National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated annually September 15 – October 15, is a time to pay tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have influenced and enriched our nation and society. As a Hispanic Serving Institution, St. Mary’s seeks to enrich the lives of our students throughout the year through on-going academic events and lecture series exposing them to discussions on various topics, including those impacting the Hispanic community.
Scheduled this month is Alejandro Chavez, grandson of Cesar Chavez, the founder of the National Farm Workers Association which later became the United Farm Workers. Chavez will tell students “Si Se Puede,” yes it’s possible, to make a difference in today’s world and to get involved. Later this month, the Pulitzer-winning author of “Enrique’s Journey,” Sonia Nazario, will be on campus to discuss the affects of immigration policies on Hispanic families. St. Mary’s students also participate twice a year, once in the fall and again in the spring, in the campus-wide President’s Peace Commission. This semester’s topic will examine the contributing factors to the current drug war violence taking place along the Texas and Mexican border.
As the Southwest’s oldest Catholic institution, St. Mary’s has a long and proud history of educating and serving Hispanic Americans. The University was founded in 1852 by the brothers from the Society of Mary to educate the Spanish-speaking children of San Antonio. The University has received national recognition for our high Hispanic graduation rates by The Education Trust.
St. Mary’s prides itself for graduating global citizens of the world. We give our graduates the training and tools they need to make their mark and give back, both locally and globally.
St. Mary’s has provided a strong academic and civic engagement foundation to launch such national Hispanic leaders like Southwest Voter Registration Project Founder the late William C. “Willie” Velasquez (B.A. ’66); current United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez III (B.A. ’71); and the late Mario Guerra Obledo (J.D. ’60), co-founder of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). The late U.S. Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez (J.D. ’43), his son and current U.S. Rep. Charles A. “Charlie” Gonzalez (J.D. &’72), along with current U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (B.A. ’73) are also among our alumni.
Hispanic professors have always been drawn to teach at St. Mary’s because the environment allows them to thrive in their research interests. Some examples include Graduate Dean Henry Flores, Ph.D., a noted Hispanic voting rights and election expert; Writer in Residence Diane Bertrand, a well-known children’s book author and one of the region’s first Hispanic Literature writers; and Professor of Public Service in Residence Alex Briseño, a public servant for the City of San Antonio for 24 years who now teaches graduate courses in the Public Administration program. These are just a few of our many distinguished faculty researching and making contributions to the local and global Hispanic community.
You can see some of St. Mary’s notables like Briseño, “Charlie” Gonzalez and alum and former St. Mary’s Board of Trustee member Charles Barrett Jr. in the KLRN-TV series, “Children of the Revolución,” running through October. They along with many others will be telling their family stories of their ancestors’ lives in Mexico, their escape to Texas and the family’s final decision to stay here and contribute to their new country.