academic and civic institutions. Barton’s ecological perspective “examines the social and mental embeddedness of human activities in a way which allows change . . . [that] involves a shift to studying literacy, a shift of social practices associated with particular systems and their related technologies” (32). When utilizing an ecological perspective of literacy, researchers understand literacy as an activity connected with other components of society, and “Rather than isolating literacy activities from everything else in order to understand them, an ecological approach aims to understand how literacy is embedded in other human activity, its embeddedness in social life and in thought and its position in history, in language and in learning” (32). Literacies are situated in different domains, in so far as the literacies circulate and operate in complex systems, “made up of many elements which interact with each other repeatedly” (31). Literacy practices are propagated and fostered by the institutions they inhabit, and “[p]articular definitions of literacy and their associated literacy practices are nurtured by these institutions (42). In addition, “Different institutions define and influence different aspects of literacy or different literacies” (42) An ecological perspective promotes an understanding of how literacy functions systematically, as the interactions of related literacy acts in local and nonlocal contexts.
Barton’s ecological perspective of literacy recognizes the historical, social, and institutional components of literacy. His perspective corresponds with Smith’s understanding of discourse in institutional ethnography (IE) and provides a framework for understanding how changing literacy impacted the everyday lives of Nuevomexicanos/as. The three elements of IE, ideology, work, and social relations, link the changing everday lives of Nuevomexicano/as to national and international contexts, and “the intersection of everyday local settings and the
abstracted, extralocal ruling relations is mediated by the materiality of printed and electronic
32 texts” (Writing the Social 73). Emerging institutions and their literacies, shaping the everyday lives of Nuevomexicano/as reading the daily newspaper or attending a local school, introduced
American ideologies and produced new ideologies. Racist ideologies, represented in racist representations of Nuevomexicano/as, and the emergence of English as the dominant public language, produced Nuevomexicano/a ideologies of racial purity and cultural authenticity. A
Spanish identity, erasing mestizo/a and Native American influences, emerged in the local newspapers and in Aurora’s speech and later research on Nuevomexicano/a folklore and culture.
In her publications, Lucero positioned the rural Hispano/as, “persons of Spanish speech” as the authentic representation of Nuevomexicano/as (Los Hispanos 3). Aurora’s speech directly responded to racist ideologies while arguing for Nuevomexicano/a integration into the United
States, and her later writing, based on the belief of a disappearing Spanish culture, looked to the past for a model of an authentic Nuevomexicano/a culture.
After surveying changing literacy practices in Las Vegas and New Mexico, I will take a closer look at NMHU during 1910-11, when Aurora presented her speech. First, I will situate
Aurora’s speech in larger conversations of language, education, and identity that reflect developing Nuevomexicano/a institutions. Despite her age, Lucero directly involves herself in public debates that will shape Nuevomexicano/a identity. Next, drawing on research on postsecondary American rhetorical education, I will position NMHU rhetorical curriculum as one that reflects progressive national trends. By providing NMHU students with a rhetorical education congruent to those offered in other programs, writing instructors promoted institutionalized American scholarly writing. Finally, I will look forward into Aurora’s career as a folklorist and educator. Working within the disciplinary framework of folklore, Lucero strove
to preserve a Nuevomexicano/a culture that was threatened by the escalating dominance of
American culture. Her position as a Nuevomexicana folklorist reveals the emergence of the
Nuevomexicano/a scholar and professional within an American system and the importance of the minority scholar in sustaining a Nuevomexicano/a perspective.
Conquest and the Establishment of New Institutions
Established through a Mexican land grant in 1835 by residents of nearby San Miguel del
Vado, Las Vegas, New Mexico developed into an important stop along the Santa Fe Trail, making it one of the first stops in the American conquest of the Southwest. On August 15, 1846,
General Stephen Kearney entered Las Vegas, which was still a small Nuevomexicano/a village, stood atop the building along the plaza that currently houses the music store, Casa de Musica, and claimed Las Vegas as property of the United States. Although he claimed that he came as a friend and not an enemy and that Nuevomexicano/a rights would be preserved, Kearney also warned that any who opposed him would be hanged (Callon 20). Leaving a small detachment of soldiers in Las Vegas, Kearney moved on to the capital in Santa Fe, introducing American military control to New Mexico.
Unable to immediately resist Kearney’s better trained and better equipped army,
Nuevomexicano/as and members of the Taos Pueblo waited until January 1847 to begin their rebellion, when they murdered and scalped Territorial Governor Charles Bent. Over the following month, the resistance battled American troops in the areas between Santa Fe and Taos; specifically, in three battles at Santa Cruz de La Cañada (where Nuevomexicano/as had revolted against Mexican control ten years earlier), El Embudo Pass, and Taos, where bombarded by artillery, the resistance surrendered. On the east side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains,
Nuevomexicano/as in Mora revolted, when after an initial victory, they were defeated and Mora and its surrounding wheat fields were razed. With the American army using Las Vegas as a military post during the insurrection, the people of Las Vegas did not involve themselves in the uprising. In 1851, three year after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the U.S. military built Fort Union along the Santa Fe Trail north of Las Vegas with a dual purpose of subduing the Comanche, Apache, and Ute who raided traders along the Santa Fe Trail, and of establishing a strong show of military force in Northern New Mexico. The failure of the Taos and Mora Revolts limited Nuevomexicano/a options for resistance, and although some groups attempted small-scale militant resistance in the coming fifty years, armed resistance would not be an option in the future. Instead, Nuevomexicano/a survival depended on their ability to negotiate emerging American institutions.
The railroad connected Las Vegas to the United States, leading to an economic boon and an increase in American-Nuevomexicano/a interactions. With the arrival of the railroad on July
4, 1879, Americans flooded into Las Vegas, establishing a separate community on the east side of the Gallinas River and separating themselves from the Nuevomexicano/as who had settled on the west banks. The two communities remained politically separate for almost a hundred years with different mayors and administrative institutions and municipal services until they consolidated in 1970. To this day, the town continues to maintain independent school systems with individual school boards and superintendents, and the bridge that connects West and East
Las Vegas continues to be an important symbol of separation to the people of Las Vegas.
The arrival of the Americans resulted in the formation, diffusion, and integration of new institutions to Nuevomexicano/a culture. Changing systems of literacies acted both as a source for assimilation and as a technology for resistance. With the increasing presence of Americans
during New Mexico’s territorial period, two Las Vegas institutions, the press and the schools,
35 transformed Nuevomexicano/as in Las Vegas into American citizens. With more access to the printing press, Nuevomexicano/as adapted newspapers for their own purposes; however, the newspaper also acted to assimilate Nuevomexicano/as to American culture. Changing literacy practices and government mandates resulted in the establishment of a state school system and the establishment of post-secondary institutions like NMHU, whose missions included the training of secular educators. The press, a public based literacy, blended Spanish culture and language practices, but the university supported dominant literacies that in its early years failed to recognize the Spanish community that it served. The press transformed Nuevomexicano/as culture by altering everyday language practices and by serving as a tool for Nuevomexicano/a cultural preservation. The university advanced formal, school literacies by training teachers, who with time entered the Nuevomexicano/a community and changed language practices and legitimized Anglo-American language practices.
The Nuevomexicano/a Press: Preserving Nuevomexicano/a Culture and Constructing New
The arrival of the Americans resulted in the proliferation of print and reading that had not been a part of Nuevomexicano/a culture before, opening opportunities for the construction of new public identities. Between 1879 and 1900, forty-four different newspaper presses were established in Las Vegas with 294 papers established in the territory (Stratton 24-25). In contrast, no papers had been established during the Spanish period, and only three published during the Mexican period (Stratton 1). During the territorial period, Nuevomexicano/as found themselves in a contradictory position attempting to acquire statehood while maintaining their
36 culture. As they argued for inclusion, they maintained that they shared commonalities with
Americans, while disputing accusations of illiteracy and ignorance. For example, “The Chicago
Tribune referred to New Mexico’s population as ‘not American, but ‘Greaser,’ persons ignorant of our laws, manners, customs, language, and institutions.’ Nuevomexicano/as were accused of being lazy, shiftless, and ‘grossly illiterate and superstitious’” (Larson 148). Negative representations of Nuevomexicano/a culture halted their efforts: “An unfortunate but instinctive distrust of New Mexico’s essentially foreign culture was the last and most durable brick added to the strong wall of opposition that prevented the territory from joining the Union until 1912”
(304). Nuevomexicano/a efforts to prove their worth included the composition of a state constitution in 1889, participation in the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, as well as the conscious positive representation of themselves in the New Mexico press. It is in this context where Nuevomexicano/as are both yearning to portray themselves positively to mainstream white
America, and where they battled to maintain their culture that the press proves to be especially vital.
Spanish-language newspapers operated in ways similar to the English newspapers but presented a distinctly Nuevomexicano/a perspective, including voicing support for groups like
Las Gorras Blancas, a local vigilante group who resisted American land policies in the late
1880s and early 1890s by pulling up railroad tracks, burning buildings, cutting barbed wire fences, and by threatening their opposition with violence. Early American journalistic efforts served the purpose of introducing American culture to Nuevomexicano/as. American journalists, writing in English, encountered a firmly entrenched Nuevomexicano/a political structure and adapted. Melendez explains, “Anglo editors and publishers quickly came to understand that the predominance of the Spanish language among the majority of the citizens of the territory meant
37 that the ‘American’ press would need to respond to this linguistic reality by publishing materials in Spanish” (23). Unable to read or write in Spanish, American editors hired Nuevomexicano/as as “associate editors, translators, and printers” (23). The role of Spanish in the press diminished in the 20 th
century. La Voz exemplifies changes in language use from its establishment in 1889 and its termination in 1925. La Voz began publishing when Spanish literacy still dominated, but stopped publishing once English literacy ascended to dominance.
To view this transformation solely as an accommodative process with Nuevomexicano/a
Las Vegans submitting to dominant American literacy and educational institutions is an uncomplicated perspective view that fails to consider the role of Nuevomexicano/as in establishing these systems, and places all agency in the Americans moving into an area with a deeply entrenched political system. Nuevomexicano/as did not solely work for American editors and eventually established presses of their own. The press opened opportunities for
Nuevomexicano/as to express themselves in their own language, reaching a large constituency.
A network of Nuevomexicano/as worked together to establish a Spanish press and also worked to establish the normal school. This network influenced the superimposing of American educational and governmental institutions, shaping them to serve local needs. Felix Martinez, the owner of La Voz del Pueblo, the most popular Spanish newspaper in New Mexico, lobbied for the establishment of the university and is called the “Father of the Normal University.”
Working with Martinez at the newspaper were Ezequiel C de Baca and Antonio Lucero,
Aurora’s father. Ezequiel, whose great-grandfather was the original settler of the Las Vegas
Land Grant, was voted the state’s first Lieutenant Governor in 1912 and the first Nuevomexicano governor in 1917. Jerry Apodaca, elected in 1974, was the second. Ezequiel’s dedication to the education of Nuevomexicano/as is reflected in his participation in local mutualistas, the Sociedad
Literateria y de Ayuda Mutua (Spanish Literacy and Mutual Aid Society) and the Sociedad Por
la Protección de Educación (Society for the Protection of Education), both of which promoted the education of the economically disadvantaged (Arellano 22-23). Lucero served as secretary of state in 1912 and later worked as Professor of Spanish Literature at NMHU. In their roles as academics, educators, journalists, and politicians, these men participated in a network of
Nuevomexicano/as who formed an educated, professional class.
Two groups of Nuevomexicano/as stood out in the development of these institutions, wealthy land owners whose positions had been entrenched in local political systems for generations, and a developing educated group of New Mexican writers and newspaper editors.
The two were not mutually exclusive groups as there surely was some of interconnection between the two groups; however, it would be simplistic to think of cultural relationships as being solely between Nuevomexicano/as and Americans solely, as being “brown” versus
“white.” Meyer argues that ricos (the rich) frequently allied themselves with Americans to build their wealth to the detriment of other Nuevomexicano/as; politics and wealth trumped ethnicity.
One well-regarded newspaper publisher, Enrique Salazar, was the step-son of a member of the
Santa Fe Ring, a cadre of wealthy land speculators.
Las Vegas newspapers were tied directly to Nuevomexicano/a politics. Meyer attributes the strong continued Nuevomexicano/a presence in New Mexico politics and business to these presses:
The Spanish language press survived in the New Mexico borderlands long enough and with sufficient strength to affirm the cultural identity and political clout of an indigenous Hispanic community that was undergoing a transformation more
39 dramatic than it had known since the beginning of its long history in the
Stratton also acknowledged the political nature of Las Vegas newspapers, recognizing the strong connections between political parties and local newspapers. Most papers were openly partisan and reflected the goals of the affiliate party.
Despite the opportunity to form a united coalition, Nuevomexicano publishers did not form a stable platform because of personal and political conflicts. Even the formation of La
Prensa Asociada Hispano-Americana, an association of Latino newspaper publishers in the
Southwest, failed to establish a unified Latino position. These conflicts are epitomized by the quarrels of brothers Ezequiel and Manuel C de Baca, who operated newspapers out of Las Vegas and Mora. Ezequiel, supporting Martinez’s populist platform and writing for La Voz, supported
Las Gorras Blancas, while Manuel publicly denounced their methods (Melendez 79). In his newspaper, El Sol de Mayo, Manuel frequently attacked the staff, management, and editors of La
Despite the conflicts between Spanish-speaking publishers, Stratton posits that the press offered a space for conciliation between Americans and Nuevomexicano/as. He recognizes that
American editors were initially “hostile” (126, 129) toward Nuevomexicano/as, but “they became more tolerant as time passed” (126). Ultimately Stratton states, “The role of the press in conciliating the different cultures in New Mexico was that of presenting repeatedly a few basic and minimum demands, and thus establishing a basis from which a gradual movement toward full reconciliation could begin” (145). For Stratton conciliation is congruent to accommodation and assimilation, where “The press waged a successful campaign for free, public non-sectarian schools, which would hasten the Americanization of the native people” (145). As this analysis
40 showed, the press served an integral role in the assimilation of Nuevomexicano/as and influenced
New Mexico positively by reducing isolation and poverty and aiding in the reconciliation of cultural conflicts.
For Meyer and Melendez, Spanish-language newspapers are sites for counter-hegemonic action and the promotion of Nuevomexicano/a literature, history, and culture. Myers writes:
Thus, the neomexicano/a press assumed, among other functions, the unofficial role of a public forum and community bulletin board, where an aggrieved citizen or someone with an opinion could speak out. When political infighting threatened to destabilize the Spanish speaking community caught up in territorial politics, levelheaded Hispanic editors drew their readers' attention to the need for unity in addressing the cultural identity crisis they faced. (13)
Melendez also argues that “print culture in Mexican-origin communities in the Southwest remained an expression of opposition to American political, social, and cultural hegemony in the
Southwest after 1848” (6). Spanish newspapers served as a tool for maintaining
Nuevomexicano/a influence in New Mexico. For Melendez, “The New Mexico case is characterized by a localized pattern of development that precedes, and for a variety of reasons, survives the blow of the American conquest” (5). Unlike Mexicano/as in Arizona and Texas,
Nuevomexicano/as proved more successful in their efforts to maintain their cultural identities and maintain control of their communities. Newspapers provided a space for the development of a new cultural identity, an identity that opposed American dominance.
Nuevomexicano/a editors actively represented local interests in two ways. First, these editors worked to develop a local literary tradition. A literatura nacional became a way to voice the reality of Mexican Americans within the framework of the U.S. body politic (Melendez 7).
Unable to claim a historical literary tradition of their own, Nuevomexicano/as began a new tradition. Instead, Las Vegas newspapers promoted local Nuevomexicano/a writers, supporting
Nuevomexicano/a literary efforts that presented a Nuevomexicano/a perspective. The efforts of these journalists, editors and writers have largely gone unrecognized. These authors, including
Jose Escobar, Felix Maximiliano Chacon, and Luis Tafoya, are the unacknowledged founders of
Nuevomexicano/a literary heritage. Literary production was not limited to a network of educated authors. A variety of authors, ranging from sheepherders to jailed criminals, contributed to Las
Vegas’s literary space. Local literature reflected the complicated ideological space produced by the American conquest, where Nuevomexicano/as negotiated the impact of American institutions and literacies. In her analysis of the works of Vincente Bernal and Felipe M. Chacón, Erlinda
Gonzales-Berry argues that both authors’ texts reveal that “the writers had internalized the dominant ideology, or, on the contrary, that their work stands as a definitive discourse of resistance” (197). For example, Chacón’s patriotic poetry exhibits two contradictory elements, where he demonstrated his American patriotism, while writing in Spanish. Gonzales-Berry interprets Chacón’s decision as a method to consolidate the power of the Nuevomexicano/a middle class, a group with the potential to shape local politics.
Second, they countered misrepresentations of Nuevomexicano/as by outsiders by publishing nativo histories. Nativo histories stood “against Anglo ideations of the region” (7).
Enrique Salazar, founder of El Independiente in 1894 encouraged Nuevomexicano/as to reflect on their collective history. According to Montgomery, Salazar elevated Spanish, not mestiza or
Native American origins and, “To match the Anglo’s implicit claim of authority,
Nuevomexicano/as needed a special historical figure: the conquistador. . . The editor celebrated a vision of European manliness, the ideal embodied by the ‘gallant conquistadores’” (72).
Salazar’s efforts to promote a Spanish ancestry and heritage reflect a conscious fashioning of
Although serving a pragmatic purpose, these newspapers also worked in conflicting ways to resist Americanization and hasten it. The press served a complicated role in New Mexico cultural adaptation. According to Barton, the printing press resulted in two cultural tendencies: cultural diffusion and standardization. Widespread distribution of multiple copies of a text allowed for the spread of new ideas and the deterioration of traditional values: “Printing facilitated the wide circulation of new knowledge and in the way contributed to the breaking down of old religious tradition and authorities” (125). Newspapers disseminated American news and American ways of thinking among Nuevomexicano/as. National news stories informed once isolated Las Vegans about events across the nation. As a genre, the newspaper overcame spatiotemporal concerns, quickly transmitting relevant events and narratives. During the Mexican Era, the lack of newspapers and communication technology limited the presses’ opportunity to instill a strong Mexican identity. New technologies transmitted a new national narrative and identity.
As American culture permeated New Mexico through the newspapers, representations of
Nuevomexicano/as spread through Eastern and Midwestern newspapers. Stratton, Melendez,
Meyer, and Nieto-Phillips each account for the racist representations of Nuevomexicano/as in these newspapers. Nuevomexicano/as, commonly referred to as “Greasers,” were depicted as ignorant, lazy, and superstitious. These depictions frequently stalled New Mexico’s efforts to become a state. In response, Nuevomexicanos developed a Spanish European, as opposed to
Mexican or mestizo, identity. In The Language of Blood: The Making of Spanish American
Identity in New Mexico, 1880s-1930s, historian John Nieto-Philips argues that
Nuevomexicano/as created a European Spanish identity as a rhetorical form of resistance. This
43 resistance took shape, not only in print, but in educational policy and academic production. The movement to develop a Spanish identity was built on three concepts: Hispanophilia, Hispanidad, and Hispanismo. Hispanophilic literature propagated the image of the noble Spanish conquistador conquering Indian populations. This representation erased New Mexico’s mestizo and indigenous histories. Hispanidad reflected the pride of this representation. Hispanismo enacted the academic position of Hispanidad. Building on the narrative of an authentic Spanish heritage , these elements operated to establish a widespread proliferation of Hispano/a ideology that engaged public and academic spaces, legitimizing a Spanish identity to Nuevomexicano/as reading Spanish newspapers and to Americans who encountered the scholarship.
As part of this Hispanophilic trend, Nuevomexicano/as used the newspaper to recover and construct their history and literature. According to Melendez, Nuevomexicano/as wrote bocetas, short biographical narratives of important community members or historical figures, to counter
American historical accounts that elevated the activities of Americans such as Kit Carson, while erasing the contributions of Nuevomexicano/as. They also hoped to establish “una literature nacional,” a local, not necessarily national, literature that reflected their culture. Educated editors were not the only ones involved in the development of this literary movement. Meyer makes note of submissions by a shepherd from Ocate, a village in Mora County, who submitted a poem, a prisoner in a Las Vegas jail, and a 14-year old boy who lamented the suicide of a 19 year old stranger.
The newspapers established in New Mexico during the late 19 th
and early 20 th
centuries constitute changing social relations and establish a connection between the local community and extralocal, national institutions. The newspapers produced a public space where Americans attempted to establish American culture in New Mexico, and where Nuevoemexicano/as
44 challenged American hegemony. Social relations provide a tool for analysis that “seeks to disclose the non-local determinations of locally historic or lived orderliness” (Texts, Facts 201).
The struggle for statehood occurred in Washington, D.C., as well in the pages of La Voz del
Social relations, however, are not solely determined by the activities of politicians in
Santa Fe or Washington, D.C. They were also determined by the literacy practices instituted by newspapers. According to Smith, “Our knowledge of contemporary society is to a large extent mediated to us by texts of various kinds. The result, an objectified world-in-common vested in texts, coordinates the acts, decisions, policies and plans of actual subjects as the acts, decisions, policies, and plans of large-scale organizations” (Conceptual Practices 61). Nuevomexicano/as developed their sense of the dichotomous conflict between American and Nuevomexicano/a through the interpretation of newspaper articles. Ideologies that promoted Americanization or the preservation of local culture existed through the newspapers and organized people into different communities. A decision to read La Voz del Pueblo or to read The Optic organized people into factions that supported a particular ideology. The decision whether to read Manuel C de Baca’s El Sol de Mayo or Felix Martinez’s Voz separated Nuevomexicano/as into groups that either supported or opposed the actions of Las Gorras Blancas. The activities of politicians in
Washington loomed over the local discourse.
American interests eventually established themselves in New Mexico. In the 1920s,
Spanish-language newspapers began to decline. Melendez explains, “The Spanish-language press to begin to show the effects of the hegemonic constriction of Nuevomexicano language and culture by Anglo-dominated social institutions,” and by the 1950s only one Spanish-language newspaper established in the 1890s continued to publish, ceasing publication in 1958 (210). The
45 decline of Spanish-language newspapers did not show the end of an ideology of cultural preservation, but it did reveal the erosion of the power of the ideology. The communal discourse of the Nuevomexicano/a position was diminished, English served as the new language of public discourse, and resistance to American colonialism became unpublished and marginalized. The establishment of new public literacies reflected changing relationships of power.
The everyday activities of Nuevomexicano/as working in a changing ecology of literacy, where print material marked the conflict between newly introduced institutions, representing extralocal American interests, and Nuevomexicano/a culture, represented an ideological struggle for power. The establishment of American institutions required alterations in Nuevomexicano/a literacies as a survival method to maintain control over the newly developing institutions and to apply the technologies of these institutions for local purposes that maintain Nuevomexicano/a control and resulted in the transformation of cultural identity. Nuevomexicano/as in the late 19 th and early 20 th
centuries used the newspaper as a public rhetoric for resisting American hegemony. However, by employing the newspaper to maintain local culture, Nuevomexicano/a publishers accelerated the accommodative process by altering Nuevomexicano/a literacy practices. The change in ecologies of literacy included a new dependence on print literacy for maintaining connections with extralocal American institutions and remaining familiar with local issues, magnifying the importance of written text and producing a greater need for reading and writing skills that would be taught in local schools.
Institutions of Learning as Sites of Cultural Conflicts
Las Vegas’s changing public literacies reflect one component of its evolving network of literacies. Although not necessarily promoting the exact practices, academic literacies taught in
46 the public schools and university overlap print literacies, with both literacies working together to refashion Nuevomexicano/a identity. Print institutions emerged in New Mexico in the1850s and
60s and established their presence before the schools developed later in the territorial period.
Although they both became entrenched in New Mexican culture, with many schools teaching in
Spanish and newspapers publishing in Spanish, American structures eventually dominated the environment. Although schools were introduced in the late 19 th
century, they were not fully centralized until the 1930s, about the time that a strong Spanish-language press found itself in decline. By the 1940s, the public schools were well-established. In the schools, the Direct
Method of instruction banned the use of Spanish in schools, and most Spanish-language newspapers had stop publishing.
While the newspapers offered opportunities to a variety of people to engage in public expressions of their culture and their experiences, the school system added another institutional space for transformation of the local population. Lynne Marie Getz frames New Mexican educational history as a series of conflicts: as conflicts between local and national interests, as conflicts between Spanish and English, and as conflicts between Catholicism and Protestantism.
Prior to becoming a U.S. territory, New Mexico lacked a formal, public school system.
Private institutions and religious institutions provided educations to those who could afford it. A lack of teachers to operate the schools and a systematic method for taxation hindered the development of a public school system. Efforts to fund a public school system during the territorial period were consistently thwarted by patrones who did not want to pay the property taxes. Initially, territorial boards of education promoted compulsory attendance and the adoption of textbooks, but local officials controlled the schools (Getz 17). As territorial administrators founded public schools, language maintenance and local control remained
47 primary concerns for Nuevomexicano/as. Local Nuevomexicano/as refused to surrender control of a budding school system to the territorial government, but educators such as Hiram Hadley, president of the New Mexico Educators Association, the founder of New Mexico State
University, and territorial superintendent, attempted to centralize the school system. The 1891 school code strengthened the role of territorial control by requiring compulsory attendance and the adoption of uniform textbooks but also left the majority of control to local school administrators. Territorial superintendents such as Hadley made yearly visits to the schools, and associations such as the NMEA acted to establish control over the educational system.
Before the territorial government established the procedures and institutions for funding and regulating schools, Protestant missionaries erected schools in an effort to convert New
Mexican Catholics. According to San Miguel, these Protestants approached the Spanishspeaking community and attempted to alter Nuevomexicano culture in ways that conflicted with
Catholic methods. In a system of additive Americanization, Catholic schools taught in Spanish and built on New Mexican culture. Protestant schools operated through a system of subtractive
Americanization, where students were initially taught in English and, looking at
Nuevomexicano/as through the prism of eastern newspapers, attempted to instill American values. Just as American newspapers adapted to the Spanish-speaking community, so did the
Protestant schools, where instruction was eventually conducted in Spanish.
Language preservation also proved to be a contentious point in the new schools.
Although vague regulations muddled the situation more, territorial administrators promoted instruction in English, but in most locations instruction continued in Spanish. Territorial
Governor Octaviano Larrazolo supported bilingual education and enacted a number of laws that were ignored by the legislation. The availability of bilingual teachers was also a concern. Many
48 teachers were Nuevomexicanas who only spoke Spanish, and American teachers who only spoke
Initial efforts to establish the language of instruction resulted in vague laws and uncertain plans. According to Erlinda Gonzales-Berry, local educational needs conflicted with a national agenda that viewed the schools as the primary method for Americanization, with the American agenda resulting in “the expulsion—so to speak—of Spanish from the public schools of New
Mexico” (“Which Language” 169). From 1890-1930, the debate over bilingual education revolved around which language was to be taught and how they would be taught. English-only supporters endorsed the Direct Method, “which entailed suppression of all use of Spanish in the schools” (Getz 39). Those who supported bilingual education held a number of positions, disagreeing in which language should be the primary language of instruction and when particular language instruction should be introduced. NMHU Professor Frank Roberts sparked controversy by promoting monolingual instruction in Spanish for Spanish-speaking children, with English being introduced after three or four years of schooling (“Which Language” Gonzales-Berry 177).
Neither those who supported English-only or those who supported bilingual education ever questioned that English would be taught. Ultimately, Spanish remained in the schools, not as the primary language of instruction, but as a separate subject, as a foreign language.
Expanding population, changing literacy practices, and the push for statehood reinforced a need for public schools and teachers. From this need sprung the need for teacher training, and a need for institutions like NMHU. Policies fluctuated between support and opposition to bilingual education. Despite policy, teachers continued to teach in Spanish and English well into the first half of the twentieth century. NMHU ignored territorial and state policies mandating
49 bilingual education and refused to alter their curriculum to train bilingual teachers. It is not until
1970 that a bilingual and TESOL program were established.
It is important to recognize that NMHU influence on territorial education was not extensive in its early stages. State licensing did not require a college degree, so many teachers circumvented the university’s authority. Although the university resisted bilingual education,
Nuevomexicano/a teachers taught in both Spanish and English. As licensing requirements changed, the university’s influence expanded, impacting instruction more over time. Its immediate impact is most remarkable when considering its role in establishing a hybrid
Nuevomexicano/a composed of hegemonic, American characteristics integrated with
Nuevomexicano/a traditional culture.
The relationship between Las Vegas newspapers and NMHU extended beyond a need for teachers. By training teachers, NMHU served a fundamental need. Although newspapers served multiple needs, New Mexico Normal’s origins were situated in Las Vegas’s political and cultural conflicts. One English-language newspaper, the Las Vegas Optic, an English-language newspaper that continues to publish, served the American Republican politicians of East Las
Vegas. The Las Vegas Optic opposed the establishment of the university, while La Voz del
Pueblo, a populist newspaper, supported it. This conflict continued after the Territorial Council ratified the university’s founding with arguments over which side of town the university would be built and who would serve as its regents. To quell local disputes over its physical location, the university was built on the east bank of the Gallinas River, at the center of the east and west side.
While Martinez’s motives are not clear, as editor of La Voz del Pueblo, he argued publically in support of the normal school, opposing The Daily Optic, which supported summer
50 teaching institutes instead of the establishment of a teaching school. As “the father of the
Normal School,” Martinez brought the Normal School to Las Vegas, an institution that excluded
Nuevomexicano/as and prepared the agents of enculturation that would serve a significant role in the alteration of Nuevomexicano/a culture and literacy. His activities as editor of La Voz del
Pueblo were attempts to maintain that culture.
Supported by Felix Martinez, owner and editor of La Voz del Pueblo, New Mexico
Normal opened for classes in October 1898. Serving a dual function of producing teachers for the territory while also operating as a public elementary and secondary school, the university remained largely isolated from the Nuevomexicano/a community. It did not regularly admit
Nuevomexicano/a students until the 1920s, and did not hire its first permanent Nuevomexicano/a faculty member until 1918. When Martinez gave the commencement speech in 1914, only one of thirty-eight graduates was Spanish-surnamed (Vigil 39).
Assuming the presidency in 1910, Frank H.H. Roberts lead the universities efforts to acknowledge local New Mexican culture, although in primarily superficial ways. In 1910, La
Casa de Ramona, a new women’s dormitory, opened. Named after Ramona, the popular novel by Helen Hunt Jackson, the naming of the dormitory drew on a tradition of literature that presented a Hispanophilic romanticized image of Mexican-American culture produced by
American and Nuevomexicano/a writers and artists. When implemented by Nuevomexicano/as, this idealized representation was central to the construction of a Spanish, as opposed to Mexican,
Indian, or mestizo/a, identity in New Mexico. At first, students named the yearbook, El
Crespusculo, “the dawn.” However, students later renamed it The Southwest Wind because
Anglo students could not pronounce the title (Vigil 38). Academically, the university remained primarily an Anglo-serving institution, with Antonio Lucero serving as the only Latino faculty
member in 1910-11. The university did not alter its monolingual curricular focus according to
51 governmental policies promoting bilingual education. Nuevomexicano/as did not regularly begin attending the university until after World War II. Despite its location in Spanish-speaking northern New Mexico, NMHU offered students a rhetorical education that coincided with national patterns.
Composing on Campus
Students at the Normal School experienced a rhetorical education that corresponds with scholarly histories of the Progressive Era. Their composition textbook, Composition-Literature, was produced by Fred Newton Scott and Joseph Villiers Denney. Scott’s influence on composition instruction during the Progressive Era has been well-established by rhetoric and composition scholars. Influenced by a Deweyian educational paradigm, Scott promoted a student-centered rhetorical education. Curriculum drew from the belief that students actively participated in their education, that students were active members of a democratic society, and that students must write about familiar topics that they found interesting.
Drawing on English literature and drawing on reflections from established authors,
Composition-Literature, asked students to acquire “a certain way of thinking and feeling about the persons we write for,” “a certain way of looking at the things we write about,” and “a sense for the use and value of the words, sentences, and other forms of speech, by which ideas are expressed” (Scott and Denney 2). In addition, as was common in composition instruction of the period, Scott and Denney separated writing into four forms of discourse: description, narration, exposition, and argumentation. Although we do not have specific accounts of classroom instruction, nor do we have any examples of academic writing produced for the classroom, the
52 principles promoted by Scott and Denney and the focus on forms of discourse extended NMHU students’ rhetorical production beyond the classroom.
At NMHU, students’ rhetorical education continued outside the classroom. The student literary society afforded students with “ample opportunity to prepare for the demands of social intercourse, development of oratorical powers, debates, readings, and ability to discuss topics of the daily intelligently” (El Crepuscolo 85). The society’s appreciation for the “the best production of the many great men the English race has produced” reveals an Anglo-centric focus and did not draw from Latin American literature or local literature. Students also published short stories, poems, and short personal narratives in El Crepuscolo. Members of the Las Vegas community offered a series of prizes for those who excelled in rhetorical activities. Mr. E. G.
Murphy, a local druggist, offered the winner of the local preliminary oratorical contest a
“handsome set of Shakespeare’s works” and Mr. Charles Ilfeld, a local businessman and a member of the Board of Regents awarded the best debater with a collection of Robert
Stevenson’s books (New Mexico Highlands University Bulletin 1910 44). Other prizes were awarded to the best reader, the student who wrote and read the best essay, and for the best
English essay produced during the year. Although he taught Spanish, Lucero gave a gold medal to the Spanish-speaking student who wrote the best English essay. In addition, students participated in debates sponsored by the Interscholastic Oratorical Association. The 1910 debate hosted by New Mexico Normal proved to be especially significant.
On Thursday, December 29, 1910, Lucero entered the civic debate on statehood and
Nuevomexicano/a education by placing second in the association’s debate. The impact of her speech, “Shall the Spanish Language be Taught in the Schools of New Mexico” reached beyond the limited scope and audience of an academic oratorical competition. The university published
53 the speech in the 1911 issue of El Crepsucolo, for which Lucero served as a staff member, and in a special issue of the New Mexico Normal University Bulletin. According to a note in this issue of the Bulletin, “So many inquiries about this contest have been received, that the program, grading of the judges and Miss Lucero’s oration are printed in the bulletin” (New Mexico Normal
University Bulletin 1911). Public interest in Aurora’s speech was further illustrated in its publication in local newspapers, where it was published in Spanish and English. Despite her age,
Lucero became a potent voice for expressing the concerns of Nuevomexicano/as as New Mexico transitioned from being a territory to being a state.
New Mexico’s admission as a state in 1912 represents a sixty-year struggle for acceptance. During that time, Nuevomexicano/a efforts for statehood repeatedly encountered racist opposition that represented Nuevomexicano/a as ignorant, uneducated, uncivilized, and incapable of self-government. Those who opposed New Mexican statehood frequently argued from a racist scientific ideology that inscribed Nuevomexicano/a as “mongrels” of impure blood.
Nuevomexicano/a responded by reconfiguring their racial heritage, eliminating a Mexican ancestry, and recomposing themselves as Spanish. In The Language of Blood: The Making of
Spanish-American Identity in New Mexico, 1880-1930s, John Nieto-Phillips posits that
Nuevomexicano/a resurrected Spanish ideologies of blood purity to recast themselves as
European. This movement was “nurtured by burgeoning tourist industry, a Hispanophilic cultural movement, and locally authored histories and scholarship” (Nieto-Phillips 2). By eliminating their mestizo/a past, Nuevomexicano/a represented themselves as descendants of
Spanish conquistadores, separate from the indigenous people of Mexico and New Mexico.
In her speech, Lucero argues for the propagation of bilingual education in developing
New Mexico schools, while also arguing for Nuevomexicano/a capability. She recognizes
English as the “language of the government, the national language, the language in which the
54 great bulk of the business of the Territory is transacted,” while “the Spanish language, the language of the Spanish-Americans, the language of the Corteses, the De Sotos, and the
Coronados, has been for more than three centuries the home language of the Territory” (Lucero
91). Appealing to her Anglo audience, Lucero alludes to a history of Spanish Conquest and does not recognize indigenous history or the proliferation of indigenous languages. In addition to this history of conquest, Lucero also references Spanish literary heritage to extol the value of the
Spanish language. She compares the contributions of De Vegas, Calderon, Escriche, Castellar,
Bello, Arboleda, and Cervantes to Chaucer, Dryden, Milton, Byron, and Webster. Finally, she argues for the importance of teaching Spanish on the grounds of its utility in international business.
Aurora’s speech falls directly into the discursive reconstruction of Nuevomexicano/a as
Spanish. However, she does not solely look to an imagined past based on Spanish blood purity; she also looks to the future where New Mexico acts as “the meeting ground of these representatives of the Romanic and Germanic races” (90). The United States, according to
Aurora, is a nation of Anglo-Saxons, while Mexico is a country “of more than sixty millions of people, all descended from the Spanish Conquistadores” (90). From New Mexico’s statehood, “ a new race will spring . . . that will far surpass either of its factors in all those traits and characteristics that make man better fitted for higher responsibilities” (90). Specifically, this new race will consist of “the calm business like spirit of the Anglo Saxon with the sanguine, chivalrous enthusiasm of the Castilian” (90).
Aurora’s speech forecasted her future role in New Mexican educational administration and cultural preservation. Lucero graduated from NMHU with a teaching degree in 1915. After
teaching in New Mexico, she attended the University of Southern California, but returned to
New Mexico after her daughter’s birth. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from NMHU in
1925. From 1925-27, she served as superintendent of schools for San Miguel County. In addition, she was appointed assistant professor of Spanish at NMHU and earned her master’s degree in 1925. In 1934, Lucero was appointed assistant superintendent of schools for the New
Mexico Public schools, where she promoted the use of Nuevomexicano/a folk dramas, customs, and festivals in school curricula. Her scholarly work included the compilation of Spanish New
Mexican folktales and cultural practices.
Constructing an Authentic Spanish Past
The careers of Aurora Lucero and her father, Antonio Lucero, represent the intellectual and literary correspondence between university and press. As one of the first Nuevomexicano/a graduates of NMHU, and one who applied her education to preserve Nuevomexicano/a culture,
Aurora Lucero stands apart from other Nuevomexicano/a students that attended NMHU.
Lucero’s influence grew beyond the university as she served in a variety of educational positions. The Luceros represented an emerging view of educated Nuevomexicano/as who expounded a Nuevomexicano/a perspective, but whose academic activities also index American academic culture. Antonio acted as associate editor to La Voz and taught Spanish literature at the university. As editor, Antonio promoted local writers, but as a professor his instruction of
Spanish canonical texts “negated the very agency of Antonio’s years in cultural journalism”
(Melendez 402). Although not educated at NMHU, he was the first Nuevomexicano/a to pierce its racially exclusionary hiring practices. Educated at the Jesuit College in Las Vegas, Antonio reflects an education system rooted in New Mexico’s past, where only the children of ricos had
access to an education. Although Lucero attended NMHU when few Nuevomexicano/as had
56 access, she reflects future educational opportunities that would be available to future generations, opportunities that have not yet been fully realized.
As a student in1910, Lucero identified Nuevomexicano culture as Spanish, descended directly from Spanish conquistadores, and ignored a mestizo/a history. She revised her view of
Nuevomexicano identity as recorded, compiled, and published Nuevomexicano/a folk culture.
As she attempted to preserve Nuevomexicano/a culture, The Folklore of New Mexico, Volume 1, she (publishing as Aurora Lucero White-Lea) directly referenced the efforts of the newspaper publishers of her father’s generation who attempted to preserve Nuevomexicano culture in the
Spanish newspapers by stating, “Unfortunately the lore cannot survive the ravages of time, even though well intentioned persons would endeavor to preserve it, for old cuadernos (manuscripts) and newspaper clippings do not successfully withstand the ravages of time” (Folklore,
Introduction). Envisioning a fading culture, Lucero looked to the past to construct an ideological representation of the authentic Nuevomexicano/a.
Aurora’s training in formal folkloric methods is unclear. However, her research corresponds with the discipline as it took shape in the 1940s. Distinct from anthropology, courses in the study of folklore “tended to stress the influence of immigrant and regional groups on the creation of a heterogeneous American folklore” (Bronner 99). Students were encouraged to return to their own families and communities to record the oral tradition they found there, which is precisely what Lucero did by traveling to New Mexican villages when researching her books.
In addition, changes in communication had radically altered the lives of Americans.
According to Simon J. Bronner, “rapid technological advances had made life seem drastically
different—immediate, simultaneous” (94). Across the United States, people drew into their
57 homes, experiencing the world through their radios and later through the television. While
Nuevomexicano/as in the eighteenth century depended on publicly read announcements called bandos, in the twentieth century, they turned on the radio to learn of the world around them. The press had already established itself in New Mexico’s ecology of literacy. Folkloric studies turned to understanding how these new technologies had changed people’s lives. While Lucero did not attempt to explain the lives of modern Nuevomexicano/as, she was reacting to changes in how the people in New Mexico lived, and how traditions had changed. For Aurora, an authentic
Nuevomexicano culture existed in the traditions of the past.
In her collection of folklore, Los Hispanos: Five Essay on the Folkways of the Hispanos
as Seen through the Eyes of One of Them, Lucero locates authentic Nuevomexicano/a culture in the recent past. According to Regina Bendix, folklorists “located authenticity within the anonymity of entire social groups, or the ‘folk’” (15). Considering the widespread change to the everyday lives of Nuevomexicano/as in the early twentieth century, Lucero looked to villages for a sense of authentic culture. The cultural practices recorded in Los Hispanos describes the religious and social activities of rural New Mexico, including baptismal, marriage, and internment rituals. These practices were developed communally overtime and were not created by a particular author. The stories described in The Folklore of New Mexico are unauthored.
The folklore described by Lucero represents a culture derived from an unspecific past, where anonymous authors produced and transmitted social practices and the literature of the people.
In addition to be anonymous, Nuevomexicano/a cultural practices were authentic to past rural spaces. Lucero writes, “To transplant folk-dances from their native background to a modern ballroom, and to attempt to transcribe the accompaniments of these, as played by native
músicos, is like placing bouquets of wild flowers in drawing-rooms, and while still beautiful,
58 they lose that essential graces which was lent to them by open fields and lofty sierras” (Folk
Dances Forward). The character of Nuevomexicano/a folk dances lacked their essence when removed from their original settings. To modernize them and to move them to ballrooms was to diminish their authenticity.
Aurora’s sense of the authentic Nuevomexicano emerges in her varied used of labels to describe Nuevomexicano/as. In her speech, Nuevomexicano/as were Spanish; however, she now also recognizes them as Mexican. In Los Hispanos, she writes, “Nuevo Mejico (New Mexico) once belonged to the Republic Mexico. The people, who were of Spanish descent, were
Mejicanos (Mexicans); that is, citizens of Mexico” (3). In this instance, Lucero draws distinction between descent and citizenship. The people of New Mexico are Spanish; however, she acknowledges their previous Mexican citizenship. By recognizing a Mexican past, Lucero to some extent complicates Nuevomexicano identity, but does not directly challenge the Spanish,
European heritage that she highlighted in her speech.
According to Aurora, during their transformation “The people, then, became Americans; that is, citizens of the United States. Linguistically and culturally, they were Hispanic, since they continued to use Spanish, their native language, and to live in the Hispanic tradition” (3). In other terms, she refers to Nuevomexicanos as Americanos, or “any New Mexican who is a citizen of the United States” (3). Just as she had when complicating the Spanish/Mejicano dichotomy, she complicates the Hispanic/American dichotomy. By employing the Hispanic label, Lucero draws on a term contested in Latino communities. According to Suzanne Oboler,
Hispanic, “homogenizes class experiences and neglects many different linguistic, racial, and ethnic groups within the different nationalities themselves” and “In the current usage by the U.S.
census, government agencies, social institutions, social scientists, the media, and the public at
59 large, then, the ethnic label Hispanic obscures rather than clarifies the varied social and political experiences in U.S. society” (2). For those opposed to the term, Hispanic erases the distinction between various cultural groups, who may or may not speak Spanish and who do not claim a common nationality or cultural heritage. For those, like Jorge J. E. Gracia, who defend the use of Hispanic, the term, is a historically applicable way to refer to “the people of Iberia, Latin
America, and some segments of the population in the United States, after 1492, and to the descendents of these peoples anywhere in the world as long as they preserve close ties to them”
(52). Aurora’s use of Hispanic draws from both Oboler’s and Garcia’s understanding of the term, and it erases a specific Nuevomexicano/a origin and places Nuevomexicano/as in a larger, global community, which shares a common history. However, it is clear that they were
Hispanic. The process of Americanization, whereby Hispanics became culturally American and began to speak English, did not completely erase a Hispanic identity. Instead, Nuevomexicanos maintained both identities.
Complicating Nuevomexicano/a identity even more, Lucero also uses the term Hispano in a fashion inconsistent with ways it is commonly used. According to Rodolfo Acuña, Hispano emerged in the 19 th
century as a way for Nuevomexicanos to “separate themselves from
Mexicans who arrived at the turn of the twentieth century” (55). In addition, “through this process, they distanced themselves from intense racism toward Mexicans, allowing them to better their economic and, in some cases, their social status” (55). At first, Lucero claims
Hispano, “denotes a culture” (Los Hispanos 3). While potentially the tem Hispanic erased local identity by subsuming it in a larger Hispanic identity, in Latino/a scholarship, Hispano/a maintains a local New Mexican characteristic. However, Lucero does not use Hispano/a as a
60 term to suggest a local identity. According to Aurora, “The Hispanos (persons of Spanish speech) constituted a majority. There was nothing in their culture or religion that was offensive; hence, no effort was made by the United States government to alter the pattern of living for these people. Not even the language barrier was considered a handicap, and the business of the government was conducted in both English and Spanish” (3). In this definition, Hispano is defined through language use, making the term indistinguishable from Hispanic.
It is at this point that Lucero merges Hispano and Hispanic that we see some ambiguity in
Aurora’s representation of New Mexican history. By claiming that the United States made no effort to alter Nuevomexicano/a living patterns, Lucero ignores the racist Americanization of
New Mexico. Clearly, Lucero has made the preservation of Nuevomexicano culture a focus of career as an educator and a scholar. However, at no point in her published works does she challenge American colonialism. Considering the clear establishment of American institutions and the diminishment of Spanish-language newspapers, Lucero maintained the standard public position on American colonialism by not challenging it. Taking into account the practices of scholarly research in folklore at the time, Aurora’s book did not offer an appropriate place for her to provide radical commentary on New Mexico’s colonial heritage.
Lucero separates the community according to socioeconomic status, by labeling some people as paisanos and others as ricos. While rico is used consistently to reference the wealthy, whose financial and political status provided them optional rituals for burial and marriage, the term paisano takes on a number of meanings. Initially the term paisano means “a native of
Hispanic background” (3). According to this definition, ricos would be included as paisanos.
However, Lucero develops a clear distinction between paisanos and ricos. Lucero later expels
ricos from the paisano class when she describes paisanos as “natives other than ricos” (12).
When describing the emergence of the Penitentes, a penitent religious brotherhood, she explains,
“As now constituted, Penitentiism is the only organization to which a poor unlettered native may belong, and while he rubs elbows with los grandes (persons of importance) in civilian community-life, in the sociedad it is he, the paisano (unlettered native), who wields the power”
(20). Equating los grandes with the ricos, Lucero places institutional religious power in the hands of the paisanos. For Aurora, power, wealth, and education, become characteristics that determine authenticity. As she clarifies the meaning of paisano, she excludes ricos, the wealthy who have access to political power and education, from the character of the authentic
Interestingly, her descriptions of the Penitentes add another nuance to her sense of an authentic Nuevomexicano/a identity. In her 1910 speech, Aurora’s focus on a Spanish heritage glaringly erases mestizo and indigenous origins. Although penitent orders exist throughout the world, Los Pentitentes are a distinct northern New Mexican, southern Colorado organization.
According to Marta Weigle, the Penitentes emerged in response to a lack of friars, priests, and
curas (secular priests) (xvii-xviii). Lucero traces the origins of the Penitentes’s ritual flagellation to local indigenous tribes. In a rare instance, Lucero acknowledges an indigenous element to
Nuevomexicano/a culture, and although she does not recognize it as a dominant component to
Nuevomexicano culture, she at least recognizes it.
While her conservation efforts are valuable, Melendez views them as problematic. He labels the trend to record Nuevomexicano/a culture as the “fetishizing of folkness” that “was also a way to erase the greater part of Neo-Nuevomexicano/a social and historical agency” (Melendez
205). Publishing their research in English, academics like Lucero decontextualized the voices of
Nuevomexicano/as, failing to consider the political and social environment that produced the
62 texts and failing to acknowledge the “sociomaterial conditions of a people held in poverty”
(205). While drawing on a glorified, romanticized Spanish history, Lucero clearly recognizes the differences between rico and paisano, between the wealthy and the poor. She places agency and religious power in the paisano penitentes.
Perhaps Lucero could be criticized for publishing in English, but although she placed the authentic Nuevomexicano/a in the rural past, she recognized her position as an educator and scholar operating within American institutions of knowledge in the early twentieth century, where scholarship was conducted in English. When describing the incursion of outside forces on
New Mexico’s villages, she employs a war metaphor to characterize Nuevomexicano/a resistance; she explains, “ . . . next to their own brothers and sisters, Hispanos cherished their
compadres more than anyone whom they knew. It is no wonder, then, that plactias (villages) were able to present solid fronts on all matters whether the business at hand was social, business, or political” (4). A sense of community acted as a defense from social, business, and political assault. She recognized Nuevomexicano/a resistance in rural spaces, but she herself did not overtly resist American colonialism. Educated in American institutions and writing for
American audiences, Aurora’s scholarship represents an effort to preserve Nuevomexicano/a culture but not to change an established dominant order. Lucero did not live in the villages of
New Mexico, and, in her writing, she never claimed the authentic Nuevomexicana persona that she describes in her books. I stated earlier that Lucero wrote for an American audience.
However, when considering that Nuevomexicano/as were taking English as their primary language and that children were being educated in English, she was not solely writing for Anglo-
American audiences. She also wrote for future Nuevomexicano/as who would live their public
63 lives speaking English and whose grasp of Spanish would be tenuous.
Changing literacies reflected a bilateral process in Nuevomexicano/a identity where literacy practices developed as acts of accommodation resulting from engagement with
American print and education institutions were later reapplied to resist American hegemony.
Aurora Lucero’s position as a Nuevomexicana educator and scholar represents this contradictory pattern of accommodation and resistance, where, with few options available to her, Lucero applied her education to influence changing institutions in New Mexico. With few options available to her, Lucero operated within emerging American institutions, without the support of an extensive, impactful network of Nuevomexicano/a scholars, to preserve Nuevomexicano/a culture. Like her father and other local political figures such as Felix Martinez, she learned to negotiate institutions, proficiently communicating under the established guidelines of those institutions, including those required of a folklorist. By penetrating scholarly and educational institutions, she established a Nuevomexicano/a presence in those institutions, a preliminary step in ensuring the survival of Nuevomexicano/a culture, albeit not in an authentic form. By accommodating to externally-imposed institutional practices, Lucero emerges as a significant figure for understanding how Latino/as adapt themselves to American institutions and using newly acquired literacy practices to resist those institutions and transform them.
The establishment of New Mexico Highlands University fits with general trends in New
Mexico during the Territorial Period and the early years following statehood. Changing literacy practices circulated through newspapers and the educational system reflected social relations
connecting Las Vegas to events in the United States. NMHU introduced academic disciplines,
64 and scholarly literacy practices that would eventually produce Nuevomexicano/a scholars and professionals like Lucero. However, it did not result in a total upheaval of Nuevomexicano/a social structures. The ricos Lucero wrote about earned a college education, learned to read and write in English and maintained their positions of power within the community. Although they represented Nuevomexicano/a interests Ezequiel C de Baca and Antonio Lucero represented the affluent, powerful elements of the previous order. They interjected themselves into new
American institutions, establishing a position from where future Nuevomexicano/as would eventually challenge American hegemony. It would be Aurora’s place to engage in resistance, but it would be the grandson of Ezequiel, who in the 1940s would help change the environment at NMHU, establishing a stronger Nuevomexicano/a presence on the campus. It is in the evolution of the professional Nuevomexicano/a that the future resistance would eventually find its place.
CHAPTER 3: DISCIPLINES THAT DEFINE, INTERNATIONAL IDENTITIES,
AND THE SILENT REVOLUTION
Unlike the students from the 1970s, who engaged in public protests, NMHU students in the 1930s and 1940s did not call attention to their ethnicity and worked within the parameters of institutional regulations and policies to transform the position of Nuevomexicano/as on campus.
In the public accounts of their activities, there does not seem to be any institutional effort to halt the transformation of NMHU from one that only peripherally accepted a Latino/a presence to one where Nuevomexicano/as shaped the student government in ways that allowed them to become the dominant group on campus. Just like Aurora Lucero in the previous chapter, the students responsible for instigating change on campus used their experiences to advance their professional careers after they left NMHU. This is especially the case with Donaldo “Tiny” Martinez, who as editor of the NMHU newspaper promoted an antiracist agenda. The grandson of Ezequiel C de
Baca, New Mexico’s first lieutenant governor after statehood and ally of Felix Martinez, Tiny established himself as one of the most powerful political figures in New Mexico in the twentieth century. Building a political base in Nuevomexicano/a northern New Mexico, he served as district attorney for sixteen years, district judge for six years, local Democratic Party chairman for twelve years, state representative for one term, and chairman of the West Las Vegas School
Board for 18 years (“Northern New Mexico Activist”). After attending law school, Tiny returned to Las Vegas where he established himself as one of the most influential New Mexican politicians in the 20 th
By focusing on the 1940s, and specifically on the years after World War II, I will be straddling two periods described by Armando Navarro as the Epoch of Adaptation Politics
(1917-1945) and the Epoch of Social Action Politics (1946-65), both of which he argues depended on accommodationist strategies for managing U.S. hegemony. Navarro defines the
66 period from1917-1945 as “the beginning of the hegemony of accommodation politics,” when
“politically the response by most Mexicano organizations and politicos to the U.S. occupation was adaptation, integration, and accommodation” (165). This response continued into the Epoch of Social Action Politics as “the dominant mode of politics continued to be adaptation and accommodation” (231). In his organization of Mexicano/a history, Navarro situates these periods between the Epoch of Armed and Political Resistance (1848-1916) and the Epoch of
Militant Protest Politics (1966-74), establishing a dichotomy between militant resistance and accommodative political action. In describing the actions of Mexicano/as in these periods, he uses three terms:
• the buffers, who “propose limited and nonthreatening reforms to the social order and do not challenge its authority or legitimacy” (11),
• the “want to be white” (who, according to Navarro are also referred to as
“coconuts” for being brown on the outside and white on the inside and vendido, or “sell out”), who “take on the characteristics of the colonial superstructure and are zealots of assimilation, integration, and accommodation” (12)
• the advocate transformers who “repudiates liberal capitalism and embraces either ultranationalism or socialism” (12).
Navarro’s terms provide a basic sense of potential identities, representing Mexicano/a relationships with dominant U.S. institutions and as broad terms, could prove to be useful, if we remove the sense of cultural authenticity or ethnic solidarity that underpin terms like vendido.
Instead of considering those three terms as identities, I would propose seeing them as strategies
for conforming and/or resisting institutional power, such as the influence of postsecondary education, and removing the stigma related with accommodationist practices.
Although Navarro recognizes the important impact buffers have made in the economic and political progress of Mexicano/as and appropriately situates Mexicano/as as marginal or
67 excluded from positions of power in dominant institutions, he avoids the question of how
Latino/as re-employ the tools of the institution and does not comment extensively on how
Latino/as in academia as students or faculty employ knowledge of bureaucratic practices and specific literacy practices to negotiate power within the institution. According to Giroux, schools “contain contradictory pluralities that generate possibilities for both mediation and the contestation of dominant ideologies and practices” (115). When considering the potential of schools to change student identity and a student’s potential to challenge that change, the potential for resisting dominant ideology falls within a continuum that includes subtle action as well as violent, public protest. Specifically, students at NMHU engaged in forms of resistance that operated within codified bureaucratic practices. In the 1940s, NMHU students used the student government and the school newspaper to empower themselves and to promote social justice.
By gaining control of the university student government, Nuevomexicano/as engaged in authorized resistance, activities that work with the rules of that institution to promote change and are institutionally sanctioned. The push for local control at NMHU represents an effort to change power relations on campus, so that Nuevomexicano/a students have more voice in determining policies. By operating within the frame of the university’s practices and changing their position in the university, students at NMHU were simultaneously absorbed into the institution.
Although Dorothy Smith does not use the term authorized resistance, I am employing the term to describe the potential for creating change within an institution in ways that do not directly confront authority, perhaps in ways such as Navarro’s buffer. According to Smith, in their scholarship “radical” scholars are allowed to “be as radical as they wished in their writing and in the classroom so long as radicalism did not lead to an activism that built relationships between a university-based intelligentsia and a society’s marginalized and exploited people”
(Writing the Social 23). Writing about academic research and discourse, Smith clarifies that there is space for faculty to be radical as long as they are writing within the framework established by their disciplines and by the institution in which they work. Academic writing, produced in the established codes of the discipline, is circulated within a limited community and is not intended for an extended public community. These discourses rarely engage a public audience and do not produce partnerships between universities and local communities.
Academic texts are authorized through institutional practices, through processes such as peer review, and represent the discipline whether they are considered conventional or radical.
The published writing of NMHU students operate within the parameters of authorized resistance. In addition to the potential for student accommodation and/or resistance, universities are also guided by a sense of self-preservation and are willing to consent to institutional changes that do not challenge the institution itself. Describing the results of some Black Student
Movement protests on campus, William H. Exum explains that University College at New York
University, “was willing to accede to black students’ demands, but only so long as its basic interests were not threatened” (143). Authorized resistance draws from a willingness to meet students’ demands, and student’s ability to choose from a myriad of resistance strategies.
Promoting institutional change in nonthreatening ways, authorized resistance is acknowledged
69 by institutional authorities. The editors for The Candle, NMHU’s school newspaper were appointed by the student government. In addition, the newspaper was assigned a faculty advisor, ensuring a number of institutional safeguards restricting the radical potential of the school newspaper. Just as it protects professional journalists, the First Amendment also protects student journalists. As we will see in Chapter 4, NMHU student journalists in the 1970s used the student newspaper as a more openly activist text. In the 1940s, The Candle did not directly confront institutionalized racism. Students reported on political events on campus without specifically discussing Nuevomexicano/as. They produced texts that worked within administrative expectations and were shaped by what they were taught in their courses and in on-campus lectures.
Just as NMHU students were being shaped by their movement into the educated professional class, they were also shaped by disciplinary knowledge. In particular, historical scholarship and educational research impacted how they saw themselves as Latino/as in the
Southwest and impacted how they were conceived as Nuevomexicano/a students . Although the information was not available on which textbooks students used in their history courses, the invitation of historian Dr. Carl Coke Rister to speak on campus in 1942 reflects accepted views of Southwest history, views which disregarded Nuevomexicano/as.
Context: the Depression and Federal Programs
Leading in to the 1940s, Nuevomexicano/as continued to live on the margins of U.S. society. The Depression limited economic opportunities, and most Nuevomexicano/as continued to work in agriculture. Before 1930, men were able to find seasonal work outside of the village, but this changed after 1934, when this work no longer continued to be available
(Meier and Ribera 148). Unemployment impacted migration patterns as rural Nuevomexicano/as moved to the cities looking for work, while those living in the city returned to their extended families in rural villages. People lost their farms and ranches as Anglos bought confiscated properties at tax sales (Acuña 280). Those that did move to the city did so out of necessity as some lost their land and their access to subsistence farming, resulting in New Mexican rural areas losing their population by as much as a third (Meier and Ribera 149). Events were no different in Las Vegas. By the time of the Depression, Las Vegas’s economic boom was long past, and local droughts amplified the effects of the Depression. Villagers moved to Las Vegas in an unsuccessful effort to find work.
Federal and state programs provided some relief for New Mexicans, adding additional layers of institutional contact between the people and the government. Roosevelt’s New Deal alleviated some economic problems in New Mexico. For example, the State Charities Office opened in October 1933 and enrolled 700 applicants in the first month (Perrigo 63). In San
Miguel County, 3,187 families were dependent on state welfare by 1947 (65). The Works
Progress Administration (WPA) offered work to skilled and unskilled workers in the construction of municipal and state projects, including the erection of buildings in Las Vegas and on the NMHU campus. In addition, the WPA employed Nuevomexicano/a folk artists, reviving interest in Southwest art. The economic benefit resulted in the stereotype of the governmentdependent Mexican, burdening taxpayers and taking jobs from Anglos.
The positive impact of New Deal programs cannot be understated when considering the dire situation of poor New Mexicans. However, the New Deal continued the trend of restricting
Nuevomexicano/a employment to menial labor, skilled vocational work, and the production of
folk art. Building on this trend, educators implemented instructional programs that prepared
71 students for vocational and artistic occupations, rather than for professional positions.
Research and Specialization: Educational Research and the Problem of Nuevomexicano/a
In an effort to understand the plight of poor Nuevomexicano/as, educational researchers at New Mexico’s postsecondary institutions turned their focus on New Mexico’s educational system. In the 1930s and 40s, George I. Sanchez and Loyd Tireman conducted research on New
Mexico’s children and promoted educational policy and curriculum based on this research, hoping to improve an ineffective system that did not serve Nuevomexicano/a or rural children.
Focused on instructing Nuevomexicano/as ways to improve their lives in rural areas, Sanchez and Tireman, promoted systems of education that focused on village life, and did not consider methods to produce a Nuevomexicano/a professional class or to promote democratic participation. Without a doubt, Sanchez’s and Tireman’s position as educators was a complicated one, where their analysis of the failing New Mexican education was accurate, but despite their good intentions, their programs did not prove effective at a time when the
Nuevomexicano/a population was becoming less rural.
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1906, Sanchez experienced the New Mexican educational system as a child, as a teacher, and as a researcher. With support from the General
Education Board of the Rockefeller Foundation, Sanchez attended the University of Texas, where in his thesis he challenged intelligence tests that defined Latino/as as inherently inferior to whites. Prodded by Sanchez and funded by additional Rockefeller funds, the state of New
Mexico created the Division of Research and Statistics. As the head of the division, Sanchez
published his research on New Mexico’s children. However, Sanchez’s research, which often
72 found fault in the Anglocentric educational system, failed to incite large-scale changes in the system. Sanchez clashed with state educational administrators, and his aggressive approach was often ineffective. He used his position as President of the New Mexico Educational Association to reveal political corruption. Detailing Sanchez’s efforts to support the distribution of a survey measuring racial attitudes, Lynne Marie Getz explains, “His goal was to draw attention to issues regarding Spanish-speaking people, and whether the racial survey proceeded as planed or exploded into controversy, it would at least force people to confront the issue of racism” (57).
The survey, organized by University of New Mexico (UNM) psychology professor Richard
Page, resulted in the boycott of UNM by Nuevomexicano/as, who viewed the survey as an effort to instigate racial prejudice, and the dismissal of Page, who was attempting to provide evidence of racism (Gonzales 5). Eventually Sanchez resigned his position in the department of education and in 1940 he accepted a position at the University of Texas.
In Forgotten People (1940), Sanchez provides a history of New Mexicans and a critique of the public school system in Taos County. Beginning with an analysis of inequitable funding practices, he argues against the general lack of support provided to Taos. According to Sanchez, short-sighted educational policy resulted in failure, and “the state ha[d] neglected to add school programs to the bicultural situation and to the needs of the preeminently rural population . . . it has failed to provide for the training of teachers to meet the problems presented by Spanishspeaking children” (Sanchez 75). However, according to Sanchez, “the teacher-education institutions of the state have not adapted their curricula to the specialized requirements of the area” (76). In addition, the school system has failed to provided students adequate health or voctech training.
Similar to Sanchez, UNM professor Loyd Tireman promoted curriculum based on statistical data. Also supported by a Rockefeller grant, Tireman established two schools in New
Mexico, one in San Jose (1930-37) and another in Nambe (1937-42). Knowing that he would need their support, Tireman overcame local apprehension and hostility in San Jose. Tireman’s curriculum built on the needs of the local community, providing them with health care, while also instructing students in basic literacy skills. Tireman resisted the prevalent notion that
Spanish inhibited Latino/a education and taught students both Spanish and English. For
Tireman, bilingual instruction was not a method to preserve Nuevomexicano/a culture, and instead, it served a practical purpose, to improve English literacy (Getz 75). By drawing, the distinction between bilingual education as cultural preservation and bilingual education as a method to teach English, Tireman promotes a more pragmatic ideology, where Spanish is conceived as being unnecessary for public life and promotes the dominance of English. Tireman based his curriculum on the idea that instruction prepared students for life in the village, not for further academic advancement, and although this was practical, this perspective limited the academic advancement of rural, Nuevomexicano/a students. Tireman hoped to prepare
Nuevomexicano/a students to make an immediate impact in daily life in the village and did not make the preparing students for higher education a goal. In Nambe, Tireman continued his community-based education program, integrated contemporary farming methods into the curriculum.
Neither Sanchez or Tireman proposed a focus on advanced education, instead promoting vocational education and training in the production of Spanish Colonial arts and crafts. They challenged dominant educational beliefs that designated Latino/as as inferior because of their performance on cognitive exams, arguing that Nueveomexicano/a students were not inherently
74 incapable of academic success; however, their support of vocational and artistic education restricted Nuevomexicano/as to occupations where they continued to work with their hands, not their minds. Sanchez and Tireman’s goals corresponded with other educational reforms in New
Mexico. For example, now serving as assistant state superintendent, Aurora Lucero-White promoted arts programs as a form of cultural maintenance and revival. Lucero-White had already established herself as a folklorist. In the Folk-dances of the Spanish-colonials of New
Mexico (1937) and Literary Folklore of the Hispanic Southwest (1953), she surveyed northern
New Mexican villages, collecting and preserving the literature of the people.
Educational institutions tracked Latino/as into vocational programs, preparing them for their assigned positions in the economic system and operated these programs as part of the
Americanization process. Segregated in Latino/a-only classrooms and schools, Latino/as across the United States were only offered a vocational education. Boys were taught skills such as gardening, carpentry, and blacksmithing, and girls were taught homemaking and hygiene. In addition, young Latinas were marked as “the social ‘gene’ who upon her marriage and subsequent motherhood could create a type of home in which the next generation could be raised in an American cultural atmosphere” (Gonzalez 58). Educating Latinas in home economics not only instilled U.S. home values, it also prepared them for menial occupations such as maids and laundry workers.
Vocational programs existed consistently through NMHU’s early history. Upon opening in 1898, the Manual Training School “was designed to both train pupils and to train and qualify teachers to teach the use of hands and tools in the arts” (Vigil 29). In 1907-08, university president W.E. Garrison expanded the domestic science course and expanded the manual training curriculum. Legislative mandates in 1913 resulted in further development of the manual arts
curriculum, music and fine arts curriculum, and household arts curriculum. As part of the war
75 effort, NMHU contracted with the Department of Defense in 1940 to produce tools and materials for the defense industry. The university built two new buildings to support the program, and students were placed in defense industries. Working out of an expanded airport outside of the city, the university developed a program in airplane maintenance. In 1942, the university offered preparatory training for Army Air-Cadet Training and began to offer flight training.
Although efforts by researchers like Lucero-White worked positively to preserve New
Mexican cultures, they also served an economic purpose. Conducting research in New Mexico, federal programs supplemented the objectification of Nuevomexicano/a culture. Like the
Department of Defense, New Deal programs promoted art education. After working with
Tireman at the San Jose school, Sculptor Brice Sewell was named the state supervisor of trade and industrial education. Sewell recognized that New Mexico lacked large scale industry and planned curriculum that focused on preparing workers for small local business. He leaned on federal funds to sponsor his educational program. In the 1930s, the Federal Writers Project conducted interviews of older Nuevomexicano/as. According to Rael-Gálvez, Federal Writers
Project writers were to “identify cultural events that would be of interest to travelers” (286).
From 1880-1912, the Bureau of Immigration attracted tourists to New Mexico by selling “a popular image of Pueblo Indians as docile, sedentary, and semicivilized, and Nuevomexicano/a villagers as descendants of the conquistadores” (Nieto-Phillips 119). Anthropologists, excavating Native American sites, supported the tourist and art industry “by promoting the false notion that all Indians represented the last of a dying race” (124). NMHU played a role in the anthropological preservation of New Mexican culture. Edgar Lee Hewett, first president of
NMHU and often recognized as the father of Southwestern anthropology, included students in
his archaeological studies and established a campus museum in Springer Hall to display the results of their excavations. After leaving NMHU, Hewett contributed to the establishment of
76 the Antiquities Act of 1906 and the preservation of Chaco Canyon and Bandelier National
The results of these studies further limited Nuevomexicano/as as the discourse of educational research, transformed them into a societal problem, which could be solved through a limited curriculum that focused on vocational and art education. Despite their efforts to improve the state of New Mexican education, Sanchez and Tireman found themselves restricted to, and contributed to, educational paradigms that prepared Nuevomexicano/as for work in the village, maintaining their marginalized position. Their research could be used as justification for maintaining racist economic systems where Latino/as provide manual labor or sell the objects of their culture. Clearly there was a problem with Nuevomexicano/a education in the 1930s and
1940s, and Tireman attempted to implement curriculum and pedagogy that was sensitive to the needs of Nuevomexicano/as. However, his curriculum did not prepare students for professional positions, nor did it take the decline of village populations into consideration, and
Nuevomexicano/as moving to urban areas.
From Las Vegas to Peru: Latino/a Education, Pan-American Film, and Shifting
In the 1940s, NMHU faculty established themselves as experts on international experts on Latino/a education, with NMHU President Edward Eyring among the faculty and administrators who contributed to educational reforms in Latin America. Born in a Mormon colony in Colonia Juarez, Chihuaha, Mexico, Eyring relocated to Arizona during the Mexican
Revolution. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in Spanish, he took a position as a Spanish professor at NMHU and in 1939 was promoted to president of the university, remaining in the position until 1951. In his time at NMHU, Eyring implemented a number of programs that sustained NMHU’s progress, especially during the war, when college- aged males were serving in the war. During the war, he collaborated with the Department of
Defense to establish programs that drew additional funds into the university, while also supporting the U.S. war effort.
Eyring’s position as a the president of a Southwest university in a traditionally Latino/a population, along with his birth in Mexico and his ability to speak Spanish, allowed him to establish himself as an expert in the education of Spanish-speaking students. As a professional, he joined the Southwest Committee of Education for Spanish-speaking People and the Rocky
Mountain Section on the Committee of Inter-American Affairs. Throughout the 1940s, Eyring attended and spoke at conferences in the United States and South America as an expert on the education of Spanish-speaking students. In December 1945, Eyring attended a conference at the
University of Texas, where Sanchez was a member of the faculty, which focused on “The
Specific Fundamental Problems relating to the Education of the Spanish-American people in
California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas” (“Eyring Goes to Conference”). Among the topics discussed were “scope and significance of bilingualism, school segregation, delinquency, non-attendance in school, adequacy of texts, and methods and materials for the teaching of English to non-English speaking students” (45). Eyring’s attendance at the conference establishes the role that NMHU served within a community of scholars dedicated to improving Latino/a education throughout the American Southwest. Building on his expertise in
Southwestern education, Eyring also positioned himself as an expert in international Latin
American education. From August 1948 until January 1949, Eyring worked with the Institute of
Inter-American Affairs in Peru to support their restricting efforts. Specifically, he worked with the Peruvian government to reduce the number of teacher training colleges from 27 to 7 (“Dr.
Eyring Leaving”). Again, we do not know the specifics of Eyring’s time in Peru; however,
Eyring’s duties in Peru reflect the United State’s efforts in Latin America
Eyring played a role in larger U.S. international policy by contributing to U.S. interventionism in Latin America. As part of his Good Neighbor Policy, Roosevelt promised nonintervention in Latin American affairs; however, economic and cultural programs replaced military intervention as the U.S.’s tools of dominance. Economic advisors from the U.S. offered support to Latin American business, while encouraging them to buy U.S. products
(Findling 101). The Office of Inter-American Affairs and the Institute for Inter-American
Affairs provided jobs, sponsored sanitation and health projects, promoted agricultural diversification, and administrated the development of the Pan American Highway (Leonard 100-
101). U.S. support came with a price, as Latin American allies were expected to support U.S. interests during WWII and during the Cold War. The U.S. government used their economic position to procure Latin American support for their policies and to limit the opportunities of those who challenged them.
NMHU students were directly and indirectly impacted by U.S. international policies through the everyday activities that existed as a network of Pan-American beliefs and policies.
For example, the simple act of watching a film drew students into the larger network. On
August 13, 1942, NMHU students watched a selection of Pan-American films. The July 29 issue of The Candle announcing the showing does not list the films; however, Dr. H.I. Ballenger, entertainment committee sponsor, situates their value as part of the war effort. He says, “These
79 pictures should be of great interest to all college students, at this time especially, when so much of our success in this war depends on our relations with the Spanish-American countries” (“Pan-
American Films”). Watching these films directly engaged NMHU students with U.S. international policies. The Office of Inter-American (OIAA) Press, Radio, and Motion Pictures
Division produced propaganda for North American and Latin American viewers. The OIAA coproduced Walt Disney’s Saludos Amigos and Orson Welle’s unfinished It’s All True to influence
Latin American people and produced documentaries to sway U.S. sentiments. According to
Benamou, films intended for U.S. audiences, “were meant to persuade audiences to set jingoistic sentiments aside and embrace the good neighbors to the south not only as consumers but also as students, partners, strategic allies, and fellow Americans” (109). Those meant for Latin
Americans, “sought to persuade diverse audiences to support not just increasing economic, strategic and military cooperation with the United States as an expedient to win the war, but the embrace, if not wholesale adoption, of lifestyles and mores originating in the U.S. print and radio media” (109). Whether films intended for viewers in the United States or viewers in Latin
America, the films screened at NMHU in 1942 brought students under the influence of the U.S. propaganda machine. Pan-American beliefs guided Nuevomexicano/a students’ interpretation of world events and their place in international affairs.
In a 1942 Candle, editorial Robert E. Mares clarifies his understanding of Pan-
Americanism as a democratic system unifying the Western Hemisphere. Although it is not clear what he is responding to, Mares claims, “Democratic United States made big by the addition of
20 sister American states. One republic supplanted by a unified hemisphere holding out against a dictator-ship ridden world. That is Pan-Americanism!” (Mares 2). In addition, he argues,
“Like the thirteen states of Continental United States who having won freedom united to
preserve it, so must we of the 21 American countries hold hands and establish a friendship so
80 steadfast in peace and strife that no greed, no hate, no power can ever rend asunder!”
Although we don’t know how students received the films, Pan-American concepts continue to influence students after the war. Professor Lynn Perrigo’s 1948 talk to Adelfa (the
Spanish Club), “What is in a Name?” clarifies Pan-Americanism and Inter-American. Unlike the descriptions of other campus talks, this particular description records a substantial account of
Perrigo’s lecture. Sensitive to his audience, Perrigo delivered his speech in Spanish, providing additional commentary in English. By speaking in Spanish, Perrigo limited his audience to those who speak Spanish. The purpose of the speech is intended for Nuevomexicano/as as a way to provide them with a sense of identity based in 1940s scholarship and politics.
Perrigo provides a working vocabulary for a discussion of Latino/a issues by defining important terms. (“Adelfa Hears Discussion” ). Pan-Americanism’s origins are established with
Simon Bolivar in 1826 but was abandoned because of its association with propaganda.
Hispanism shows the influence of Spain and South America used for the “purpose of combating
Yankee imperialism” and became unpopular because of its association with Francisco Franco.
“Latin-America” was a term promoted by France as a way of uniting all cultures of Latin origin, including Italy, France, Portugal, and Spain. The popularity of the term, according to Perrigo, was because it was not used for propaganda. Indo-America reflects a “new revolutionary concept of America.” Inter-America, developed during the war, “expresses a greater unity among the Americas.”
Perrigo’s speech draws from larger academic discussion of Pan-Americanism.
According to Mark T. Berger, the study of Latin America in U.S. higher education developed from the 1890s to the 1940s with the work of Latin American academics complementing and
legitimizing the U.S. rise to power in the Western hemisphere (46). He explains that
“professional students of Latin America increasingly invoked a shared past and future in the
Americas and emphasized the need for inter-American cooperation” (54). Pan-Americanism provided Nuevomexicano/a students with frameworks viewing themselves as a part of a larger
Latin American community. This understanding promotes an extralocal identity, where local history corresponds with the history of the Americas. With international politics shaping their identities, students could view themselves as part of a global community. As members of a larger Latino/a international community with a shared colonial history and a shared language, and their exposure to Pan-American ideologies, they identified with Latin Americans.
Perrigo’s speech and Eyring’s specialization in Latino/a education clearly influenced the student body. In 1948, students enrolled in history and the social sciences in increasing numbers.
Students enrolled in courses in U.S. political parties, international relations, labor problems, and sociology (“History, Social Science Courses”). Taking courses in international relations,
Nuevomexicano/a students potentially studied their role within the world, possibly the Latin
American world. By studying politics and labor, students could explore their role in U.S. society and determine how they could engage U.S. political systems. Enrolling in sociology, they could begin to understand social behavior, using sociological frameworks to understand their role in society. Courses in these disciplines provided the foundational knowledge for producing change after graduation.
President Eyring’s wife, Evelyn, also presented herself as an expert on Spanish and Inter-
American affairs. In February 1941, Mrs. Eyring spoke to the NMHU Spanish Club. In her speech, “The Value of Spanish and its Present Relations to World Affairs,” she spoke to students about the general influence. Reporting on the talk, a Candle reporter states, “Mrs. Eyring
encouraged the Club members to awaken to the value of knowing and using correctly the
Spanish language” (“Club Español”). Relying solely on the short synopsis provided by the
Candle reporter, our interpretation of Eyring’s talk is limited. However, the reporter makes it clear that Eyring encourages students to use Spanish in new ways, in “correct” ways. If they
82 have to “awake” to the value of using Spanish correctly, then, according to Eyring, students were using Spanish incorrectly. According to Rubén Cobos, who began his study of New Mexican
Spanish in 1940 and published A Dictionary of New Mexico & Southern Colorado Spanish, New
Mexican Spanish is a regional variety that includes archaic Spanish, Mexican Indian words, Rio
Grande Indian words, Mexican Spanish, and English. Although I do not know how or where
Mrs. Eyring learned Spanish, she looks at the spoken Spanish of NMHU Nuevomexicano/as as incorrect, impure, and deficient. For Mrs. Eyring, Spanish is utilitarian, not cultural. When spoken correctly, it is a tool for international relations. Mrs. Eyring’s classification of Spanish as a tool is evident in the Air Corps Spanish Project, which recruited bilingual New Mexican teachers to teach Spanish to members of the Army Air Forces (Getz 116).
Returning to Perrigo’s speech, it is clear that in the 1940s, Nuevomexicano/as were aware of the difficulties in naming the Latino/as of the Southwest. Perrigo diminishes the need to find a label other than that of American. He argues, “What is in a name? What matters the name, we are all Americans and how we are all preparing to be citizens of the world” (“Adelfa Hears
Discussion” ). By invoking an American identity, Perrigo accomplishes two tasks. First, potentially, challenges racist discourses that would define Nuevomexicano/as as non-American.
However, it also disregards the local history that Perrigo, as an expert in Las Vegas, spent his career chronicling. Perrigo’s dismissal of a Latino/a nomenclature reflects local trends in the local Las Vegas newspapers. A survey of The Optic and The Candle fail to show any consistent
83 use of terminology to name local Nuevomexicano/as. As discussed earlier, Spanish, became the term to describe Nuevomexicano/as in print. Spanish-American, and hispanic-american are two terms used in the local papers. Surprisingly, local Nuevomexicano/as are rarely referred to as a group at all.
Supported by NMHU faculty who specialized in Latino/a education and international government, Nuevomexicano/as at NMHU turned to Pan-Americanism as to construct a national and international identity. Unlike New Mexican newspapers fifty years earlier that concerned themselves with Nuevomexicano/a culture, newspapers in the 1940s disregarded local
Nuevomexicano/a identity. I am not arguing that NMHU students did not possess a sense of local identity; however, that identity was not discussed in the school newspaper. Pan-
Americanism offered an additional element, expanding student identity. Seeing themselves as a part of a larger world, a larger world experienced by those students who were also veterans, students enrolled in government courses, laying the groundwork for Nuevomexicano/as like Tiny
Martinez, who will be discussed more later in this chapter and the next, developing the skills and knowledge to influence the future of NMHU through the school government and, later in life, through the court system.
Southwest History: Erasing the Latino/a Perspective
On July 24, 1942, Dr. Carl Coke Rister, chairman of the University of Oklahoma History
Department, presented the final of three lectures on “The Southwesterner” to students at NMHU.
Although we do not have the content of these lectures recorded, we can consult Rister’s published works to determine potential strands of his lecture, especially those lines of thought that relate to the Spanish and Mexicans of the Southwest. In 1942, Rister had published four
books: The Southwestern Frontier (1928), The Greater Southwest (1934), Southern Plainsmen
(1938), Border Captives (1940), and Western America (1941). In 1942, he also published Land
Hunger: David L. Payne and the Oklahoma Boomers. Rister writes his histories from an
Anglocentric position of privilege, histories of New Mexican statehood that disregarded the
Nuevomexicano/a perspective, situating it in the slavery question and the Texas-New Mexico border dispute.
As a Texan, Rister paints a favorable portrait of Texans, especially when describing their
1941 effort to re-establish the Texas boundary as the Rio Grande. The Texas Republic claimed
Mexican territory up to the Rio Grande as their own, while Rister portrays the Texan movement into New Mexico as a benevolent act. Rister states that the purpose of the “combined military and commercial expedition” was to “raise the prestige of the Texas government as well as to establish a trade with New Mexico” (The Greater Southwest 107). Previous efforts by the
Texans to “secure peace and recognition of independence by Mexico through meditation had failed.” The Texas Republic had previously been Mexican territory, taken forcefully by
Americans moving into the Republic. According to Rister, the Texan government “proposed to assert its claim to the disputed territory by more positive means.” The purpose then of the expedition was to “invite the New Mexicans to recognize the sovereignty of Texas” (108). This invitation was “interpreted” my Governor Manuel Armijo, whom Rister does not refer to by name, instead referring to him simply as “the governor of New Mexico,” to be an invasion. The
“exhausted” Texas expedition were incapable of defending themselves and were captured. The
“inhuman treatment” of the Texan prisoners drew the attention of the U.S. public. As “an act of retaliation,” the Mexican government sent the military across the Rio Grande, land that officially remained a part of the Mexican Republic.
According to Rister, New Mexican statehood was primarily an issue of slavery. Rister concludes his discussion of New Mexican statehood by condensing almost 50 years of history.
A single paragraph moves from after the war in 1865 to statehood in 1912. In three sentences, he establishes the failed attempt to combine New Mexico and Arizona into one state, ending with
“They (Arizona) steadfastly resisted this plan of union, and finally, in 1912, Arizona and New
Mexico were made states” (227). New Mexico is presented as passive in the process of procuring statehood, with the agency of Nuevomexicano/as erased from history. Rister writes from an Anglocentric position, dismissive of the Nuevomexicano/a perspective. He fails to consider racist discourses of Eastern newspapers and their role in stalling New Mexican statehood. Rister’s erasure of the Nuevomexican perspective account frames public discourses of race in the local newspapers. Local Las Vegas newspapers, including The Candle, did not engage issues of racism as they pertained to Latino/a racism whether in Texas, California, or
Veterans Return Home: Democracy, Social Justice, and Race
With between 375,000 and 500,000 Mexican Americans serving in military, WWII had a far-reaching impact on the Mexican American community (Acuña 264). Nuevomexicano/as, members of the 200th/515th Coast Artillery of the National Guard, were among the first to see combat. More than half of the unit died during the Bataan Death March and the subsequent internment. Mexican-Americans, including Nuevomexicano/as, earned more medals of honor than any other ethnic group and between 375,000 and 500,00 served in the armed forces (Acuña
The war industry made a home in New Mexico. The presence of uranium in northern
New Mexico as well as the state’s small population attracted the Atomic Energy Commission.
As part of the Manhattan Project, the U.S. government built the Los Alamos National Laboratory and tested the first atom bomb at Trinity Site, near Alamogordo. In Las Vegas, the military expanded the small local airport (Perrigo 54). Camp Luna, just a few miles north of the town, was expanded for the housing and training of the Army Air Corps Ferrying Command (61).
With reduced enrollments, NMHU was kept afloat by Department of Defense projects In
1940, the university offered courses through the Technical Trades Institute, where the produced castings, tools, and materials for the defense industry. The university erected two new buildings to accommodate this expanded coursework. Further expansion resulted in the development of an aircraft maintenance department and the building of a new hangar at the airport. The university also developed a one-year college preparatory course for entrance into Army Air-Cadet training and later provided full-time flight training (Vigil 55-56).
Upon arriving from the war, Latino/as throughout the United States used the G.I. Bill as an opportunity to attain an advance education. These programs opened opportunities for new leaders to emerge, leaders who entered institutions that had excluded Latino/as. Armando
Rodriguez used his education to serve as an adviser to two presidents and advocate for Latin for issues (Rivas-Rodriguez, et al 275). Newly educated Latino/as established a familial tradition of advanced education, multiplying the effects of the G.I. Bill across generations.
Impacted by the G.I. Bill, the composition of the student body at NMHU experienced a shift at the end of the war. According to Vigil, Nuevomexicano/a veterans returning from the war
“were no longer intimidated, as they had been before the war, by the white establishment’” (61).
George Cooley, editor of The Candle and a Navy Veteran, captured the change in the student
body, writing, “The Joe College of old was fresh out of high school, master of an education which enabled him to at least red part of the liquor labels and with the thoughts sinking to the
87 profound depths of ‘babes’ and other manly achievements” (“College Trends” 2). In contrast,
“The new freshman does not carry the insanity of high school with him. That was lost somewhere between Berlin and China.” The maturity of the new freshman conflicted with
NMHU tradition. Upper class students expected to maintain their position on the campus, forcing underclassmen to “wear an onion or a faded cap” (2). The students with the “pre-war atmosphere” continued with “the stupidity of tradition the stupidity of using the values of one period in another.” In addition, Cooley argued for collaboration between veterans and other students, stating, “one group cannot be prosperous for long while another is in need.”
Cooley’s critical statement establishes the core values of these veteran students. After the war, The Candle continued to record the everyday activities of college students. However, after the war, the editors cultivated a more critical agenda based on principles of democracy and social justice. For Cooley, the war has enhanced a revolution “found in the democratic struggles of all peoples, a struggle for freedom and justice” (2). Although he does not specify, democratic values would be the driving force behind the changes in student government implemented by veteran students.
A founding AZI member, Tiny served as editor of The Candle for the 1947-48 and used his editorials to draw attention to issues of race and social justice. Specifically, he concentrated on issues of African-American and Native American racism. Although he wasn’t the first editor to establish a critical tone in the newspaper, it is primarily during Tiny’s time as editor that The
Candle takes a greater focus on issues of race and social justice. However, even under his leadership, the paper does not focus on Latino/a or Nueveomexicano/a issues. Tiny brings local
88 and national issues concerning African-Americans and Native Americans to the consciousness of the student body.
In the February 2, 1948 issue of The Candle. Editor, Donaldo “Tiny” Martinez reprinted an editorial from the NSA News. In one paragraph, the author reflects on the purpose of the university experience. He writes, “Consider the university community as a test tube in which are contained all the elements of the world at large. Experiment with those elements, with the aim toward achieving a smooth, unified mixture. Remove all those particles—hatred, discrimination, prejudice—which prevent a perfect blend (“Test Tube”). This test tube metaphor captures the unrecognized Latino/a movement at NMHU in the 1940s. In the postwar years, a group of
Latino/as worked within this test tube to develop political skills that opened opportunities after graduation. Within the test tube, students were able to change student government and draw attention to issues of race and social justice
Although the organization of a student movement on campus is a collaborative effort, I am going to pay special attention to Donaldo “Tiny” Martinez because of his familial connections to Nuevomexicano/a politicians of earlier generations and his significant role in the
Chicano/a protests at NMHU during the 1970s. As a member of the Alpha Zeta Iota fraternity and editor of school newspaper, The Candle, Tiny developed his political acumen in the test tube of NMHU.
When Ben Renshaw, owner of B&B Recreation Parlor refused to serve a Black NMHU student, Tiny printed a letter signed by other prominent students on the first page of The Candle.
After refusing to serve the student, Renshaw posted a sign establishing his restaurant as white only. The letter compares Renshaw’s racism to the Fascism that soldiers fought against in the war. In addition, the editor calls on local members of the community, including the mayor and
89 the editor of the local newspaper, to denounce Renshaw’s actions. Finally, Renshaw is encouraged to “pack his duds and leave town” (“A Call for Action”).
Racism against African-Americans continuously appears in the newspaper. A short piece reports on a three year old is ruled ineligible for a baby contest because of race (“Contests”). A short story, “A Christmas Story” relates the tale of an African-American veteran and an Irish corporal who are refused service at a series of bars on Christmas Eve. A Jewish man leads them to Garcias, a Latino/a owned-bar, where the veteran is served. The Jew, the Irishman, Garcia, and the African-American sit together, enjoying each other’s company. Garcia states the moral of the story, “In this country, there are many lives, many races of people. Cross their paths always with the understanding you have shown here tonight—the understanding of Him who blessed all our Christmasses” (“Four Lives”).
Despite national patterns of Latino/a racism in the United States, local Nuevomexicano/a concerns are never reported. This silencing reflects the erasure of Nuevomexicano/a perspective in Rister’s histories. By offering a paradigm of Southwest history that denies a
Nuevomexicano/a perspective, Rister ignores Latino/a racism and diminishes the discourse that confronts racism. By centralizing slavery in New Mexico’s efforts to earn statehood, Rister prioritizes African-American concerns and diminishes Nuevomexicano/a concerns.
Forming Fraternities and Composing Constitutions: The Silent Nuevomexicano/a
With the men serving in the war, student campus activities came to a halt. The Candle ceased printing during the war, so there is no record of student activity between 1942 and 1945.
The pause in campus life extended to the student government, and upon returning to a sense of
90 normality in fall 1945, the students reestablished the student council. Without a clear understanding of how the council operated before the war, students formed a committee to study the previous student government, finally deciding to revised the constitution. The role of class representatives complicated the revision process. In violation of the constitution, the 1945 council allowed class representatives to vote on policies. As part of the initial revision, voting rights were extended to the representatives. The expanded council consisted of representatives of each Greek organization (four fraternities and three sororities), of the Spanish Club, the
Independents Club, the Vocational Trades Club, and the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior classes. Tri Sigma representative, Catherine Frkovich noted that extension of voting privileges to the class representatives allowed for one organization to gain control of the council by including class representatives in their organization (“Student Council Faces”). The January
1946 amendment increased representation of each organization to one representative for every twenty five members and a minimum 2/3 vote by the council.
Just as with Cooley’s speech, the first election promoted a sense of democracy and collaboration. At the election rally, Joe Gallegos described NMHU as a “meeting ground where two different cultures are merged to produce one great culture—the American culture. We are not Irish, English, or Spanish, we are all Americans” (“School Spirit”). Gallegos’s comments reflected a “melting pot” ideology, where individual cultures are subsumed through their inclusion in larger U.S. society. To Gallegos, the election represented a moment when Spanish and White students, represented by the Irish and English in his speech, could stand as equals.
This equality was contingent on the Spanish character being integrated into the U.S. culture, culture that extended from the experiences of Whites on the east coast and Midwest.
With the new student government in place, Nuevomexicano/a students negotiated the new political system. In 1946, a group of NMHU students, consisting primarily of
Nuevomexicano/as, formed a fraternity, Alpha Zeta Iota (AZI), and by forming AZI, the organization was granted at least one vote in the council. In the fall, AZI member Chris
Gonzales, who was a first lieutenant in the Army during the war, won the race for student body president, bringing another vote to the fraternity. Rather than solely joining AZI, other
Nuevomexicano/as joined other fraternities, gaining access to the political apparatus. The option of forming and joining fraternities at NMHU stands out for Nuevomexicano/as as they were restricted from participating in Greek societies at the University of New Mexico (Acuña 279).
Recognizing the influence of the fraternity in the student government, Nuevomexicano/as formed
AZI and became more visible in other fraternities.
Just as they operated within the student political system, Nuevomexicano/as recognized the importance of the press. In the Student Newspaper Survival Guide, Susan Goldberg lists ten goals of a college newspaper, including “Make sure to reflect your community,” “Make a local mark,” “Make watchdog stories your hallmark,” and “Make change; be a crusader” (5). Candle editors engaged these responsibilities, realizing that the newspaper provided them with a public forum for promoting change. Although we do not see an explicit effort in the newspaper to draw attention to Nuevomexicano/a concerns, we do see a growing Nuevomexicano/a presence after the war. Before the war, Anglo students held the major roles in the production of the newspaper.
In 1942, Robert E. Mares served as editor with Phillip Gonzales and Josephine Arguello working as news editors. However, these students managed the newspaper during the summer when many of the students were home for break. It seems as though before the war the opportunity for
Nuevomexicano/as to work on the newspaper was only available when Anglo students were not
on campus or were not the dominant population on campus, and as a group, Nuevomexicano/as
92 were marginalized from student activities prior to the changes stimulated by AZI.
According to Vigil, Eyring’s autocratic leadership irked Nuevomexicano/a students, especially when they argued for better treatment of Latino/a students and the extension of
Latino/a faculty and staff; however, direct criticism of Eyring never appeared in the school newspaper (62-63). Although Eyring did not directly edit the weekly newspaper, it did function as an authorized institutional text. Sanctioned by the institution, The Candle reflected school values.
Across disciplines, research on Latino/a students in postsecondary institutions have focused on how contemporary university environments shape student identity. Education researcher Alexander Astin’s basic premise that “Students learn by becoming involved” is just as applicable to 1940s NMHU as it is to a university in 2013 (Pascarella and Terenzini 53). At
NMHU in the 1940s, local and extralocal influences impacted how Nuevomexicano/a students developed as college students, Latino/as, and as future professionals. Systems of disciplinarity impacted identity by either providing a vocabulary for constructing a global identity that extended beyond the borders of the United States, or by limiting the opportunity to engage in a critical public discourse concerning racism against Latino/as in New Mexico or in other areas in the United States. As Rister presented it, New Mexican statehood was not about
Nuevomexicano/a concerns, but an addendum to the debate over slavery. Exposed to a history that limited their roles and did not recognize a colonial influence, students were note presented with a public discourse concerning their position in U.S. society. Instead of developing a
recognized position in U.S. history and in U.S. politics, Nuevomexicanos, engaged Pan-
American ideals to form a more global identity. In addition, NMHU students were shaped by
93 national ideologies, including democratic values, that were represented by the presence of the military programs at NMHU and through their service in the war. Perrigo’s claims that they are
Americans represents a consistent sense of national identity. Despite their marginalized status, students identified as Americans, but as Latino/as, they shared a history with the citizens of Latin
Nuevomexicano/a students looked to reposition themselves in dominant institutions, and to change how Latino/as were received in political and professional spaces. They infiltrated campus organizations, working within the framework of institutional practices, to change their position in the university. Prior to WWII, Nuevomexicano/as played a limited role in student leadership. Seeing that the university did not overtly deny Nuevomexicano/a students the opportunities engage in student organizations like the newspaper, neither was it part of the university’s mission to promote them.
The decision to participate in extracurricular activities is a student’s; however, students have no control over the content and organization of the courses they take. For example, if we consider Rister’s scholarship as an example of accepted historiography in the 1930s and 40s, the lack of a published Latino/a historical perspective left students with few sources to draw on to challenge Rister’s history. Operating in a period prior to the promotion of inclusionary scholarship that recognizes the perspectives of underrepresented groups, professors at NMHU attempted to design curriculum that reflected its position in the Southwest. Rister spoke on the
Southwest. Perrigo lectured on U.S. and Pan-American identity. President Eyring spoke
Spanish and claimed expertise in Latino/a education, as it was understood at that point. Neither
94 students, administrators, or faculty had the benefit of a multicultural educational paradigm or of the development of a discipline such as ethnic studies. Although the HSI label had not yet been constructed in the 1940s, the activities of the students in AZI set the groundwork for changes in student demographics at NMHU and for the later emergence of NMHU as an institution that recognized the importance of its Nuevomexicano/a students.
CHAPTER 4: BLACK POWER, THE CHICANO/A MOVEMENT,
AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF NMHU
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Nuevomexicano/as at NMHU employed a confrontational public rhetoric to provoke changes at the university, changes that included the development of an ethnic studies program and the hiring of the first U.S.-born Latino university president, Dr. Frank Angel. In 1910, Aurora Lucero argued for inclusion, and during the 1940s,
Tiny Martinez and members of AZI restructured student government, so that it included
Nuevomexicano/as. Lucero supported the proliferation of American institutions, while AZI sought greater Nuevomexicano/a participation and representation in American higher education.
However, Chicano/as in the 1970s sought more fundamental changes with events at NMHU in the 1970s reflecting a continuation and divergence from events in the 1940s. Unlike
Nuevomexicano/a students in the 1940s, students in the 1970s took a more assertive voice when engaging the university, recording their grievances and challenging the university’s administration in the school newspaper and in a week long sit-in in May 1970. Influenced by national trends, including the Chicano Student Movement and the Black Student Movement, students pushed the administration for representation it the curriculum, the faculty, and administration. As political scientist Armando Navarro explains, “During the epoch of militant protest, the previous mode of social action politics based on accommodation and adaptation was categorically repudiated and replaced by militant protest” (304). The epoch of militant protest described by Navarro, not only resulted in fundamental change at NMHU, it also corresponded with the development of a Chicano/a identity, which embraced an identity of resistance to racism
and injustice, and the inclusion of a mestizo/a history that included the Native American influences that previous Nuevomexicano/as, such as Aurora Lucero, strategically disregarded.
When framed by the three elements of institutional ethnography (work, ideology, and social relations), the public rhetorical activities of Nuevomexicano/as and Black students present new articulations of Nuevomexicano/a identity that evolve from extralocal positions, from the wave of civil rights discourses and from militant protest movements, specifically those on the campuses in the United States. While the everyday activities of publishing and reading the school newspaper remained consistent over time, the construction of a Chicano/a identity emerged as an assertive discursive position, which recognized inequity and employed the rhetorical strategies of public protest and communal identity building to provoke institutional change. Changes in the tone of student writing, marked especially in the writing of Black students at NMHU, from a conciliatory tone in previous decades to a more aggressive tone reflected changes in the social relations between those in university administration and
Nuevomexicano/a students, who recognized a discrepancy between the local northern New
Mexican population, the university population, and the organization of power at NMHU. While earlier generations of NMHU students utilized more subtle strategies to influence the administration, Nuevomexicano/as in the 1960s and 1970s, emboldened by the rhetorical strategies of national movements like those organized by Cesar Chavez, and local movements advanced by Reies Tijerina and La Alianza Federal de Mercedes, challenged the NMHU administration by organizing a campus sit-in and the occupation of the administrative building.
The years 1968-1972 mark a moment where Nuevomexicano/a students, collaborating with Black students, reshaped established institutional practices, allowing for greater Latino/a representation in the university’s administration and faculty, and the inclusion of a Latino/a
perspective in curriculum. Although students in the 1940s pressed for the empowerment of
Nuevomexicano/a students and their representation in the student government, students in the
1970s pushed for the representation of Nuevomexicano/as in administration. Traditionally, at least one member of the Board of Regents had been reserved for a Nuevomexicano/a, but, despite its situation in a historically Latino/a community, NMHU had never hired a Latino/a president.
As they pushed the university to hire a Nuevomexicano/a president, they simultaneously campaigned for the development of a Chicano Studies program. In the 1940s, Dr. Rister’s publications represented an Anglocentric view of history, diminishing the significant historical position of Nuevomexicano/as and Native Americans, while casting American immigrants to the
Southwest as the civilizers of a space perceived by those immigrants as empty and unused.
Chicano/as campaigned for the inclusion of history and literature that reflected their heritage and that provided them with the opportunity to understand their current position by understanding their past.
As the Chicano Movement gained momentum at NMHU, the editors of The Highlands
Candle transformed the paper into a text that reflected a new Chicano/a identity. Drawing from the national movement and from Chicano newspapers like El Grito del Norte, published in
Española, New Mexico, the editors introduced new symbols, such as the three-faced image of the mestizo/a, and rearticulated Nuevomexicano history to include Mexico and Native American influences. In addition, Nuevomexicano students published poems in the newspaper that reflected their new identity and that challenged American hegemony.
The Chicano/a Movement Comes to New Mexico
Between 1966 and 1974, the national Chicano Movement, lead by figures such as Cesar
Chavez, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, and Reies Tijerina, instigated the most substantial changes in the ways Chicano/as interacted with dominant White American society. Speaking of the epoch of militant protest politics, as he has labeled it, Navarro claims:
The tumultuous and at times turbulent epoch rejected the politics of social action and replaced it with cultural nationalism, which was impelled by militant protest politics. Adaptation and accommodation-oriented politics and the ethos of the
Mexican American Generation were discarded. Instead, many Mexicanos, especially the youth, refused to play the role of buffer and opted for the assertive social change-oriented political role of advocate transformers. (303)
In their efforts to compel social change, Chicano/a leaders organized, initially forming local groups which agitated for local concerns, and then expanding their mission nationally. In
California, Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez formed the United Farm Workers Association, to first support the efforts of workers in the rose and grape industries to earn better wages and secure better working conditions. Working locally, Chicano/a organizations employed different tactics to achieve their goals, with the Chavez and Huerta promoting non-violent measures such as hunger strikes and boycotts, and Tijerina’s La Alianza Federal de Mercedes (the Federal Land
Grant Alliance), leading an armed occupation of the Rio Arriba county courthouse in Tierra
Amarilla, New Mexico.
Tijerina’s occupation of the courthouse emerged from the 19 th
century conquest of New
Mexico by the United States, when over the next decades Nuevomexicano/as would lose 3.7 million acres of community and communal lands to Americans (Hammerbeck, Jensen, and
Gutierrez 11). Born in Fall City, Texas, Tijerina started his career as a preacher, moving his
99 family and a group of his followers to Pima County, Arizona in 1956, where in 1957, he was accused of theft and of helping his brother attempt to escape from police custody. Over the next few years, on the behalf of Nuevomexicano/as in Tierra Amarilla, he researched
Spanish/Mexican land grants, determining that Carson National Forest near Tierra Amarilla belonged to the people of the area. Along with privately owned properties, Spanish/Mexican land grants included ejidos, communal properties used for grazing that were confiscated by the
U.S. government and either sold or retained as federal lands. On October 15, 1966, Tijerina and
350 Alianza members occupied the campgrounds in the national forest, captured two rangers, tried them, and found them guilty of trespassing and being a public nuisance, suspending their sentence of eleven months and twenty-two days in jail. While appealing his conviction for assault relating to the national forest situation, Tijerina attempted a citizen’s arrest of Rio Arriba
District Attorney Alfonso Sanchez, instigating a gun fight with New Mexico State Police, Rio
Arriba Sheriff deputies, and the National Guard (Acuña 340-41).
Tijerina stands as the most prominent figure in the New Mexico Chicano Movement, and his militant practices situate him in a history of armed protest that includes the Chimayo
Rebellion against Mexican officials in 1837 and the Taos Revolt against the United States in
1847. While Tijerina’s practices were not reproduced by other Chicano/a leaders or the leaders of the Chicano/a Movement at NMHU, he became a symbol for protest in New Mexico, “a symbol, convicted of political crimes, rather than of crimes against ‘society’” (Acuña 341), and the personality most associated with protests at NMHU. In the months leading up to the sit-in,
Tijerina, his brother, Ramon, and his son, Reies, Jr., who spoke during the sit-in with other
Alianza members, addressed the students on campus.
Tijerina’s speech, presented to the NMHU student body on February 11, 1969, called for unity and non-violent protest, despite the use of violence Tijerina employed himself. In his analysis of Tijerina’s rhetoric, Hammerback argues that Tijerna’s “Rhetorical discourse created, extended, and intensified the perceived reality of discontented people; this reality built and audience capable of action” (Hammerback, Johnson and Gutierrez 25). Quoted in The
Highlands Candle, Tijerina argued, “Chicanos, you should unite, unite, but not attack anyone.
We need change. We must strive, push, and bleed; here our minds will develop. Let’s try. Let’s work . . . Fight, fight within the framework of the law, of course, but fight. Let’s fight like brothers. I’m ready to fight and shake hands” (“Cricket in Lion’s Ear”). Although he advocated non-violence, he filled his speech with war metaphors, advancing an urgent need for action.
Tijerina describes his missions as a “cultural warpath,” also claiming that “We have an obligation to demand justice, unfortunately we must sometimes resort to the whip.” Tijerina’s mixed message of peaceful action, with the understanding that violence could be necessary to advance changes, would later be reflected in the speeches given at the sit-in where, according to heavily-biased Optic coverage (The Optic did not cite Gonzales directly), Spanish-American
Student Association (SASO) president Francisco Gonzales claimed that “violence is the only remaining course” (“March Goes From Campus”).
Students’ reaction to Tijerina varied seemingly along ethnic groups, with Black students and Chicano/a students being more supportive of Tijerina. In an effort to garner a variety of perspectives, reporters from the The Highlands Candle interviewed five Black students, nine
Anglo students, six Chicano/a students, and one Hawaiian. Unless the article specifically stated it, the ethnicity of the speaker could not be easily determined if the speaker did not have a
Spanish surname. Amongst Tijerina’s supporters, three Black students, each of whom were
labeled as members of OCBS, supported Tijerina’s platform. Specifically, Earl Miller stated,
“Nothin’ but the facts, man” (“Students show mixed reaction”), Ernie Price explained that he
“was extremely pleased with the things that were said” (5), and MacArthur Brown said, “I think he was really great. He was a sensational speaker” (5). One recognizably Anglo student, Fred
Riekeman viewed Tijerina as a racist, arguing, “He’s a damn Racist! He doesn’t recognize a man for what he is. He insults me because I’m a White man!” (5). Riekman’s short response does not reflect a direct reaction to Tijerina’s political position; instead, he challenges Tijerina’s characterization of Anglos as racists, with Riekman positioning himself as not being racist.
The majority of Chicano/a students supported Tijerina with some critiquing his rhetorical strategies and his delivery. Jose Manuel Martinez’s comment, “A toda madre” (an expletive roughly meaning excellent or cool), and Lloyd Rivera’s “Reies Tijerina, Chicano power—que
viva la raza!” (5) illustrate Chicano/a support of Tijerina’s cultural and political agenda. By including Spanish slang and the protest slogan, que viva la raza (“long live the race/people”), demonstrate the emergence of Spanish as a language of protest for Chicano/as in the 1960s and
1970s and reflected a strong affiliation with the larger national protest movement. Critiquing his decision to speak in English, Mary Romero argues, “Tijerina didn’t impress me at all. Frankly, I think he’s a phony. He claims that when he speaks in Spanish, he speaks ‘from the soul,’ yet he refused to do so when asked. Since it is the Spanish that he wants to sway and since the majority of the audiences was Spanish, I feel he would have been more convincing if had spoken in
Spanish” (1). Romero’s criticism draws from a sense of cultural authenticity, where Tijerina’s
Spanish speaking ability represents his Chicano/a identity, and the performance of that identity determines his credibility. By choosing English, Tijerina alienates his Spanish-speaking audience, casting doubt on his ability to represent them.
Martinez’s use of a toda madre in the newspaper represents a substantial change from how Nuevomexicano/as expressed their opinions publicly in other eras. In the 1940s, Tiny and other Candle editors refrained from directly confronting President Eyring, did not promote their activist positions in the newspaper, and certainly, they did not use offensive language in their publications. Just as Tejerina’s use of language exemplifies the move toward militant, armed resistance, Martinez’s language represents the more confrontational, irreverent tone of the
An Emerging Chicano/a Identity
On the NMHU campus and in Las Vegas, the 1970s offered Nuevomexicano/as new options for shaping a new self-identity, that of the Chicano/a, connoting a deviation from the accommodationist ideologies of previous generations and a move to militant protest activities.
According to Meier and Ribera, “After World War II a new generation of youthful activists, insisting on self-definition and seeking cultural roots, preferred the name Chicano, a shortening of Mexicano. The term dates back to the beginning of this century and originally had perjorative connotations, but was taken in the postwar years by many young Americans of Mexican descent as a prideful identification” (7). Acuña states, “In the late 1960s, activists, taking their cues from
Blacks, attempted to identify as Chicanos. Although the term had been perjorative, activists felt that through their dedication to social change the name would be perceived as positive by the
Mexican community in the United States” (ix). Specifically, he marks the origins of the term to the California Mexican American student movement, where the working class had “always used it playfully to refer to each other” (338). With the introduction of Hispanic by the federal
103 government, Chicano became a label used by those who associated themselves with the activist movements of the 1960s and 1970s.
Besides a militant stance on promoting social change, Chicanismo also signifies an understanding of a history of subjugation and a recognition of Native American ancestry.
Discussing the development of new terms of reference for the Latino/a population, Vélez-Ibáñez claims, “Except for the self-referent ‘Chicano,’ most other terms [Mexican American, Latino,
Latin American, Hispano, and Hispanic] are erasing labels that ease the discomfort of both
Mexicans and Anglos,” discomfort that “comes from having to recognize a long and undistinguished history of economic exploitation, occupational segmentation, social segregation, miseducation, political and legal mistreatment, and cultural and linguistic erasure” (86-87).
Chicano/as recognized this history and labored to improve inequitable economic and educational conditions, while also elevating a mestizo/a heritage that includes Native American heritage.
Guillermo Lux and Maurilio Vigil, former professors of political science and history at NMHU, argued that the use of Native American symbols, such as the Aztec eagle used on UFW publications, and the veneration of Emiliano Zapata, a Nahua revolutionary, “affirm a new trend among Mexican Americans to accept the Indianness in their heritage” (101). By re-incorporating
Native American symbols, Chicano/as revise the Spanish identity constructed and promoted during the Territorial Period, as New Mexico pushed for statehood.
In his study of the differences between Latino and Hispanic, Gracia states four conditions for determining whether a group should be defined as an ethnic group:
There must be a social group (individual persons by themselves are not ethnic unless they belong to an ethnic group).
The group must have distinct and identifiable cultural or social traits.
The cultural and social traits that distinguish the group must come from outside the country where the group resides.
Those traits must be considered alien to those accepted as main-stream in the country of residence. (41)
Gracia acknowledges that #2 and #4 “can be easily challenged in the case of Hispanics/Latinos in the United States. For many Hispanics/Latinos, their ancestral homeland is the territory where they actually reside, namely the American south-west” (41). However, Chicano/as are not simply distinct within the social landscape of the United States, they are also distinct within the communities they originate. One is not necessarily born a Chicano/a, but makes a decision to apply the term to him/herself by taking on the ideologies of a Chicano.
Reflecting their changing ideologies of protest, SASO changed their name to CASO, the
Chicano Associated Student Organization, replacing Spanish American with Chicano “because the name is no longer applicable. The name Spanish American has been stereotyped” (“SASO
Group Changes Name”). By self-identifying as Chicano/a, NMHU students aligned themselves with the Chicano/a ideologies of cultural pride and resistance to Anglo dominance, with
Chicanismo acting as “an aesthetic of the downtrodden, the abused, and the colonized that was eager to subvert the status quo” (Stavans and Jaksić 74).. According to anthropologist Rosalyn
Negrón, “Ethnic identity is a multi-dimensional construct, which in past studies has been described as ways of ‘being.’ ‘feeling,’ ‘doing,’ and/or ‘knowing’” (3). Whether operating as
SASO or CASO, the student organization stood out as the primary Chicano/a organization on campus, and its members performed Chicanismo as protestors, agitating for their place in the curriculum and administration. During the protests, students used the terms Chicano and Raza to
105 refer to themselves, and as early as 1969, when SASO was formed Francisco Gonzales was using
Chicano in a letter to the editor.
Although Chicano/a was in used from at least 1967 at NMHU, its acceptance throughout
Las Vegas was questionable and elicited a public debate in the pages of the Optic. In February and March 1970, S. Omar Barker, a local New Mexican poet born north of Las Vegas, known especially for his poem, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Poem,” published a letter to the editor where he quoted a letter published by Chaplain Thomas Sepulveda in a Denver, Colorado newspaper.
Barker begins by establishing his membership in the Las Vegas community. He explains that he was a native of San Miguel County, with close relationships with local “Spanish-speaking people,” whom he respects and considers friends (Letter). Before detailing Sepulveda’s points,
Barker explains that “the current calling of American citizen of Spanish ancestry by the derogatory term ‘Chicanos’ raises my bristles, and many of theirs as well.” Perhaps recognizing that he could speak against the term directly because of his ethnicity, Barker employs
Sepulveda’s letter to convey his stance on what Nuevomexicano/as should or should not call themselves. Sepulveda writes:
The constant barbaric use by Mexican-Americans and the general public of the word ‘Chicano’ instead of ‘Mexicano’ has urged me to break my long silence.
According to Vastus’s ‘Diccionario Enciclopedico de la Lengua Castellana’ the word Chicano or Chicana signifies ‘Mentiroso—liar; Embustero or tricky.’ The meaning of the word ‘Chicano’ is even worse if one interprets it etymologically.
So I hope this statement will help the people who have pride in calling themselves
‘Chicanos’ when they really mean to call themselves ‘Mexicanos.’ I feel real
106 proud to be a ‘Mexicano,” but I forbid people to call me ‘Chicano,’ because when they do, they are calling me ‘mentiroso, embustero or liar and tricky. (2)
Reiterating his dislike of the term Chicano, Barker, writing in Spanish, encourages Las Vegas to vote for the United Citizens, opponents of Tiny’s “All-Chicano ticket,” as the Optic referred to it.
Julian Josue Vigil, a graduate of the English Department at NMHU in 1966, who was working on his M.A. at the University of Wyoming when Barker’s letter was published, responded to Barker on March 6. Critiquing Sepulveda’s words, yet attributing them to Barker,
Vigil challenges the relationship between Chicano and chicanery by explaining that the origins of the term chicanery are “obscure,” corroborating this with a quote from the Oxford English
Dictionary. The use of the OED by Vigil reflects an academic conflict, where both Sepulveda and Vigil draw on the specialized text. He further develops his scholarly ethos by questioning
Barker’s knowledge of the term gringo, which he uses in his original letter. According to Vigil, gringo is “used in the Rio de La Plata area to designate the Italian” (Reply). Later he recommends Guillermo de Torre’s article on the use of the term Hispanoamericano from Mundo
Hispano, further establishing his knowledge about the terms used to designate
Nuevomexicano/as or other Mexicano/as.
Vigil challenges Barker’s perception of Chicanos considering that he relates the term to chicanery, asking “is this what he has always believed of Chicanos.” Although Vigil is from Las
Vegas and Barker was born outside of Las Vegas, Vigil’s position in the Nuevomexicano/a provides him with additional credibility when discussing the choice of terms Barker determines acceptable. Vigil questions Barker’s position as a member of the community, and as a legitimate rancher by placing quotes around our when he refers to Barker as “‘our’ cowboy poet” and questioning how he could have rancher friends when he lived in the town itself. By marking our,
Vigil casts doubt on Barker’s position in Las Vegas, excluding him from a position in the
Nuevomexicano/a community, despite Barker’s attempts to establish that he may speak for
Nuevomexicano/as because some are his friends. Vigil’s question, filled with sarcasm, “what is a Chicano going to call himself to please his fellow Americans?” challenges Barker’s interjection into the conversation concerning what Nuevomexicano/a’s should call themselves. Barker attempted to use his role in the community and his ability to communicate in Spanish to establish his position in the conversation, but fails to recognize that as a White man, his position is insignificant in this particular situation.
In a letter printed on March 9, 1970, Barker defended himself against Vigil’s “abusive and, in some degree, libelous attack.” Barker once again attempts to establish his ethos by referring to the Optic as “your own home town” newspaper, using your to establish the Optic as his hometown newspaper, while referring to Vigil as “a Mr. Vigil of Laramie, Wyoming,” perhaps being unaware of Vigil’s origins in Las Vegas (Reply). Barker continues his criticism of the Chicano by claiming, “I neither know nor claimed to know exactly how correct that definition [of Chicano] was. But what I do know is that Spanish-speaking friends have told me that term has heretofore been considered ‘bad’—strongly derogatory.” There is justification for
Barker’s position. In a previous letter, Mrs. Peter Diaz, Jr., formerly Vangie Chavez, puts
Chicano in quotes when referring to Tiny and “his Chicanos” (Letter). By putting Chicanos in quotes, Diaz denies the validity of the term as a label for Nuevomexicano/as when she herself does not use it. Although not operated by Nuevomexicano/as, the Optic consistently refers to
Nuevomexicano/as as “Spanish-Americans,” a term that many Las Vegans themselves used, while also consistently putting Chicanos in quotation marks.
The sporting of the Chicano/a label and the employment of militant methods were controversial within the Mexicano/a community in Las Vegas and throughout Mexicano/a communities, and “Many older Mexican Americans saw the Chicano movement as a brash, upsetting, and polarizing offensive that ultimately might undermine their precarious
108 accommodation to American society” (Meier and Ribera 222). Whether older Las Vegans decided to assume the role of Chicano/a or not, Tiny Martinez’s support of the Chicano
Movement at NMHU, his willingness to exercise his political power in support of Chicano/a issues in Las Vegas, and his public self-identification as a Chicano tilted the political situation toward the Chicano/a students at NMHU and solidified their position in the 1970 protest that would culminate in the hiring of Dr. Frank Angel and the institution of an ethnic studies program.
No Longer Silent: the Sit-in of 1970
The May 1970 sit-in marks perhaps NMHU’s most transformational moment regarding the incorporation of a Nuevomexicano/a subjectivity into the academic, administrative, social, and cultural fabric of the university. Prior to the sit-in, Chicano/as at NMHU appealed to the regents and the administration for the appointment of a Nuevomexicano/a president and the implementation of an ethnic studies program. While the activities of students on the NMHU campus over roughly the week beginning from May 20 represent a crucial moment in NMHU’s history, the Optic’s reporting of the event reveal a heavily-biased perspective that attempted to diminish the political actions of Chicano/as and to uphold the status quo practices of the university. Owned and operated by regent Stuart Beck, The Optic, recounting the contents of the speeches presented on May 20, notably comments about cultural pride, printed statements by
109 students who disagreed with the protest and did not report on reactions of Nuevomexicano/as in the community. However, employees of the West Las Vegas school district, including former members of AZI, and District Attorney Tiny Martinez, played a significant role in supporting
The May protests began after the board of regent, in a closed door meeting held in a
Santa Fe Hotel roughly sixty miles south of Las Vegas, voted to hire Dr. Charles Graham, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Wisconsin State University in Whitewater. After the dismissal of President Eyring in 1951, the university hired Dr. Thomas C. Donnelly, who served successfully until 1970. Recognizing the opportunity in Donnelly’s retirement, Chicano/a students supported the hiring of a Latino/a president, specifically Nuevomexicano/a Dr. John A.
Aragon, the director of the University of New Mexico’s Cultural Awareness Center. During the vote to hire Graham, regent Joe Otero of Taos, exited the meeting without voting, later resigning his position on the board. Serving as district attorney, Tiny charged regents John D. Robb, a retired University of New Mexico dean, Stuart Beck, Optic owner and publisher, and Frank
Peloso of Albuquerque of unlawfully holding a secret meeting, not open to the public, and violating the Fair Employment Practices Act by not hiring Aragon because of his ancestry.
Tiny’s decision to charge the regents did not reflect the only significant interactions between the university and the Las Vegas municipal government. The cross-over between faculty and the university harkens to NMHU’s Territorial Period, when Antonio Lucero engaged in local and state politics while serving as faculty. Two faculty members, Dr. Lynn Perrigo and Dr. Willie
Sanchez, became directly involved with city politics, with both involving themselves in the consolidation of the two Las Vegas municipalities and the first consolidated election.
Less than a month after Kent State, where four students were killed by National
Guardsmen and a few weeks after a demonstration at the University of New Mexico, where
110 eleven students and journalists were bayoneted by the National Guard, NMHU students, primarily Chicano/a, organized a peaceful protest. Students presented speeches, marched to the town plaza and back to campus, and peacefully occupied Rodgers Hall, the administration building, where employees were allowed to continue their work. Starting on May 20, students and local community members gathered on the NMHU campus with protest signs and speeches.
After a day of speeches that including those presented by former AZI members, Ray Leger, then superintendent of the West Las Vegas Schools (WLVS), Gilbert Sanchez, the first AZI president and teacher at WLVS, and Arcenio Gonzales, a former state legislator and also a WLVS teacher, students held an all-night vigil. While authorities should be commended for maintaining peace during the protests, avoiding the tragedies that other campuses experienced, it should also be noted that unlike other protests, students at NMHU had the support of the local government and the local community. Considering Tiny’s political influence and NMHU’s Nuevomexicano/a student population, many of whom were from Las Vegas, an armed, militaristic reaction by the police, who were composed of Las Vegans, or the National Guard, which was stationed a few miles north of Las Vegas in Camp Luna, could have provoked a more substantial reaction from the local community.
Situating themselves in the halls and offices of Rodgers Hall on May 21, students met with Tiny, Assistant District Attorney Benny Flores, and Dr. Sanchez, Highlands faculty member and city councilman. Dr. Sanchez had run as part of Tiny’s “All-Chicano” ticket, as the Optic labeled them, during the first consolidated elections that combined the eastside City of Las
Vegas, which was traditionally more Anglo, and the Westside Town of Las Vegas, which was
111 traditionally Nuevomexicano/a. Dr. Sanchez’s contributions to the sit-in cannot be understated.
During the process, he mediated discussions with the protestors, helping them to recognize that the university was contractually obligated to honor Graham’s hiring, and helping them organize their future goals. On May 26, Sanchez announced the protestors’ new goals of asking for student representation on university committee, including the board of regents, of the establishment of courses on Southwest cultures, and the future hiring of a president that was knowledgeable of New Mexico and its communities. Sanchez is credited Dr. Ralph Carlisle
Smith, vice president and dean of academic affairs, for maintaining the peace: “The real leader in bringing about the resolution of this conflict has been Sanchez . . .Without Sanchez’s help it is doubtful whether we could have weathered this very difficult situation” (“Students to Seek”).
Although mostly supported by Southwestern Chicano/a organizations like the Alianza and the Brown Berets, students would also be influenced by attorney William Kunstler, who had defended the Chicago Seven after their protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention and was president of the American Civil Liberties Union at the time of his speech. Coincidentally,
Kunstler had been scheduled to speak on campus on May 21. Speaking on the Vietnam War and racism in the United States, Kunstler encouraged student demonstrators to “take a building peacefully” (“Irritated by West Las Vegas Teacher”) and when speaking of the regents stated,
“They’re a handful of men, political appointees, who sit together without consideration. They speak of a democracy, and they make a dictatorship out of an institution used to teach democracy” (Kunstler Speaks).Like other community speakers, he promoted peaceful demonstration, stating that although violence might be necessary at some point, it was needed at
NMHU. Kunstler’s position as a notable protest figure inevitably influenced the students’ decisions to maintain control of the administration building.
On Monday, May 25, Governor David Cargo attended meetings with students, faculty and administrators on the NMHU campus, stating that the hiring of Graham was non-negotiable.
Admirably, President Donnelly maintained a state of peace on campus. Although police were present on campus, they did not attempt to forcibly remove students from the administration building. In addition, Donnelly had provided students a board room in the administration building for them to use as meeting space. On Monday afternoon, Robb spoke to about 1,500 students and faculty members, attempting to explain the process followed to hire Graham. While the Optics’ coverage of this meeting revealed little about Robb’s speech, El Grito del Norte reported a number of irregularities in Robb’s account. According to El Grito’s heavily-biased, pro-Chicano/a June 5th article “Raza Exposes Regents at Highlands U,” Robb revealed that
Graham had contacted the university about another job offer prior to the regents’ vote, and had accepted the position before the vote. When questioned later about the job, Graham denied ever having an offer from another university. In addition, Robb claimed that Graham had the most votes in a screening committee, with the student representative to the committee, Art Vargas, claiming that Graham and Aragon had the same number of votes. In addition, Robb stated that
Graham spoke Spanish fluently, with Graham later denying that he could speak Spanish.
From May 26-28, NMHU students continued to occupy the administration office, calling for the resignation of the regents, which never occurred. At 10:00 a.m. on May 28, students listened to a last round of speeches, gathered in the administration momentarily, and conducted one final march across campus. Three days later, Las Vegas community members would hold a rally in support of the students. Shortly after the sit-in, Dr. Sanchez would begin to develop an ethnic studies program. In June, Graham would visit the campus, and Tiny would file a restraining order against Graham’s succession as president. Eventually, after a bitter trial,
Graham would step down as president, never having actually served any time on the job, and
113 assistant president Smith temporarily stepped into the job. A year later, Dr. Frank Angel, was named president of the university. With seven of the last nine presidents, including interim presidents, being Spanish-surnamed, the sit-in altered institutional hiring practices at NMHU.
Since 1971, only current president James Fries, who also served as interim president in 2000-01, has not been Latino/a.
The most direct record of the sit-in comes from the Optic, a Las Vegas newspaper that was owned and operated by Stuart Beck, one of the NMHU regents targeted for protest. Lois
Beck, Beck’s wife and managing editor, composed articles that clearly presented the student protestors negatively. Although nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, Lois Beck’s coverage of the protests attempted to discredit the goals of the Chicano/a protestors, as well as its leaders, by portraying them as racist, violent, and not representative of the student population. While it cannot be prudently argued that the Becks expressed a hard-line racist position in their newspaper, when considered along with the newspaper’s tendency to refer to Nuevomexicano/as as Spanish and their continued practice of placing Chicano in quotation marks, they clearly opposed elements of the Chicano/a Movement. Instead of maintaining a balanced, unbiased approach, they used their publication to defend their role in the hiring of Graham and to damage the reputations of the Chicano/a protestors,
As a first effort to discredit the Chicano/a protestors, Lois Beck continually represented the Chicano/a protestors as racists. In the Optic’s first article concerning the protest, Beck writes, “Bound by ethnic allegiance, a prolonged assortment of speakers brought repeated racist charges against the administration and the trio of regents” (“March Goes From Campus”).
Nowhere in the coverage of the sit-in does Beck attempt to recognize the legitimacy of the
protestors’ arguments that NMHU has propagated a racist system of administrative hiring that
114 excluded Latino/as for approximately eighty years. Instead, she positions the Chicano/as as racists because they decided to incorporate protests as a method to communicate their positions, positions that had been ignored previously. Beck strategically comments on the use of the term
“gringo” on protest signs. Although the use of “gringo” is problematic, Beck uses it herself to describe the white students engaged in the protest.
In addition to being racist, Beck repeatedly characterizes the protestors as violent and angry. Describing the first day of speeches, she wrote, “Threats of violence were few and thinly veiled, but rhetoric was rousing and defiant” (“March Goes From Campus”). In this initial description, she acknowledges that there are few threats of violence; however, she continually assigns the label to Chicano/a students, especially Gonzales. When discussing Gonzales later in the article, she wrote, “His claim that violence is the only remaining course drew vocal support from only about three persons and sudden silence from the rest of the crowd” (“March Goes
From Campus”). Again, there are few supporters of violence amongst the students. On May 22, she makes unsubstantiated claims that the Brown Berets and Black Panther members were either in Las Vegas or on their way, raising fears of the potential for violence (“All-night Vigil”). Later in the article, she continues to depict a situation of impending violence: “An angry corps of
Highlands University students turned to threats of violence Thursday, but most of the 2400 students continued classes, with final examinations looming next week for seniors” (“All-night
Vigil”). As the protest approached its end, the Optic finally recognized the peaceful methods utilized by the students, stating, “Whether you agree with their motives or not, it’s hard to quarrel with the general attitude of some of the most vigorously dissenting students at Highlands.
They do not appear to want violence, and they themselves can be given most of the credit for the
115 lack of it” (“Optic Topics”). Although Beck’s depiction of potential violence failed to adequately represent the activities of the students on campus, the threat of violence proved to be real for the Becks, who had the windows in their home broken and who were receiving death threats.
Finally, Beck attempted to show lack of unity among students, implying that the majority of students did not support the protest, and that those students who opposed it, conducted themselves in a more acceptable manner. From the first day of reporting, Beck attempted to portray the student protestors as a minority, with other students being more concerned about upcoming finals: “Eavesdropping among 2,000 other HU students: ‘They just want attention’ .
. . ‘This school is kinda crummy but I’m supposed to graduate. I’ve got to study or finals’ . . .
‘The truth’s a real handicap in this crowd’” (“Optic Topics”). In addition, the Optic allotted an entire article as a forum for students who disagreed with the protest. When students Ken
Maberry and Steven Rosenthal circulated a petition in support of Graham, the Optic validated their methods over those of the protestors by stating, “Never undersell the mighty majority of students who simply want an education. Their methods are low-key, their voices are neither loud nor demanding, but they have a right to be heard and they do not choose to demonstrate”
(“Student Petition”). Consistently, Beck attempted to diminish the protestor’s positions by suggesting that the protestors did not reflect the common NMHU student. Despite the percentage of students involved in the protests, which seemed to wane from day to day and sometimes included 200-400 students, the Chicano/a students at NMHU, many of them from Las
Vegas and New Mexico, concerned themselves not just with their time at NMHU but with the future direction of the institution as an organization with the potential to open opportunities for future generations of Nuevomexicano/as.
Along with the negative portrayal of the protestors, Beck denied Chicano/as the opportunity to voice their opinions in the newspaper. Although the students never decided on
116 one student to lead the campus demonstrations, the Optic most frequently quoted Bernie Price,
Student Senate President, and frequently only reported the militant comments made by student leader, Francisco Gonzales. By choosing to focus on Price, a Black student from Chicago, instead of Gonzales, a Nuevomexicano from Las Vegas, Beck sought to silence the voices of the local community by focusing on the position of a student who will leave the university and the community in the next few years.
La Vela, La Mecha: The Chicano/a School Newspaper
The years following the sit-in of 1970 produced a number of significant changes to
NMHU’s administrative structure and curriculum. However, beginning with the 1970-71 school year, the cultural and social space at NMHU reflected the emergence of a new Chicano/a identity. Although this identity had been taking shape in the years prior to the protests, the assertive actions of those Chicano/as who involved themselves in the protest would produce a revival of cultural pride not seen since late 19 th
century and early 20 th
century. As discussed in earlier chapters, Nuevomexicano/a newspaper publishers like Felix Martinez, published in
Spanish newspapers to conserve and promote Nuevomexicano/a ideologies. The changing political atmosphere after the sit-in opened the opportunity for Chicano/as to celebrate their culture and to explore new ways of expressing a revised sense of their identity in the pages of the school newspaper through the circulation of Chicano/a symbolism and history and through the writing of Chicano/as on campus. Through this time period, the newspaper occasionally
117 renamed itself La Vela de Highlands (The Highlands Candle), eventually permanently changing its name to La Mecha.
Starting in the fall of 1970, The Highlands Candle published a Cultural Contributions page that included Price’s “Black Talk” as well as a myriad of Chicano/a contributions.
Chicano/a contributors drew from the circulation of emerging cultural images, found in
Chicano/a newspapers like El Grito del Norte. On October 9, 1970 (“Culture Contributions”) printed the image of a three-sided face, the symbol of Aztlan, a term used to signify the
American Southwest derived from the term for the mythical homeland of the Mexica. According to the author, the left side represents the Spaniard, and the right one represents the Indian, with the center face representing “the Mestizo, la Raza.” The author explains, “Aztlan is the land of the true America. If America is the melting pot of the world, la Raza is surely the product of this melting pot. From the Spaniards, la Raza has the blood of the Moors, of the Celts, all of western
Europe and el Gintano (sic). As a Spaniard, he is a gentleman. He is a nabel (sic) lord from his
Indian ancestory (sic). His is a Mexican by-pride and tradition, and an American by birth.” As part of their inclusive ideology, Chicano/as constructed a cultural identity that included Native
American and Spanish origins, and expanded the Spanish lineage to include a list of cultures found in Spain’s history. Drawing on their indigenous Mexican roots, the Cultural Contributions also extended Mexicano/a identity by including Aztec gods. On October 16, The Highlands
Candle published the image of Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca, publishing the image of Quetzalcoatl
October 30, 1970. With each image, the editors published a written description of the gods.
Although Chicano/as did not worship Aztec deities, by including them as part of their history, they recognized a religious heritage extending beyond Catholicism.
In addition to introducing Aztec iconography to NMHU students, the editors also published short histories, which expanded Nuevomexicano/a identity to include Native American and Mexican influences. On October 5, 1970, they published “The Reply of Cochise,” followed by a short biography of Cochise. On November 11, they reprinted an article from Chicano/a newspaper El Grito del Norte about Pancho Villa titled “Hero or Bandit?” Reconstructing
Nuevomexicano/a history at NMHU, they reprinted excerpts from Aurora Lucero’s “Shall the
Spanish Language Be Taught in the Schools of New Mexico” on November 19, 1971. All together, these short pieces reconstructed Nuevomexicano/a history by accenting historical figures who resisted American incursions into New Mexico. Focusing on Cochise’s and Villa’s armed resistance to American dominance, students circulated the potential for armed resistance, akin to Tijerina’s; however, by including Lucero, they also recognized the potential for discursive resistance.
On May 28 1971, the newspaper published an issue titled La Vela de Highlands/ The
Highlands Candle, a temporary change that editors had also done at least once in the past.
According to editor Cliff Mills the temporary title “violate[d] 700 years of Highlands University tradition” (2). Appealing to Latino/a readers, Mills writes, “The key to a successful paper is relating important information to the majority of readers.” “If nothing else, La Vela in the past few seconds has already pounded two (2) words of another languages (sic) into someone’s head.
Can you imagine that? Someone could have just learned two whole words of New Mexico’s first written language. Truely (sic) an educational phenomenon” (“Will Students”). While opening
La Vela to a Chicano/a influence, Mills mocks supporters of English monolingualism. On
May11, 1973, NMHU published changed the title of The Highlands Candle to La Mecha, a title that remained until the university stopped publishing a newspaper approximately five years ago.
The title, framed by two Meso-American figures holding scepter or club-like objects represented a permanent recognition of a Mexicano/a heritage, although the content of the paper primarily remained focus on campus events and not solely on the publication of Chicano/a ideology.
The Chicano/a influence on the newspaper extended beyond image, history, and the title to the creative writing of Chicano/a NMHU students. Poetry and short stories were frequently featured in the years of the newspaper I reviewed at the NMHU archives, and while some of them, like those in the 1940s, often revolved around the problems of racism, specifically racism against Blacks, it is only in the 1970s that Chicano/a creative writing, especially poetry, was featured regularly. Although a number of Chicano/as published in the newspaper, three poets, El
Indio Hispano, Orlando “Rollo” J. Moya, and Josue Gonzales, introduced important elements of
NMHU students produced and published Chicano/a-centric literature that was written or partially written in Spanish and that expressed Chicano/a culture and ways of living, in a time period where scholars did not recognize a Chicano/a literary history and Chicano/a literature was not widely published. Prior to the 1970s, studies on the literature focused on the oral tradition, with folklorist Aurelio M. Espinosa first publishing in the early 20 th
Century. In the early 1970s,
Chicano/a historians themselves had not clearly demarcated what constituted Chicano/a literature and when it first developed. Describing his initial research on the history of Chicano/a literature,
Luis Leal determined “that in the literature produced by the Mexican people living in the
provincias internas (Spanish Borderlands) we can find the roots of Chicano literature, as well as the nature of the culture of the people who wrote it” (57). The establishment of the Quinto Sol publishing house in 1967 opened new opportunities for Chicano/a writers. In 1970, Quinto Sol presented the first Premio Quinto Sol literary award to Tomás Rivera for Y No Se Tragó la
Tierra. Anaya received the award the next year. Thematically, Chicano/a literature reflects the heterogenous, multifaceted experiences of Chicano/as and “defies easy classification, pigeonholing, or categorization, because it is born of struggle and creation within a region of struggle and creation” (Vélez-Ibáñez 213). The poetry of NMHU Chicano/as reflects these complexities as the poets consider their historical identities, their relationships with American culture, and their modern place in the barrio.
In “La Raza,” El Indio Hispano reiterates the Chicano/a extension of their historical and cultural identity. He writes:
. . . somos una nueva maza
Somos CHICANOS, MOROS, GA-
PUCHINES de los Pirineos
hasta los Manzanos. (12-14)
Typically, the word maza references a mallet; however it seems that El Indio Hispano uses it to mean “masa,” dough, here. Despite his use of the term, he explains that Chicanos are a new race consisting of Moros, “Moors,” “Gapuchines” Capuchins of the Pyrenees (an order of
Fracnciscans), “de los Pirineos hasta los Manzanos,” from the Pyrenees to the Manzanos, a mountain range in New Mexico.
El Indio Hispano recognizes the Chicano/a’s Native American past, passed down from grandparents to their grandchildren and denies hyphenated labels:
La Cultura de su gente que no
sea olvidado, porque para sus
nietos sera pasada somos
cuerno verde—oso pardo
pariente del indigeno y bast-
Porque el gringo nos nombro. (25-34)
By referencing “cuerno verde,” an 18 th
century Comanche chief killed by the Spanish near Ojo
Caliente, between Espanola and Taos, and “oso pardo” another Comanche chief and ally of
Cuerno Verde, El Indio Hispano associates with the Comanches who resisted the Spanish conquest of New Mexico. Finally, he denies the labels, Spanish-American and Mexican-
American, claiming that they are the names given to them by Anglos.
In “22 Miles,” Josue A. Gonzales presents transformation from a young Mexicano, enmeshed in American systems of belief, to a Chicano/a aware of injustice and proud of his heritage. As a child, the speaker of the poem believed in the superiority of the White culture:
. . .I realized I BELIEVED in white as pretty,
my being governor
blond blue eyed baby Jesus,
cokes and hamburgers,
equality for all regardless of race, creed, or color,
Mr. Williams, our banker. (10-14)
For the speaker, cokes and hamburgers are his cultural food, his religion is based on the depiction of a blond, blue eyed Jesus, and the economic system is represented by his Anglo
122 banker. He subscribes in the American Dream, where all people are equal, and he can realistically become the governor.
However, as he gets older, he realizes that the American Dream is not intended for him, but he becomes proud of his heritage:
But now . . .
I’ve been told that I am dangerous.
That is because I am good at not being a Mexican.
That is because I know now that I have been cheated.
That is because I hate circumstances and love choices.
You know . . .chorizo tacos y tortillas ARE good, even at school.
Speaking Spanish is a talent.
Being Mexican Is as good as Rainbo bread. (34-42)
He is not a good Mexican because he does not accept his inferior status in American society, and he replaces coke and hamburgers with chorizo, tacos, and tortillas.
Looking at his past self, he experiences a sense of regret for trusting the American political, social, and economic system:
It is tragic that my problems during this past
miles were/are/might be . . .
looking into blue eyes,
123 wanting to touch a gringita,
ashamed of being Mexican,
believing I could not make it at college,
pretending that I liked my side of town,
remembering the Alamo,
speaking Spanish in school bathrooms only,
and knowing that Mexico’s prostitutes like Americans better. (51-62)
The speaker of “22 Miles” presents the internal struggles of a Chicano as he negotiates his place in American society, striving for an Anglo lifestyle while feeling shame and doubt because of his ethnicity. The speaker never reconciles his marginal position and does not offer closure to a reader who experienced similar feelings. Instead, he illustrates a reflective process of personal discovery, where he recognizes complex the internal and external results of a racist system that permeated his life.
The poetry of Orlando “Rollo” J. Moya introduced the barrio element to The Highlands
Candle’s selection of poetry, establishing prison, drugs, and insanity as elements of the barrio experience. In an untitled poem from November,13 1970, Moya wrote:
IN THE EVENING I GO TAKE A WALK DOWN TOWN
COME NIGHT I GET STONED AND TURN MY MIND
UPSIDE DOWN. (11-13)
In “I DON’T WANNA BE,” Moya again discussed marijuana by writing; “I DON’T WANA BE
A POT HEAD” (1).
In “BACK HOME FROM PRISON,” Moya writes from the perspective of a
“BRANDED MAN,” recently released from prison, writing to the woman he loved before he
124 went to prison:
TODAY I CAME BACK HOME FROM PRISON
WITHOUT A PENNY TO MY NAME
BUT I DIDN’T COME BACK EMPTY HANDED
JUST TO HANG MY HEAD IN SHAME. (15-18)
Moya’s introduction of the barrio perspective expands the literary identity available to
Chicano/a writers, incorporating the material elements of poverty and crime to discussions of cultural identity.
Although they never recognized as poets beyond the pages of the university newspaper,
El Indio Hispano, Gonzales, and Moya produced poetry that aligned with trends in Chicano/a literature that developed across the country in the 1970s and that continue to play an important role in contemporary Chicano/a literature. Considering the marginalized position of Chicano/a literature at the time and their limited opportunities to read other Chicano/a writers, the importance of these student writers dwells in their bold, open approaches. Without many models to imitate, students mixed Spanish and English to speak of the uncomfortable experiences of Chicano/as who experienced poverty and racism, who yearned to be proud of their culture yet also felt ashamed of themselves. These poems functioned to create an additional layer of community for those Chicano/as who read them and established a space for reflecting on a shared personal identity.
Power to the People: Stuart, Price, and the Foundations of Public Protest at NMHU
To this point, I have focused almost exclusively on the impact of Nuevomexicano/as at
NMHU. Throughout most of NMHU history, Anglos composed the dominant culture on campus, with Nuevomexicano/as increasing their presence over time. Although my focus still primarily is on Nuevomexicano/as, it is important to recognize the important contributions of
Black students at NMHU in the 1960s and 70s. Starting in 1969, Black students at NMHU engaged in a forceful, sometimes confrontational, public discourse, publishing letters to the editors and weekly columns in The Highlands Candle, as it was titled at the time. The
Organization of Concerned Black Students (OCBS), authors of many of the letters, established a public presence before the Spanish American Students’ Association (SASO) involved themselves with campus politics. Letters to the editor written by the OCBS, Harold Stuart’s weekly column, “Power to the People,” (PTP) and “Black Talk,” written first by Black Culture
Editor, Bernie Price, supported a Black agenda that would influence the Chicano/a Movement on campus by establishing a platform of institutional changes that Chicano/as would provide an example for their agenda, as well as modeling more assertive forms of resistance, which included utilizing the press.
Stuart’s PTP presented the first and perhaps most reactionary response to conditions at
NMHU. In PTP, Stuart carved out a space to discuss national issues that confronted Blacks across the United States. The column discussed issues of social justice and political identity, while also critiquing NMHU’s institutional practices regarding Blacks and, at times, Chicano/as.
In the pages of the newspaper, Stuart provided the first public voice of dissent, and although he was not publicly involved as a leader in the sit-ins of 1970, his writing triggered other public debates. Unlike NMHU students in the 1940s who resisted racism almost entirely through their
actions in the fraternities and the student government, but who rarely directly confronted administrators in the school newspaper, Stuart confronted the university, criticizing specific
126 professors or administrators.
In April and May, 1969, Stuart engaged in a public denouncement of Professor Nicholas
Hashey, who taught secondary teaching methods. In the April 25 installment of PTP, Stuart remarked on a classroom exchange between he and Hashey, whom he did not name and simply referred to as “one of my professors.” According to Stuart, Hashey, speaking directly to Stuart during class said, “You’re black . . . .so what? I’m white and I’m proud!” Although he was too
“frustrated” to respond in class, Stuart retorts by corresponding pride in being White with
America’s history of racism. He writes:
You are white, and you are proud; and you should be! You should be proud that your race has kept a people subservant (sic) for over 300 years and still wants to deny them their freedom! You should be proud that your race tries to destroy anything it does not understand, where that ‘anything’ be good or evil! You should be proud that race pledges unjustifiable war on others killing themselves as well as the others, for a cause they cannot give entirely unto themselves.
In Stuart’s evaluation, White pride is built on a history or slavery and war, with the past injustices of White American continuing at the time of Stuart’s writing. He implicates Hashey in the continued denial of rights to Black Americans and the United States’ involvement in
Vietnam. While we do not know Hashey’s position on the Vietnam War, and we have no evidence that he supported slavery, Stuart holds him accountable for all White people throughout
American history, a position unfair to Hashey. However, it is clear that Hashey’s remarks that fail to consider the historical position of Black Americans, who have been denied an equitable
social, economic, political, and cultural position. Hashey uses his position to silence Stuart’s
127 cultural pride, devaluing the Black struggle for civil rights, and failing to recognize a historical process whereby Blacks were stripped of their cultural pride through racist institutional practices.
Although Hashey never responds to Stuart in the newspaper, their conflict prompts a public debate between the student and professor. This time defending himself from charges of plagiarism, Stuart confronts Hashey in a May 16, 1969 PTP article. To be clear, the charge of plagiarism does not stem from Stuart’s academic writing but from his writing in the newspaper, and Stuart never specifically states what elements of his writing Hashey considers plagiarized, nor where he “publicly” made the accusation. Despite the specifics of the plagiarism, Stuart frames them as an assault on his ability to reason and to write and argues that Hashey’s comments stem from racist stereotypes, where “he (Hashey) has stereotyped me as being a
‘typical Negro’ with no means of expression except the scratching of his head, or the shuffling of his feet.” The visual elements of this stereotype, the scratching of the head and the shuffling of the feet, paint a picture of a befuddled, awkward, and ashamed character, with limited rhetorical skills. Although Hashey does not describe Stuart using these terms, Stuart constructs the charge of plagiarism so that it reflects a racial and cultural bias. Specifically, Stuart questions the origins of Hashey’s charge, asking, “Am I, because I am Black, supposed to be incapable of thinking? Am I, because I am Black, supposed to be incapable of developing a vocabulary? Am
I, because I am Black, supposed to be incapable of expressing my feelings and thoughts?” Stuart interprets Hashey’s accusations as a rhetorical strategy, where challenging Stuart’s ability to communicate effectively places him in a defensive position in which he then must defend himself: “One reason why the Blackman has not made constitent (sic) progress towards his ultimate goals of liberation, freedom, and respect is that he is constantly on the defensive. He
constantly has to defend his philosophy, his motives, his actions.” The charge of plagiarism
128 diminishes Stuarts’s credibility, putting him in a defensive position. Rather than concentrating on a set of specific solutions to the race problem at NMHU, Stuart defended his integrity and authority.
As the writer of PTP, Stuart positions himself as the spokesperson of the Black community, with his article reflecting commonly held Black beliefs. Stuart acknowledges that
“thoughts and philosophies that I express in my articles are not completely mine, but they belong to millions of Black people.” To state a position that is commonly held within a community is not plagiarism, but to accuse the author of commonly circulated ideas of plagiarism is an attempt to weaken those ideas and to cast doubt on the Black student position. The antagonistic stance reflected in Stuart’s rhetoric and his public dispute with Hashey corresponded to student activities throughout the country, where students protest engaged administrators and faculty. For example, students in the University of California-Berkeley chapter of the Afro-American
Association “frequently challenged white professors (and all comers) to debates related to issues of African American history” (Joseph 259). Before the onset of the student movement, the decision to protest could result in negative consequences. In Black colleges in the South,
“administrations did not hesitate to use academic sanctions, notably suspension and expulsion, to suppress student discontent” (Exum 4). While the administration never retaliated against
Stuart’s stance in the newspaper or his direct commentary of Hashey, there remained the potential for reprisal from the administration and faculty as was evident the year before when two Black athletes left the university.
Stuart’s public defense of his ability to communicate represents just one way that he used the newspaper to discuss Black concerns. On two occasions, charges of discrimination on the
129 basketball team provided the opportunity for Black students to critique race issues on campus.
The first incident, from fall 1968, levels complaints against basketball coach and professor of
Physical Education, Dr. John Donnelly (no relationship to the president of the university). Two
Black freshman students left the university after only one semester, claiming that the coach threatened suspension from the team and the loss of financial aid if Black students were seen dating white women, claiming that they were not provided with the four year scholarships that they were offered, criticizing rules concerning the maintenance of short haircuts, and suggesting that the coach discriminated against Black students by targeting them for suspensions. Both
Stuart and Price composed letters to the editor in response to the September 27,
1968 article reporting the incident.
In his letter, Stuart condemns the article, and its pro-Donnelly stance by challenging the terms used to describe the Black men on the basketball team as well as the coach’s prohibition on afros. First, Stuart questioned the author’s use of the label Negro, stating, “I can assure you, the word ‘Negro’ is fastly disappearing from the face of these United States, and I advise you to
‘get hip’ with the times. I could write for hours telling you why you shouldn’t use the word
‘Negro’” (Letter). In PTP, Stuart most often referred to himself and his cultural group as Black; however, he signed his letter “Afro-American.” Drawing on his experiences with Donnelly,
Stuart claimed to have heard him restricting Black basketball players from dating White women during the previous school year. Criticizing Donnelly’s use of the term “boy,” Stuart states that
Donnelly said, “Now you colored boys (there’s that word), I don’t want any colored boys (again) dating these white girls.”
Stuart also supported the athletes’ complaints concerning their hair, arguing that the Afro is “a symbol of racial dignity and pride” because “For so long, ‘the thing’ was to have our hair
like yours. The closer to white you were, the better you were. Times have changed. The straight and curly are out, and the kinks are in.” Just as he promoted the slogans of the Black
Power Movement as markers for cultural identity, Stuart also endorsed the Afro as a symbol of
Black pride. According to historian, Richard P. McCormick, images and objects such as the
Afro, dashiki, and the raised clenched fist signified the dominant ideologies of the Black Student
Movement (5). By denying his Black players the opportunity to wear their hair in an Afro,
Donnelly denied them an outlet for expressing for their cultural pride and obscured the presence of Black student resistance at NMHU, advancing the appearance of a traditional university untouched by national protest movements. In addition, the Afro represented the refutation of
White values and heralded the application of embodied forms of resistance that marked the wearer of the Afro as a supporter of social justice and Black equality.
In a shorter response to the article, Bernie Price sarcastically supports Coach Donnelly, expressing his “sympathy” for the coach because “he (Donnelly) has been unfairly attributed with making a statement against interracial relations THIS YEAR” (Letter). The sarcastic tone of the letter and the capitalization of THIS YEAR questions the potentiality of Donnelly changing his position within the last year. In an interview with The Highlands Candle, Donnelly freely admitted to not supporting interracial relationships; however, he denied restricting it
(“Discrimination is Issue”). Despite this denial, Donnelly’s remarks correspond to a racist ideology supporting the separation of Blacks and Whites, as well as an ideology of racial purity.
Coach Donnelly’s relationship with his Black players also become a source of contention in the spring 1969 semester, when two Black players, Eddie Fields and MacArthur Brown, were not allowed to return for their shoes after having forgotten them before leaving to play in
Colorado. Fields and Brown were not allowed to play the first game in the series of away games
131 because they did not have their shoes but were able to play the second once they had their own shoes. Donnelly left Fields and Brown behind when the team left Alamosa, Colorado because they were late to the bus. Another team member picked them up in a separate automobile. A committee consisting of President Donnelly, athletic director Ralph Bowyer, and chairman of the faculty athletic committee Harold Brandt, found the complaint lacking justification, concluding that the coach maintained the authority to discipline his players.
The basketball team once again became a site for racial strife in 1971. At the intra-squad
Spring Game, OCBS walked onto the court during game play, where Louis Moore, president of the OCBS, read a list of grievances. Printed in La Vela de Highlands, as the Highlands Candle was titled temporarily in 1971 and 1972 before it was retitled, La Mecha, a letter to the editor written by Moore listed the causes for Black students’ concerns as “Antagonistic conduct toward
Black athletes including the use of harsh and abusive language and threats of physical abuse,”
“The willful attempts to leave several Black athletes in a strange city in which the team played,” and “Rules made and applied only to Blacks” (Letter). Their list of demands included a series of protections for student-athletes including receiving a copy of team rules before attending
NMHU, the protection of funding, and the implementation of a process for reviewing athletic policies.
Just as Nuevomexicano/as were transitioning to a Chicano/a identity, Black students were also revising how they represented themselves. In a portion of the April 25, 1969 PTP titled
“Why Black has to be beautiful,” Stuart analyzes the importance of negating commonly held beliefs of Blacks by building a positive connotation of Blackness. Simply stated, “The blackman has to throw off all of the old misconceptions he has about himself and realizes his self-worth”
(“Power to the People”). Specifically, Stuart claims that slogans can be used to counter negative connotations and rebuild cultural pride.
For Stuart, inspired by Black Power politics, slogans represent a public announcement of their arrival in the public sphere, and their renewed public identity. Reviewing the importance of slogans, Stuart explains, “‘Black Power,’ ‘Black is beautiful,’ ‘together,’ ‘soul,’ ‘Go for what you know,’ are a few slogans that the black people are using today to show that they have finally come of age . . . that they found self-identity and self determination . . . that they must come together and do things for themselves.” According to Peniel E. Joseph, Stokely Carmichael first employed the term, “Black Power,” in a 1966 protest march in Mississippi, where he used the term to differentiate himself and his philosophy of protest from that of Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr., who used the slogan “Freedom Now” (“Toward a Historiography” 2). As a sign of Black
Power Movement, the term represented the Movement’s goals as “Black Power activists trumpeted a militant new race consciousness that placed black identity as the soul of a new radicalism” and “fought for community control of schools, Black studies programs at colleges and universities, welfare rights, and jobs and racial justice for the poor” (3). By employing the slogans of the Black Power Movement and promoting Black Power ideologies, Stuart constructed a more forceful identity for Black NMHU students. Although Stuart never advocated violence and never repudiated the peaceful methods of Dr. King, he circulated an ideology of protest that developed from the assertive public rhetoric of Carmichael.
In addition, Stuart used slogans as a discursive response to racist slogans and a way to declare their identity. Stuart writes, “A slogan like ‘black is beautiful’ is used to counter the slogan, ‘If you’re white, you’re right, if you’re black step back.’ Black people are beginning to recognize the need to assert their own definitions to reclaim their history, their culture, to create
their own sense of community and togetherness.” The slogan “if you’re white, you’re right”
133 originates in a Southern rhyme, “If you're yellow, you’re mellow. If you're brown, hang around.
If you're black, step back. If you're white, you're all right” and perpetuates the stratification of people according to skin color, situating white skin as superior to black skin. The wearing of an
Afro, commonly associated with “black is beautiful,” signifies the public display of Black pride and speaks against the evaluation of a person’s worth according to color. The public practice of expressing Black pride through hairstyle and through clothing such as the dashiki represents a right to shape a cultural identity that corresponds with the right for a people to know about their culture and history.
Responding to concerns over the use of slogans, Stuart argues that slogans are a rhetorical practice for rebuilding a fractured sense of pride. He explains, “Some black people feel somewhat embarrassed about the use of these slogans because it is felt that they should not have to voice these feelings, but instead act them out. But what they fail to realize is that a great number of people whose spirit has been mutilated must first be aroused verbally.” In this response, Stuart recognizes the division between the performance of Blackness and the verbal articulation of Blackness, and he clarifies the purpose behind the slogan is to arouse the spirits of those Black people who have not yet been inspired to publicly enact their cultural identities in their actions or words. In this application, a slogan is a rhetorical tool that arouses the spirit mutilated through a history of racism.
Building from the deployment of slogans as tools for the expression of Black identity,
Stuart conceptualizes Blackness as a paradigm for understanding the ways Blacks understand themselves within a larger social and economic context. Stuart explains, “Black people realize that ‘blackness’ is not only a skin color, but a concept, an awareness, an awareness of what they
are in a socially and economically changing world. But more important they realize that this
134 awareness of and pride in self is the first step towards real freedom.” Blackness, according to
Stuart involves the embodied representation of Blackness in the Afro and dashiki, in a sense of history and culture, and in a cultural awakening, an awareness or mindset, where Black people recognize their place in the world, in a time when Blacks are starting to advocate for equal treatment and opportunity.
Recognizing that they were a small community at NMHU, Black students used the newspaper to forge alliances with Chicano/a and Native American groups. In their public writings, Black writers like Price, frequently referred to their “Chicano and Indian brothers”
(Black Talk). Price’s participation in the sit-in exemplifies the partnership of Blacks, Chicano/a, and Native Americans in efforts to alter the academic and administrative practices that disregarded their unique backgrounds. Black students at NMHU were the first to agitate for change, and their political platform established the foundation for changes at the university instigated by the sit-in, and future institutional changes such as the development of an ethnic studies program.
The Development of Ethnic Studies
The ethnic studies program emerged from Harold Stuart’s “Power to the People” column in 1968 and 1969, and although Black Studies never formed the core of NMHU’s ethnic studies,
Stuart framed the discussion before Chicano/a students. For Stuart, representation in academic scholarship is a right equivalent to others: “The Black man today won’t wait patiently year after year for this right to knowledge of his roots as he waited for his other human rights; education, housing, employment and the like” (“Power to the People”). The core of an ethnic studies
135 program, according to Stuart, would be to educate members of the cultural group being studied as well as those who were not members of the group. He explains, “Not only can it introduce to them the cultural offerings of the Black man, but it can provide an opportunity for them to gain an understanding of effects of racism” (“Power to the People”). Stuart’s constructs his educational platform as a process of re-education, where ethnic groups educate their own people, whether it’s an education about their own group or another. For Blacks, “There is a need and necessity for groups such as O.C.B.S. to re-educate Blacks” and to move beyond using “the idealogy [sic] (“the Lord will provide”) as a scapegoat” (Power to the People”). For Stuart, knowledge of a culture’s history and literature as a way to overcome ideologies that disempower, replacing them with a program that incorporates learning with action. Stuart’s recommendation for Latino/a education is intended for local Nuevomexicanos: “Theirs is the job of making their people come to the realization that in certain locations (Las Vegas for one) they may be in the majority, but once they leave these locations (i.e. going to the service . . . . going to college, etc.) they too become a minority.” In this case, those Nuevomexicano/as who had not lived outside of northern New Mexico would be prepared for what they could experience if they leave Las
Vegas. Although Nuevomexicano/as had experienced a history of racism, they often experienced as part of a larger group, where they, at least, did not have to fear violent retribution from those
Anglos who maintained a hold on political and economic power. According to Stuart, openminded Anglos, represented on campus by the Students for a Democratic Society, must reeducate other Anglos and “must help in throwing off the attitudes and prejudices of the old, and guiding the philosophy and feelings of the new.”
While the recommendations of Black and Chicano/a students regarding their own educations were largely ignored at NMHU, Stuart’s and the OCBS’s call for ethnic studies were
136 acted upon by the administration and faculty. A year earlier, in a letter to the editor of The
Highlands Candle, the OCBS, called for a course, not an entire program, on Black history or a course in “the History of the Minority Races in the United States.” In the letter, the OCBS recognizes the difficulties in potentially hiring a professor for these courses and recommends alternative activities for including the history of minorities in the history curriculum. These recommendations include providing a history of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, who trained in Las Vegas and included Black soldiers. (“Power to the People”). The university responded to the recommendations of the OCBS by offering a course in Southwestern Minorities in the 1968 winter quarter.
After the sit-in, Sanchez instituted a collaborative process for developing an ethnic studies program. A committee consisting of faculty members, Jose Pablo Garcia, Joel Green,
Ken Johnson and Sanchez, along with student members, Bernie Price, Ruth Lopez, Fred Vigil, and Ernest Zah. However, from the beginning, Dean Merritt McGahan limited the scope of the program, stating, “The committee members have been informed that the size, financial limitations and ethnic composition of Highlands would make it impossible to consider a full program of ethnic studies which would encompass every group. We hope that the committee will consider that the committee will consider as primary those factors which relate to groups which live in this area of the country” ( “Profs, Students to be in Group”). From this point, the ethnic studies program operated with a limited goal in mind, the development of a Southwest
Studies program focused on Chicano/as and Native Americans. Although Black students had been the first to support the development of ethnic studies, their histories and literature would not be a focal point of the program.
The early development of the ethnic studies program revolved around revising curriculum and developing campus-wide programs enrichment programs, later developing into bilingual program for students and seminars for local teachers. In an effort to build from their available resources, faculty considered how to revise current courses to meet the objectives of the program, then adding new courses to meet additional needs. In addition, Sanchez argued that the program should supplement coursework, and should include “cultural activities, dramatics and all the arts” (“Sanchez Formulating”). Dean McGahan also promoted a bilingual program, which would offer bilingual and remedial courses for bilingual students. Bilingual education would also be a component of the teaching program, with McGahan noting “that in a broader scope all teachers, especially on elementary levels, should be familiar with different backgrounds and languages” (“Ethnic Studies Program Considered”). As part of this initiative, fifty grade school and high school teachers attended a series of cultural awareness seminars that concentrated on early childhood education pedagogy, cultural sensitivity training, and the development of teaching materials (Padilla 3). Sanchez’s vision of cultural programs extended beyond the classroom and beyond the NMHU classroom, including a vision for changes to the local educational system.
The ethnic studies program at NMHU followed the pattern of Chicano/a programs throughout the United States. Beginning with the first department of Mexican American Studies at the California State College in Los Angeles in 1968, Chicano/a studies programs developed individually with each campus “left to create and evolve its own program, depending on the context and abilities of the locale to meet the Chicano/a community’s needs” (Flores 207). The flexibility of the Chicano/a studies paradigm allowed for the rapid implementation of programs
throughout the country, including places such as the Midwest, where Latino/as composed a
138 minute section of the population.
The late 1960s and late 1970s marked a period of radical institutional transformation at
NMHU. Provoked by the confrontational rhetorics of Black students and Chicano/a students, who were supported by local politicians and educators, NMHU would embark on its period of greatest changing over the coming decades. Having grown up in the fully established educational system with many being funded by the G.I. Bill, more Nuevomexicano/as began to attend NMHU, and, influenced by national protest movements, established a vocal political presence. Gone were the subtle rhetorical efforts of previous generations, replaced by disruptive tactics that brought the university to a standstill. Ironically, it is this generation of students, instructed in English, tied to American culture through new technologies like television, and perhaps more acculturated than the generations of students before them, that chose more radical methods to initiate change at NMHU.
CHAPTER 5: NMHU: A VISION REALIZED
Through my previous chapters, I have attempted to use the labels that the
Nuevomexicano/as of the time period used to identify themselves, and because many of the key figures in the analysis were from New Mexico, I frequently employed the term
Nuevomexicano/a. However, between 2000 and 2008, NMHU’s out-of-state first-year student populations rose from 10% to 34% (“First-Time Freshmen” 6), with 23% of undergraduate students being from out-of-state in Fall 2013 (Voluntary Systems of Accountability). With fulltime, out-of-state semester tuition at $3,191.52, the affordability of NMHU could continue to attract out-of-state students, resulting in some change to the Latino/a student population.
Changes in context and identity have resulted in changes with the labels Mexicano/as in the
United States employ:
Instead of Chicano, terms such as Hispanic, Latino, Mexican American, and
Mexicano, in that order, were used as identifying terms, particularly by the middle class,” and “Within Aztlán’s barrios and colonias, while some identified themselves as Hispanic, Latino or Mexican American, Mexicano and Chicano were generally the terms of preference. (Navarro 407)
Because there is no data reporting the number of out-of-state students who are Latino/as, I will use the term Latino/a to be more inclusive, while also taking into consideration that 56% of
NMHU students are Latino/a and 75% are from New Mexico (Voluntary Systems of
Although a focus on Latino/a identity formation itself may not contribute directly to
NMHU and other HSI’s problems, an understanding of how Nuevomexicano/a identity is shaped
140 by the institutional forces, both local and extralocal, can contribute to the scholarship on constructing multicultural college campuses and fostering environments where Latino/a students can be successful. In this final chapter, I will first reflect on the changes at NMHU that have formed the basis of my analysis, employing institutional ethnography to explain how academic disciplines and public discourses, especially those produced by students themselves shape
Latino/a identity. Then I will review the literature on HSIs and Latino/as in rhetoric and composition, especially the lack of such research, arguing for greater focus on the largest growing population in the United States.
Three years after the 1970s sit-in, NMHU sociology instructor Philip Vargas published a scathing critique of the Chicano/a Movement and its lasting effects at NMHU. He wrote:
The experiment has failed, hermanos . . . During the eight months that I have been at Highlands as a teacher, I have observed an attempt to make it a replica of any other Gringo University, staffed, however, with Spanish-surnamed administrators and professors, who speak some Spanish and can not announce they are Chicano
‘radicals’ engaged in ‘institutional rebuilding’ as Frank Angel has written. The search by these so-called Chicano leaders is for conventional academic or administrative types who play the traditional roles and keep their mouths shut up about things that need to be said. If this continues eventually Highlands will be staffed by close-minded, ambitious, myopic individuals intent on proving to the
Gringos that they are ‘equal’ because they can imitate them . . . We cannot be innovative imitating Anglo institutions which have been so far indifferent and insensitive to the participation or recognition of Chicanos, their needs, their desires, their views. And if there be any place where this revolution should have
141 prominence it should be at Highlands University, where the majority of the student body is Chicano, and where the Chicano perspective could live and be perpetuated. (Vargas 1, 5)
While a few years earlier, Chicano/a students had protested to earn a place in the curriculum and the administration, Vargas interpreted the changes as a lost opportunity to institute far-sweeping, fundamental changes, charging the administration of Frank Angel with being passive accomodationists rather than radical agents of change. Without specifying how a new
Chicano/a-centered NMHU should operate, Vargas challenged the Chicano/a administration, who, in his perspective, continued to emulate Anglo-dominant institutions and did not publicly identify themselves as Chicano/as. In addition, he challenged their Latino/a identities by drawing attention to their limited Spanish-speaking capability.
Vargas, a Nuevomexicano Harvard Law School graduate, who would later earn a doctorate in sociology from the University of Colorado, dedicated his career to challenging federal and state institutions, using the legal system to confront racism and establishing his ethos as a dissenter willing to confront injustice and inequity. During the two years he spent in Las
Vegas, he established a rural legal service and ran for State Senator. In 1973, he filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EOEC) against the University of Arizona for discrimination. Under pressure from Chicano/a groups on campus, the university hired Vargas as a sociology professor, despite his lack of a doctorate at the time, but only offered him a one-year contract while offering Anglo professors, also without doctorates, three-year contracts. In 1974, he left Arizona for a position with the Drug Abuse Council and in 1975 made national news for his unpublished study on the use of inhalants among minorities and the poor.
Also in 1975, Vargas filed another complaint with the EOEC against the New Mexico Bar
Association, the New Mexico Supreme Court, and the Board of Bar Examiners, citing bar examine results that showed a disproportionate number of minorities failing the exam. In 1977, the same year he earned his doctorate, Vargas again made national news when he announced the federal government’s suppression of a report he prepared for the Commission of Federal
Paperwork. In the report, he claimed that the federal government overclassified information, concealing damaging information, while accentuating the positive. He won a lawsuit over his dismissal, but, after being labeled a whistleblower, he resorted to manual labor before eventually finding another position in the federal government. Since then he has received the Cavallo
Foundation Special Recognition Award for Moral Courage in Business and Government, a
Giraffe Commendation, which recognizes individuals who “have the courage to stick their necks out for the common good in the US and around the world,” and was a nominee for the John F.
Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.
Just beginning his career as an activist in 1973, Vargas advanced questions just as relevant in 2014 as they were in 1973, with his critique asking whether NMHU has “give[n] prominence to those aspects that are part of what we are—our culture, our language, our art, our music” and whether it could develop into a “center of Chicano intellectual activity” (Vargas 1).
By reviewing the current campus culture, specifically highlighting student and faculty populations, extracurricular and academic programs, it is evident that NMHU fosters an environment that respects and promotes Latino/a culture. Despite their effort to place Latino/a culture at the center of campus life, NMHU struggles with many of the problems other HSIs encounters, specifically the retention of first-year students.
Vargas’s frequent use of Chicano also requires asking whether those NMHU students that claim a Mexicano/a or Nuevomexicano/a background still hold to a Chicano/a identity.
Referring to the generation born after the tumultuous seventies as the “Viva Yo Hispanic
Generation” Navarro argues:
For Mexicanos in the United States, a new political era began to take form, significantly reshaping their ethos as a people. The change in the country was
143 toward a more conservative, materialist, and ‘I’-oriented ethos. It categorically rejected militancy, protest, and nationalist and Marxist ideas or politics. With its emphasis on individualism, preservation of the status quo, and political accommodation, the post-movimiento era adhered to the basic tenets of the liberal capitalist system. (403-04)
Disrupted by internal conflicts, and impacted by the rise of conservative politics in the 1980s and
1990s, the Chicano/a Movement faltered and failed to sustain itself through following generations. Without having experienced a Chicano/a Movement of their own, where they would have developed group solidarity as activists, current students, generally, do not associate their experiences with the plights of previous generations, and Chicano/a as a term of selfidentification has largely lost its significance with younger generations.
Accommodation as Resistance
Smith’s institutional ethnography provides a framework for evaluating how extralocal institutions have shaped student identity at NMHU. Institutional ethnography accounts for three elements working in conjunction: work, ideology, and social relations. Broadly, work is conceived as the everyday practices of active subjects. Although located in a temporal and concrete location, work is a transmitter of institutional ideologies and is transmitted through institutional discourses. Smith defines ideology as “those ideas and images through which the
class that rules the society by virtue of its domination of the means of production orders, organizes, and sanctions the social relations that sustain its domination” (The Everyday World
54). These ideas and images are not neutral; they are produced by specialists and people engaged in the process of ruling. Ideology is situated in the institutions that form “a complex of relations forming part of the ruling apparatus, organized around a distinctive function— education, health care, law, and the like” (160). Smith defines social relations as “concerted sequences or courses of social action implicating more than one individual whose participants are not necessarily present or know to other” (155). The three components work together to determine how external institutions influence individuals everyday as they interact within a local context. In other words, social relations are the activities that tie people and their activities together over distances.
For example, the identities of Latino/as at NMHU in the 1940s were shaped by the writing of Rister, linking them to a network of scholars that disregarded the role of
Nuevomexicano/as in their publications. At this time, an Anglo-American ideology organized social relations, introducing an academic component to a history of Nuevomexicano/a marginalization at the university. Everyday work, primarily acts of literacy at NMHU, either transmitted these ideas or worked to undermine them. Without the archival records to analyze how students negotiated scholarship like Rister’s, we cannot be sure what As the daily transmitter of knowledge, the work of NMHU students and the scholars and institutions that have defined them have provided the material for analysis in this study. Aurora Lucero’s speech and her research into New Mexican folklore, the publication of the school newspaper by Tiny
Martinez and others and the political activities of AZI, and Chicano/a protests, and the writing of
Louis Moore and poets like El Indio Hispano all constitute the everyday work that transmitted the ideologies that shaped Latino/a identity at NMHU.
Although it is not a historical model, Hardiman and Jackson’s developmental stages of social identity for oppressed and dominant groups offers a starting point for understanding how
Nuevomexicano/a identity evolved, with events at NMHU in its first eighty or so years roughly reflecting the later stages of the model. In the first stage, individuals do not recognize their position as oppressed, and although they may challenge accepted norms, individuals “accept the roles prescribed by teachers, parents, clergy, or the media and note differences between and among individuals” (Torres et al 23). The second stage is marked by internalization, when people “overtly or consciously connect with the views, beliefs, and ideology of the dominant groups” (24). In the third stage, resistance, “those persons who are oppressed begin to acknowledge and question the collective experiences of oppression” (24). During this stage, individuals begin to reject the dominant world view and develop a new one. In the final stage,
redefinition, “Members of the oppressed group find themselves independently defining who they are and developing a new personal identity” (24).
When considering events at NMHU through the lens of Hardiman and Jackson’s stages, we primarily see Nuevomexicano/a students operating in stages of resistance and redefinition.
Lucero enunciated a Spanish identity to resist language dominance and argue for bilingual education in New Mexico’s schools. Martinez, AZI and Chicano/as in the 1970s employed different methods to transform a student government that initially excluded them from holding important positions like editor. However, they never attached themselves to a particular identity in the school newspaper and did not use the newspaper to discuss Latino/a concerns, local, national, or international. In the 1970s, Chicano/a students organized a sit-in to protest the hiring
of an Anglo president, while poets like El Indio Hispano employed a Chicano/a identity that
146 drew from Mexican and Native American, not just Spanish, heritages.
Primarily composing in English, NMHU students turned to learned literacy practices, like composing a speech and writing for the school newspaper, to change institutional practices at the university. In histories of Latino/as in the United States, such as Acuña’s Occupied America, recognize the importance of organized action, like the American G.I. Forum and League of
United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), but the actions of these organizations are rarely described as resistance. Terms like resistance and revolution are reserved for activities that incorporate violence or involve civil disobedience. Instead, the more subtle activities of people who operate through dominant institutions are described as accommodation. Attracted to the allure of militant, public protest, Latino/a historians have not recognized the potential for employing the many institutionalized literacies and practices available almost exclusively to college educated Latino/as. These literacies include the production of academic knowledge, especially that which pertains to Latino/a history, culture, and language, the acquisition and employment of legal discourse, and the public discourse of the journalist or the politician.
Instead of regarding Aurora Lucero’s and Tiny Martinez’s activities as accommodationist, they should be re-envisioned as rhetorical strategies appropriate for their historical context, and as empowering methods to enter and transform dominant institutions.
Although Lucero publicly argues for inclusion in her speech, her essential purpose is to defend the rights of Nuevomexicano/as to maintain their language and the right to be educated in that language. She writes with a polite tone recognizing the rhetorical situation, where a more confrontational tone could have limited her success at the speech competition, potentially limited future educational and professional opportunities, and most importantly would have alienated her
audience, which primarily consisted of Anglo educators. The rhetorical decision to employ a
Spanish identity, whereby Nuevomexicano/as, in an effort to participate more fully in imposed
American institutions, aligned themselves with a Spanish-European identity implies an acceptance of these new institutions and their practices. By enrolling at NMHU,
Nuevomexicano/a students exhibited an understanding that in order to progress as individuals and as a group, they would have to perform their roles, earn their educations, move into positions of power, and then act to transform the system internally. Similarly, considering Tiny
Martinez’s role as a Chicano/a activist in the 1970s, he could not have pressured the NMHU regents if he had not been district attorney, which he earned through his education. Although they did not publicly describe their activities as pro-Nuevomexicano/a, AZI transformed student government and the social environment at NMHU through internal means. When compared to the more confrontational practices of Chicano/as in the 1970s, AZIs activities might seem tame; however, they were impactful, sweeping, and appropriate for their time.
Student Population in the 2000s
Nuevomexicano/a acts of resistance at NMHU shaped the institutional practices of the university, setting a course for the diverse institution that exists in 2014. In order to describe the current population at NMHU, I will be referencing a variety of reports, available on-line at
NMHU’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Research, using the most recent statistics available for the main campus in Las Vegas. Because I looked at the history of NMHU in Las
Vegas, I will not be including any data from NMHU’s satellite campuses. Considering that 603 of 2325, 26%, main campus students were graduate students, I will also include relevant data about graduate students.
NMHU offers students a diverse learning environment. According to the Fall 2013
Enrollments by Campus and Ethnicity/Gender report:
Undergraduates: 1009 o
Undergraduates: 278 o
Undergraduates: 138 o
Non-resident Alien (including African students) o
Undergraduates: 124 o
American Indian o
Undergraduates: 95 o
Two or more o
Undergraduates: 34 o
Undergraduates: 11 o
Undergraduates: 10 o
At NMHU, minority groups constitute the majority, resulting in an environment quite different from a typical university. This diversity is also reflected in graduating classes, when between
December 2010 and July 2011, 173 Latino/as undergraduates (48% of the graduating class), 28
American Indians (8%), 25 African-Americans (7%) 10 non-resident aliens (3%), and 8
Asian/Pacific Islanders (2%) graduated (Undergraduate Degree Recipients).
Although Latino/as students compose the largest number of graduates, these numbers conceal difficulties retaining first year students. Historically, about 25% of first-time first-year students leave NMHU at the end of the fall semester, an additional 25% leaving at the end of the spring (First-time Freshmen). Only about 20% of first-time first-year students graduate from
NMHU within six years (First-time Freshmen). The high rate of students leaving NMHU is
149 attributed to “swirling,” with students viewing NMHU as a “starter” school before they transfer to another institution (New Mexico Highlands University Self-Study Report 69). The drop in first-year students is balanced by transfers to NMHU, who compose 75% of graduating undergraduates (Degree Productivity). When compared to other institutions, NMHU students are more likely to be first generation student, who come from families with incomes below
$40,000 (First-time Freshmen), resembling student populations at other Minority-Serving
Institutions (Mercer and Stedman 42). In addition, NMHU has proven itself to be successful at educating Latino/a graduate students. Graduate students comprise almost half of degrees are conferred to graduates (Degree Productivity). Nationwide, NMHU ranked 156 for awarding
Latino/as with master’s degrees (The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine).
When considering institutional change, NMHU must consider a diverse population. Not only do they serve a culturally diverse group of students, but they serve large numbers of transfer and graduate students. Although the statistics do not provide specific information regarding whether transfer students are originally from Las Vegas and living with family, or if graduate students are working, non-traditional students, institutional changes must consider the significant concerns of poverty, work, and family. Environmental factors such deter Latino/a students from succeeding include family responsibilities, such as taking care of a sibling or a parent, workingoff campus while enrolled in courses, and commuting (Castellanos and Jones 59).
The Results of Student Resistance
Returning to Vargas’s question as to whether NMHU has “give[n] prominence to those aspects that are part of what we are—our culture, our language, our art, our music” and whether
150 it could develop into a “center of Chicano intellectual activity” (Vargas 1), the last forty years at
NMHU have reflected changes that have placed the Nuevomexicano/a community at its center.
These changes are evident in NMHU’s commitment to support cultural and academic programs that reflect and include the local community, to expanding its Latino/a faculty, and to assembling
For Smith, the means of production includes the production of knowledge, not simply the production of capital, and in the case of Latino/as at NMHU, the production of knowledge has historically been produced by Anglo scholars such as Carl Coke Rister, with scholars like Aurora
Lucero and George Sanchez standing out as Latino/as who constructed and preserved knowledge about their own people Although not directly framed as a conflict over the right to produce knowledge about themselves, efforts at NMHU during the 1970s to institute an ethnic studies program served as an initial impetus for the development of a Latino/a faculty at NMHU. In
2011, 38 of 141, 27%, full-time faculty members at NMHU were Latino/a; however 15 of the 38 were visiting professors (Faculty Totals). Even with 15 of the 141, 15%, being Latino/a,
NMHU’s Latino/a faculty population still exceeds the nationwide ratio of 4% (Ponjuan). The departments that traditionally compose the humanities, English and Philosophy and History,
Political Sciences, and Languages and Culture employ six, and the Department of Social Work include another six tenure-track faculty (Faculty Totals). Although I might have missed a faculty member or two, NMHU currently employs a number of Nuevomexicano/a faculty: Jim
Alarid (Special Education), Gil Gallegos (Computer Science), Alfredo Garcia (Dean of
Business), Andre Garcia-Nuthmann (Music), Belinda Laumbach (Dean of Education), Daniel
Martinez (English), Edward Martinez (Natural Resource Management), Alice Menzor
(Elementary Education), Luis Ortiz (Business), Eduardo Tafoya (English), and Donna Vigil
(Accounting). Nuevomexicano/a instructors include Rene Baca (Languages, and Director of the
Language Learning Center), Marvin Mascarenas (Math), Carlos Martinez (Math), and Carla
Romero (Math). This dissertation draws on the research or public writing of two former tenured
Nuevomexicano/a NMHU faculty (Guillermo Lux and Maurilio Vigil) and three non-tenured faculty (Anselmo Arrelano, Aurora Lucero, and Phillip Vargas).
Administrative positions reflect a commitment to advancing the position of Latino/as in higher education. Throughout most of NMHU’s history, at least one position on the board of regents has been reserved for a Latino/a. Since 2000, Joe Romero, Elmer Salazar, former New
Mexico governor Toney Anaya, and Javier Gonzales have served as regents, with Jesus Lopez and Leveo Sanchez currently on the board. Since 1971, seven Latino/a presidents have either been Latino/a or have had a Spanish-surname: Dr. Frank Angel (1971-75), Dr. John Aragon
(1975-1985), Dr. Gilbert Sanchez (1985-95), Selimo Rael (1995-2001), Sharon Caballero (2002-
04), Manny Aragon (2004-06), and Manuel Pacheco (interim 2006-07), a former NMHU graduate who has also been president at the University of Houston, University of Arizona,
University of Missouri, and New Mexico State University. Current president, Dr. James Fries, who served as interim in 2000-01 and is currently president, is the only non-Latino/a or Spanishsurnamed President since the hiring of Dr Frank Angel. In comparison, the HSI University of
New Mexico has only employed two Latino/a presidents, Dr. F. Chris Garcia (2002-03) and
Louis Caldera (2003-06), and HSI New Mexico State University, located approximately 50 miles from the U.S.-Mexican border, has employed three, Dr. William Flores (interim 2003-04), Dr.
Waded Cruzado (interim 2008-09) and Manuel Pacheco (interim 2009, 2012-13). In addition, the position of Vice-President of Academic Affairs at NMHU has recently been held by Dr.
Gilbert Rivera, who retired in the summer of 2013, and his replacement, Dr. Teresita Aguilar.
Current Vice-President for Student Affairs is Judy Cordova-Romero.
NMHU offers a variety of academic programs, culture programs and clubs that offer students an opportunity to engage with others who share their values and connect with the community. Academic programs include Southwest Studies, housed in Social and Behavioral
Sciences with contributions from other departments including Natural Resources Management.
The M.A. in Southwest Studies focuses on anthropology, history and social sciences, and
Latino/a language and literature. Dr. Thomas Mishler, professor emeritus of anthropology, has been crucial in studying local pueblos, spearheading more than 30 years of research in the local area, including excavations at Tecolote Pueblo, approximately five miles south of Las Vegas.
Although it is not offered as a major itself, the Spanish department offers heritage language courses. According to the NMHU description of the program, “A heritage language speaker is someone who grew-up in a home where a language other than English was spoken. The student speaks or merely understands the heritage language. This includes a range of bilingual proficiencies, from individuals who can understand Spanish but cannot speak it to those who understand and speak it but want to develop their writing skills” (Spanish for Heritage
Learners). Heritage language programs could be vital in expanding conceptualizations of
Latino/a identity by defying the bilingual-monolingual dicthotomy, recognizing those Latino/as who have some understanding of Spanish, but not enough to claim competence. The College of
Education offers a major and minor in Early Childhood Multicultural Education, a major in
English as a Second Language (ESL), and a minor in Bilingual Education/Teaching English to
Speakers of other Languages. These bilingual programs are vital for providing teachers for the dual language immersion program at Los Niños Elementary School in the Las Vegas Public
Schools. In the dual language program students, whether they enter school speaking English or
Spanish, begin their educations with full day instruction in Spanish. As they advance from kindergarten to fifth grade more English is introduced; however, the program does not extend into the middle school or high school.
Latino/a culture guides the social activities and speakers brought to campus. Over the last ten years, the mariachi program has sparked an interest in mariachi music, with both local public school districts now incorporating mariachi programs. Every spring, the university hosts the Fiesta de la Hispanidad, which spotlights local musical talent. In addition, the university consistently brings Latino/a scholars and authors to campus, including border scholar Dr.
Valenzuela Arce, Latino/a literature scholar Dr. Erlinda Gonzales-Berry, author Denise Chaves, poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, and president of the United Farm Workers Arturo Rodriguez, to name just a few. On another note, Los Vatos, the rugby club team, has experienced significant success since their formation in 1992, with a USA Western Rugby Union Championship in
2005,and a national ranking in 2005 (ranked 8 th
) and 2013 (ranked 16). Indexing Southwest
Chicano/a and pachuco/a culture, Los Vatos stand out among the in the Western Ruby Union, playing teams from larger universities such as UNM, NMSU, the University of Texas-El Paso, and New Mexico Tech.
African-American and Native American programs are also visible on the campus. The
NMHU Black Student Union and Black Men in Motion sponsor Black History Month activities.
NMHU hosts the annual Native American Pageant, and have presented performances by the
Santo Niño de Atocha dancers. Attempting to bolster Native American attendance, President
Fries signed an agreement with 23 Native American tribes, increasing the number of tuition scholarships from 23 to 69.
Although NMHU promoted an atmosphere that promoted Nuevomexicano/a culture, politically-minded organizations such as CASO have become practically nonexistent, with the
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) being the only organization with roots in the 70s. Discussing the dynamics of the group in the early 2000s, Navarro claims, “With the overwhelming majority of Mexicano and Latino students adherents of the HG [Hispanic
Generation], most lacked the requisite conscienia and compromiso to get involved” (642).
However, he recognizes that some chapters were politically active, involved in issues that pertain to Chicano/as like the immigration, affirmative action, and the Iraq War. A preview of the organization’s national home page shows recent boycotts against Israel regarding their occupation of Palestine and a march against controversial Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio on March
23, 2012, both activities that show political activism. On November 2 -3, 2013, NMHU MEChA sponsored the I AM Leadership conference, where they invited speakers, including the founder of the AGUILA Youth Leadership Institute Rosemary Ybarra-Hernandez and New Mexico State
University language and linguistics professor Gabriela Moreno, to discuss leadership, community, education, and language, to speak to local high school students. February 15, 2013, they hosted a forum on Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order signed by President Barack Obama that eliminated the possibility of deportation for those immigrants that arrived in the United States before they turned sixteen and who qualify for and complete the DACA application process. Although not rising to the level of awareness and engagement and that Navarro perceives in previous generations’ political activities, the conference and the forum seek to inspire and inform local Nuevomexicano/as and immigrant
Not pertaining directly to ethnicity, race, or culture, NMHU’s current lack of a school newspaper severely hampers the student body. As this study shows, the school newspaper is a vital space for the negotiation of identity and ideology. Without a school newspaper, students lack a forum for voicing their concerns, whether those concerns focus on social justice or the quality of campus services. In addition, with that forum the student perspective is erased from history. The re-establishment of the school newspaper should be a priority for NMHU in the coming years.
Rhetoric and Compositions: A Need for More Research
As the fastest growing minority group in the United States, Latino/as are yet to reap the benefits offered by higher education. In 2000, Latino/as numbered 35.3 million people, 13 percent of the United States population, and grew 43 percent to 50.5 million, 16 percent of the total population in 2010 (Humes, Jones, and Ramirez 3). Statistics regarding HSIs are not centralized, and the numbers provide a broad view of HSIs. In Fall 2001, 54.2 percent of
Hispanic undergraduates were enrolled at HSI. (Mercer and Stedman 39). In 2005, Latino/as earned a dismal 7 percent of bachelor’s degrees (Gandara and Contreras 196), with, 55.6 percent of all undergraduate degrees being awarded at an HSI in 2001-2002 (Mercer and Stedman 41).
Even as US postsecondary institutions continue to fail Latino/as students, the population continues to grow and more Latino/as students should be entering universities in the coming decades.
HSIs developed as a result of changing demographics and the growth of open access polices at universities. HSI is an official government designation, added to the Higher Education
Act of 1965 in 1992. Initially, they were defined in Title III as colleges and universities with a
156 minimum Latino/as undergraduate population of 25%. In 1998, they were transferred to Title V and were redefined to only include full-time students. Once labeled as Hispanic-serving, colleges and universities have access to additional government funding, but beyond the 25% student population, universities are not required to institute any particular changes to serve
Latino/as or provide any focused programs. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and
Universities lists 356 HSIs with more than 50% being community colleges, distributed over 13 states with 211 being located in Arizona, California, Texas, and New Mexico, which itself has
23. In addition, there are 250 emerging HSIs (HACU).
When considering changing demographics, rhetoric and composition has neglected a vital area of study by not adequately looking at HSIs or Latino/a pedagogies. In “Bridging Rhetoric and Composition Studies with Chicano and Chicana Studies: A Turn to Critical Pedagogy,”
Jaime Mejia, of HSI Texas State-San Marcos, directly confronts rhetoric and composition’s neglect of Chicano/as:
[R]hetoric and composition programs throughout the Southwest, and elsewhere in the United States, are also still failing to address how rhetoric and composition pedagogies could directly and positively impact the largest segment of the largest collective ethnic minority group in the United States. This negligence on the part of rhetoric and composition programs, especially in the Southwest, in some cases remains brutally appalling and continues to show the truly colonialist nature of these programs. (51)
Mejia’s critique of rhetoric and composition implicates the discipline in secondary education’s failure to adapt to changing populations, specifically charging universities in the American
Southwest, where the bulk of HSIs are located, of negligence. Considering that many HSIs
“enroll Latinos only to have them leave one year later” (Valverde 116) and that the majority of these students enrolled in a first-year writing course, the impact of our neglect is irrefutable.
Despite the lack of interest on the part of rhetoric and composition scholars, Latino/a writers have been a part of the conversation, albeit it the conversation on struggling writers, in the discipline from the beginning with Betty Rizzo and Santiago Villafane publishing “Spanish
Language Influences on English” in the first issue of the Journal of Basic Writing (1975), explaining the errors made by their Spanish-speaking students. Although the parameters of texts published in rhetoric and composition concerning Latino/as have expanded, historically, rhetoric and composition has offered a limited perspective of Latino/as in rhetoric and composition, primarily positioning them as second-language learners and basic writers. Certainly, it is important, and will continue to be important for writing instructors, especially those at HSIs to understand their Latino/a writers, the discipline needs a more expansive understanding of
Latino/a rhetorics, writing, and identity. In The Present State of Scholarship in the History of
Rhetoric, Krista Ratcliffe, paraphrasing Victor Villanueva, lists seven potential topics for future research, including the rhetorics of Chicano/as in different historical contexts, the rhetorical history of Chicanas and Latinas, rhetorics of exclusion, and the counterrhetorics of those rhetorics (204).
When we fail to recognize the varied language practices of Latino/as students, and assume that all Latino/as speak Spanish or that all or many Latino/as speak English as a second language, we limit the potential for pedagogical innovation. While every HSI consists of different populations, each possessing different rhetorics and literacies, limiting the identities of
Latino/as to that of the struggling writer, erases the existence of those who do not struggle. In their analysis of their student population of HSI, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Araiza, Cardenas,
and Garza report that most of their first year students speak English and those who do speak
Spanish speak it less than 10 percent of the time (87).
Only a handful of publications spotlight Latino/as in rhetoric and composition, with the most prominent being Villanueva’s Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color. In the last ten years, books such as Latino/a Discourses: On Language, Identity, & Literacy Education
(2004), edited by Villanueva, Michelle Hall Kells of the HSI University of New Mexico, and
Valerie Balester of Texas A&M University-College Station, and Teaching Writing with Latino/a
Students: Lessons Learned at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (2007), edited by Cristina
Kirklighter, Diana Cardenas, and Susan Wolff Murphy, all from HSI Texas A&M University-
Corpus Christi have all contributed to increasing the scholarship about Latino/a writers.
Teaching Writing, especially, attempts to draw attention to the lack of research concerning how
Latino/as write and offers a general introduction to HSIs as well as providing directions for establishing writing programs serve Latino/a students.
Latino/a scholarship in rhetoric and composition has, to this point, primarily originated at HSIs, with Mejia, Kells, Kirklighter, Cardenas and Wolfe all working at HSIs. If the increase in Latino/as in the general population result in the increase of Latino/a students at universities and colleges, then changes in the discipline will spring from HSIs. According to
Thomas P. Miller, developments in English studies have originated “in more accessible institutions where literacy changes as privileged forms are put to new uses by less assimilated populations” (4). Valverde, Arispe y Acevedo, and Perez call for new educational models at all levels that reflect changing demographics: “These new models require educational institutions to focus more pointedly on what is being taught , who is being taught, and indeed even where and
159 when they are being taught” (28). Valverede, Arispe y Acevedo, and Perez’s proposed changes may best be realized at HSIs, especially at a university like NMHU.
In this dissertation, I investigated the history of New Mexico Highlands University with the goal of determining how extralocal institutions shaped Nuevomexicano/a student identity and analyzing how those students resisted discriminatory practices that, in the university’s early years, limited Nuevomexicano/a attendance and marginalized Nuevomexicano/a culture.
Located in a predominantly Nuevomexicano/a Las Vegas, NM, NMHU has emerged as an institution that values the culture of the Nuevomexicano/as that attend the university. Because of its location, I am cautious about making generalizations about the histories of other HSIs. The lack of Latino/a administrators in other New Mexican universities such as UNM and NMSU implies that NMHU’s history is a unique one. However, an analysis of the history of NMHU students allows for two broad methods for producing an environment that not only incorporates their culture, but that also asks them to question essentialist ideas of cultural identity. These broad methods are expanding representations of Latino/a identities and analyzing academic representations of Latino/as.
When we consider Navarro’s three prototypes of Mexicano/a political identities, the buffer, the “want to be white,” and the advocate transformer, we are drawn into a limited distribution of potential political positions and cultural identities, which organizes Mexicano/as into opposing factions and marginalizes those who do not fit Navarro’s advocate transformer persona, “the paragon of resistance to Aztlán’s occupation and liberal capitalism” (Navarro 12).
By organizing Mexicano/as into these confining categories, Navarro ignores many of the
complicated issues regarding Latino/a identity in 2014. Although he does not directly relate
160 heredity or language to his categories, superficially, they disregard biracial Mexicano/as and possibly monolingual English speakers. To contest essentialist representations of Latino/a, teachers can introduce students to a variety of biographical or autobiographical material, perhaps pairing Villanueva’s Bootstraps with Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory to initiate conversations about Latino/a identity, education, and language. Ideally, teachers should include texts written by local authors or about local persons. At New Mexico universities, teachers could have students read either of Linda Chavez’s books, An Unlikely Conservative or Out of the
Barrio, and although they are not autobiographical, students could also read the collected texts of
Enriqueta Vasquez, Enriqueta Vasquez and the Chicano Movement: Writings from El Grito del
Norte, and Aurora Lucero’s speech or books. In presenting the books, teachers must be cautious not to frame the texts in dichotomous or oppositional relationships and should establish the texts as equally valid representations of complicated histories, each offering different options for constructing a personal identity and strategies for negotiating institutional power.
In addition to understanding Latino/a identity through the personal writing of Latino/a writers, students should also be provided with an opportunity to explore how Latino/as have been constructed through disciplinary discourses, especially research produced in history and education. Teachers can present students with selections from historical texts from different time periods, asking them to compare how similar events are constructed according to the position of the author. For example, students can read excerpts from one of Rister’s books, comparing them to Acuña’s Occupied America. As part of this process, students can learn to recognize that knowledge is socially constructed and influenced by context. When highlighting a social constructivist view of Latino/a history, the connections between knowledge, power, and local
and extralocal institutions come into focus. As Acuña writes when discussing objectivity in
161 historical research, “Objectivity is a weapon used by those in power to control the ‘other’”
(“Truth and Objectivity” 26). With an understanding of power and knowledge, students can begin to question their position in the process of knowledge production and how they are being constructed by the various institutions they engage with on a daily basis and how they can challenge or comply with that construction.
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