18 April 2009
AUSTIN, April 18 - The House version of the state budget includes a
provision asking Texas’ 40 public universities to consider setting up
centers that study the history and culture of Mexican Americans.
The provision was added as an amendment by state Rep. Roberto Alonzo,
D-Dallas, during Friday evening’s marathon debate on the $178.4
billion state budget for 2010-11. Alonzo’s amendment won unanimous
“We have centers for Mexican American studies at UT-Austin,
UT-Arlington, the University of Houston and other universities and
they have been a very positive experience,” Alonzo said, in an
exclusive interview with the Guardian after his amendment was
accepted. “I would like all 40 public universities to look at setting
up such centers.”
Alonzo said such centers study the history, culture, economics and
politics of Mexican Americans. He said such centers will help the
state prepare for the rapidly changing demographics that are sweeping
By 2020, the Texas Hispanic population is expected to outnumber the
Anglo population, according to the State Demographer’s office.
Comptroller Susan Combs produced a report on the state demographer’s
projections. Between 2000 and 2040 the Hispanic population will triple
in Texas’ urban areas, from 5.9 million to 17.2 million. In rural
areas, the Hispanic population is expected to double, from 777,000 to
1.6 million, Combs reported.
In 1980, the Hispanic population of Texas was just under 3 million. By
2040, there will be 18.8 million Hispanics in Texas. This projection
indicates that the Hispanic population will grow by 530 percent from
1980 to 2040. These changes are being driven both by high immigration
rates and high birth rates, Combs reported.
“These centers for the study of Mexican American life are important
because of the big and continuous change in the demographics of the
state of Texas,” Alonzo said. “A center teaches students, all
students, the history the culture, the economics, the politics of
Mexican Americans. The rest of the state needs to know. Mexican
Americans need to know.
Alonzo pointed out that Mexican Americans have shaped the history of
Texas. He said if that were not the case, the Colorado River would be
the Red River, San Antonio would be St. Anthony, and Amarillo would be
“We were part of Mexico. After the1848 war, the decision was made that
Mexicans that live here could keep their Spanish language, their
culture, their heritage and their lands. The reality is many people
today do not know this. These centers will help with the change and
manage the change that is coming,” Alonzo said.
Alonzo then proceeded to take out his state legislator ID card. The
front of the ID was in English and the back was in Spanish.
Texas’ public universities will not be forced to introduce centers
focusing on Mexican American studies. He said in his experience
forcing universities to do things does not work.
“I just want to bring it to their attention. There have been studies
at UT-Arlington which show that students are happy to be there because
of the Center for Mexican American Studies. I have seen how well it
works. I have been part of it. I think it would be a very positive
experience for all the universities that set up a program like this,”
In 2003, Alonzo succeeded in getting every community college in Texas
that has a high or fast growing Hispanic population to set up Mexican
American Studies centers. This came about through a request from
Richland College in Dallas. “They came to me to ask if the legislature
could help set up a center. It had bipartisan support and I worked
with then-Rep. Fred Hill, R-Dallas,” he explained.
Earlier this year, Alonzo won a top award from the National
Association of Chicano Studies at the group’s state convention in San
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