Poignant and humorous insights into the Chicano experience were presented at Yuba College October 11, by Dr. Francisco Reveles, as part of the series Crossing Borders and Building Bridges.
Reveles, who is a Professor of Education and Administration at California State University, Sacramento, has researched extensively Latino youth issues and has recently published a book on the subject called “Encuentros: Hombre a Hombre” (encounters: man to man). Speaking to over a hundred in attendance, Reveles, whose discourse was titled “Chicano Heritage: A Journey of Struggle and Survival,” began his talk by focusing on the difficulty in producing a textbook that explores the historical and cultural struggles of Latinos in a manner easily understood by younger generations of Latinos.
According to Reveles, The State Department of Education who funded the textbook, wanted to use translated versions of English books that deal with youth issues.
“Translating ‘The Donna Reed Show’ and ‘Gilligan’s Island’ into Spanish doesn’t work. So we had to develop something relevant to the Latino lifestyle and experience, which is also quite diverse,” said Reveles. “We come from all walks of life and in all colors.”
The Sacramento State professor highlighted several chapters in his book that touch on different aspects of growing up Latino, which involve self-identity issues, respect for elders and their wisdom, as well as historical, cultural and social forces.
To illustrate the chapters, a series of slides taken directly from the book were put up. Reveles, whose parents were farm workers, talked about the importance of elders. The noted educator then presented some intriguing findings of his research for the book that shed light on the high dropout rate for Latinos.
“I’ve asked Latino students what they fear most and many listed talking in public as even worse than death,” said the CSUS educator with many in the audience nodding their heads.
Reveles then broadened the scope by demonstrating how fear is connected to the element of risk. In a humorous, personal example, Reveles remembered the anxiety and fear of asking a girl to dance in high school and risking it all in front of everyone.“I was at the school dance watching all the girls, and I finally asked one to dance. She looked at my walnut-stained hands from picking walnuts all day and she said no.”
In a more touching example, the CSUS professor recalled a young Latina he encountered that was also dealing with her own issues of fear.“When I was a principal, I talked to this young sixteen-year-old girl with a baby who was being beaten by her boyfriend. I asked her why she wouldn’t leave him and she told me, ‘Because I can’t get anybody better,’” said Reveles, who added that pregnancy among young Latinas is especially high.
The CSUS educator also covered the importance of role models for Latino youths, a topic that constitutes a large portion of the textbook
“I interviewed Latino men from all walks of life and who were all considered “at risk.” From high rise corporate CEOs to political figures like Cruz Bustamante, to a graffiti artist in East L.A, they all reflect the Latino experience and have something to contribute as role models.”
Bringing his presentation to an end, Reveles made a pitch for understanding between different cultures and recounted an incident to bring the point home involving migrant and tennis camp students that had an encounter during a summer educational program.
“During lunch, one of the migrant students held up the lunch line because of not knowing how to work the toaster. A teacher from the tennis camp went to the migrant student and said, ‘Why don’t you learn English’ and other awful things making her cry,” said Reveles. “I was watching the reaction of our Chicanitos-they were watching everything, especially the adults. We had a meeting because my staff was so angry, and I told them, ‘We have a right to teach them (children) about injustice but we don’t have the right to teach them to hate.’”
A loud round of applause arose from the Yuba College audience.Marian Nelson, a Yuba College student, was very impressed with the presentation and message of understanding between different cultures.
“During the talk I noted many similarities between the Latino culture and African-American culture,” said Nelson. It’s amazing, but when you look into it, you began to see them. I realized how relevant the issues he brought up are to everyone, especially now.”