What’s in a Latino Lit class?

The other big news out of Arizona lately is on the education beat, which is what I cover at work.  After nearly eight years on this beat, reading that state officials want to can a Mexican American studies program in K-12 floored me.

Really?

Of course then I wanted to know what the curriculum is like. What is being taught? What book is being used? How is it different from African American studies classes.

But then the I remembered that one day I may be teaching such a class. My friend and writer Tony Diaz is teaching a Mexican American literature class at the college level. I took one during my undergrad.

So if I were to design my own course, what would it look like?

First of all, mine would be a true Latino Literature class. Yes. There is a difference between that and the Mexican American studies class. But more on that later.

My Latino Lit class would focus more on literature from Latin America rather that U.S. born authors. Why? Because U.S. born authors are, for the most part, influenced and taught from Latin American authors.  You have to know where you come from before you know where you’re going, obviously.

So who would I teach? All the authors that I discovered by chance. Because, see, here’s the thing. I didn’t know people like me existed in literature. If you look at Texas English classes in K-12 or lit classes in college and universities it was rare to study someone with a Spanish surname. And if you did and took the Mexican American Lit class like me, they were all, you know, from Mexico. Where are the Cuban writers? The Guatemalans? Where are the Puerto Ricans?

That’s the importance of representation of curriculum because sometimes in an act of being inclusive exclusivity happens.

So my class would have Octavio Paz, Laura Esquivel, and Juan Rulfo from Mexico. May throw in some Sor Juana for fun.

From Cuba I have my pick! Obviously some Jose Marti, Reinald Arenas, Cristina Garcia, Eduardo Santiago, and Daina Chaviano to balance it all out.

From Guatemala: Rigoberto Menchu (not a writer but an activist with lots to say),  Jose Maria Bonilla, Julio Serran Echerverria (because he’s been doing some interesting things lately) and Francisco Morales Santos.

And that’s just three countries. We still have Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and the rest of Central and South America to dig into. And of course the BIG ones you have to teach like Garcia Marquez, Allende, Neruda, and Vargas Llosa. Just looking at this list makes me swell with pride. There are so many to choose from and it’s overwhelming.

Then I would follow the class with a part two Latino Lit class focusing on American born writers.  A two semester class! Que padre!

Yup, my class would kick butt. Now to find a college or place that would allow me to develop it and teach it. Any takers?

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