As a youth learning U.S. history, I never saw anyone who looked like me or someone with a similar background to mine highlighted within the pages of textbooks or lectures. It was not until I entered more advanced levels of history that I discovered the history of the Latinx community within the United States. I entered academia to bring agency to the underrepresented populations I did not see in the literature growing up.
I believed that as time progressed, students in K-12 were gaining a more well-rounded education, one that acknowledged the contributions of traditionally underrepresented groups to the United States. While there indeed seems to be an improvement, many students come to college without the opportunity of learning about the vast number of groups who contributed and continue to contribute to the United States. Unfortunately, many do not see representations of people that look like themselves reflected in historical literature until they enter the college classroom.
The Latinx community has been and continues to be integral to the success of the United States. Students who come to ECC, regardless of their backgrounds, can take classes that reflect the country's diversity, classes that interweave the stories of traditionally underrepresented groups that have always been present but not covered in the literature. Students have told me that they know nothing of the history of the Latinx community within the United States, as they have not encountered them in their academic careers thus far. At the beginning of the semester, students asked if it was true that Texas and California were indeed part of Mexico at one time because they saw it on TikTok. As time progresses within the semester, students discover more than they do within TikTok.
The classes at ECC encourage students to gain knowledge that makes them more aware of the world in which they live. They gain skills that they can use throughout their lives. At ECC, students can take classes that help them learn more about their own backgrounds and the backgrounds of groups with which they may not be familiar. Students gain knowledge by discovering the contributions of Latinx community members and their contribution to major events that are part of the story of the United States.
The study of the United States has been historically dominated by the study of the elite, such as kings, queens, presidents, and political and economic leaders. Latinx heritage month is a time to reflect on what one knows and does not know, explore the Latinx community's contributions further and celebrate this diverse community. So that eventually, hopefully, one day, all students will see themselves positively reflected in the literature.
-Marisol Rivera, PhD, assistant professor of history