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Exploring Heritage: Hispanic culture influences daily life in Texas

Photo by Yesenia Alvarado/The Et Cetera
Photo by Yesenia Alvarado/The Et Cetera


Texas’ diversity stems form its history as a melting pot of cultures.

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, the state celebrates Hispanic and Latino-American influences on Texas.

Texas culture incorporates Southern traditions and cowboy rituals, but the blending of customs from Mexico and Latin America are visible almost everywhere you turn – architecture, food, music, clothing, language and more.

Jessica Trevizo, education coordinator for the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas, said many Hispanics and Latinos in the Lone Star State identify themselves as Texans above other labels.

This type of state pride is unique to Texas, she said.

“Everyone, no matter their cultural background, has that same mentality,” she said. “I think that can be a unifying thing. That no matter someone’s background, we are all Texans first.”

Texas cuisine is a blend of techniques and ingredients from native tribes, Mexico and America.

“We essentially created a whole genre of food,” Trevizo said. “It’s a mixture of different cultures, and that’s really the most beautiful thing about it. It’s not Mexican or American. It is its own thing.”

Another cultural meld is the music, whether it is the San Antonio native Freddy Fender and The Texas Tornados or crossover artists like Selena.

“Tejano music is a melding of American country and Latino music,” Trevizo said.

Sociology and dance major Brianna Williams, president of the Agbara Latina Dance Club, said that Dallas sees this blend of culture almost every day.

The African slave trade spread musical influences and instruments across the U.S. and Latin America, she said.

“That’s why we have a mixture of Afro, Latin and American culture here in Texas,” Williams said.

The Spanish influences are around us every day right under our noses: Texas’ rivers, valleys and other geographical marks have Spanish names such as the Rio Grande. Texas is a Spanish translation of the Caddo Indian word for friends.

English professor John Garcia said it’s important to stay connected with Latino heritage. Talking with relatives and asking about their family history is a good way to maintain this connection with the past, he said.

“I wouldn’t know about my great grandparents, my culture, my traditions, my language, my customs or my heritage if I had not sat down with my grandmother and my mother,” Garcia said.

Garcia recalls spending time with his family learning from his mother and grandmother, and in his college years he was given an assignment to talk with elders in his community. His grandmother was born in the time of the covered wagon and lived to see the moon landing and color TV.

Garcia feels that the current political climate is affecting confidence of some Hispanic students, saying some are fearful of the future and affecting their education. He added that getting an education was important to help educate the community.

“Be proud of who you are,” he said.

Hispanic Heritage Month Events

Trio Montuno Latin jazz band, 12:30 p.m. Oct. 11, F-117

Soprano Nerelda Garcia, 12:30 p.m. Oct. 18, F-117

Author talk: The Art of Storytelling and Tales from the Atacam Desert in Chile by Andrea Amosson, 11:15 a.m. Oct. 18, S-101

Coming to America, the Risks and Relief of Sanctuary Cities, 9:30 a.m. Oct. 19, C-135

Readings and Ritmos:
Faculty and student readings and Guitar Ensemble performance, 11 a.m. Oct. 24, G-101

Dieciseis Festival Photo Gallery

Hispanic Heritage Month, which originated in 1968, begins each year on Sept. 15, the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.

On Sept. 15, OSER sponsored the Dieciseis Festival, where Hispanic-inspired foods, games and performances took place.

The event brought a mariachi band, dancers and games to the college in connection with the common book, “Deep Down Dark,” and was one of the Hispanic heritage events planned for this month.

—Compiled by Bryan Perez

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