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Chicano Studies to Latin Studies, and Growing Interests Courses and Programs Grow Nationwide

First Posted: Nov 16, 2013 09:54 AM EST

The University of Michigan's Latino Studies department was founded in 1984. The Latino Studies department, like a growing number of others, offers relevant and engaging material for students' absorbance; sponsor important academic and cultural events on campus; host opportunities for partnerships and internships; and they address Latinos' contribution to history, culture, politics, social relations, and art in United States. Example courses available are: Latino/a Media, Empowering Latino Families and communities, and Migrant Bodies and Hybrid Texts. And, courses like these are being offered more and more around the country.

UMich's Latino Studies department was preceded by stellar programs at California State University (1969), UC Santa Barbara (1969), UCLA (1969), San Francisco State (1969), Rutgers University (1970), CUNY Hunter College (1973) and Indiana University(1976); and it was most recently shadowed by Vanderbelt University - who launched their Latino/a Studies department this past fall. Since Latino Studies first became available over 40 years ago, the number Latino/a Studies programs being offered has risen to around the country is around 440.

Chicano Studies found its roots in activism and social change, in its heyday. These programs were student-led, student-orchestrated, and often involved demonstrations on and off campus. These programs offered community outreach, dealt in empowerment and those involved were obliged to act as advocates and spokespersons for the Latino community. The program has changed a bit since its heyday, shifting from "Chicano" to "Latino" programs.

The programs of today are much more academic and less proactive, they act in the interest of increasing diversity, and they are now more faculty-driven. 

"There have been many Chicano studies scholars who have resisted the shift from Chicano to Latino studies," said Frances Aparicio, director of the Latina and Latino studies program at Northwestern University.

Born during the age of civil rights movements and labor protests, some say that Chicano studies programs no longer reflect the mindset of today's students and schools, according to Fox News. The growth of Latino studies programs attracts students and schools who are less interested in activism efforts, but more interested in tradition, history and culture. Nonetheless, it is important that Latino history is shared.

"It's important to know about those hidden histories because the repercussions of historic policies still affect today's society...Especially in terms of racial, socio-economic and linguistic politics," said Victoria Lagunas, a 2011 graduate who majored in Latino Studies at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. "There's been a sense of displacement for Latinos in the U.S. that has resulted from historical events, and it is still seen today. You see it with segregated communities (although no longer legally endorsed); you saw it even in the 1970s when Latino and black students were legally, racially-segregated; and you see it now in an institutionalized manner. It's important to know our histories, to suspend biases, and crush ignorant stereotypes that still surface today."

Two-year colleges are also developing Latino Studies programs, despite the fact that resources are not always available for the programs. It is both four-year and two-year institutes that ask for help when they want to host Latino Studies programs. And, while funding is limited for ethnic studies courses, schools will work to meet the demands of their students.

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