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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Open to the Public: 10-Year Anniversary of the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center

Besides the 16 de Septiembre, the celebration of Mexico's independence from Spain, there is a lot going on this weekend at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (ESB-MACC) located at 600 River in Austin, Texas.  Open to the public, it's going to be a fantastic celebration.  Check out my earlier post from yesterday that briefly recounts the ESB-MACC's long and winding history. 

Located downtown off of Town Lake, the beautiful ESB-MACC is also home to Academia Cuauhtli/Cuauhtli Academy, a Saturday school that is now in its fourth year of operation. Cuauhtli offers a rich, Spanish-only curriculum to fourth graders attending Sanchez, Metz, Zavala, Houston, and Perez elementary schools—all Title I schools located in east Austin. 

"Cuauhtli" is a Nahuatl term that means "eagle," and danza Mexica (Aztec ceremonial dancing; "danza" means ceremony).  It conveys our desire for all of our children to soar like eagles.  Because eagles are a universal symbol of resurrection, it further conveys our desire for Academia Cuauhtli to be a site of cultural regeneration and renewal.  Accordingly, our vision statement reads:
Honor our community’s cultural heritage, foster a social justice consciousness, and reclaim our collective identities in pursuit of educational freedom.
This is NOT a charter school.  This is a formal, legal partnership that consists of our community-based organization, Nuestro Grupo, the Austin Independent School District (AISD), and the City of Austin's ESB-MACC.  This coming year, additional formal partners are Education Austin and the Austin Area Association for Bilingual Education (AAABE). 

Thanks to Gardenia Mendoza, a columnist with one of Mexico's  leading newspapers, El Heraldo—and Franc Contreras who faciitated my conversation with Gardenia—Academia Cuauhtli has also received a bit of international notoriety via this piece titled, "Ser or No Ser Azteca," meaning "To be or not be Aztec." 

Academia Cuauhtli is a curriculum development and teacher professional development site that offers instruction based on a co-constructed, TEKS-aligned, curriculum in civil rights, local history, immigration/migration, Tejano history, the cultural arts, and indigenous heritage.  With excellent instruction from maestra Rosa Tupina Yaotonalcauhtli, maestro Quiahuitl, and Kalpulli Teokalli Teoyolotl our curriculum offers danza Mexica and basic Nahuatl. Close to half of all of the curriculum that we have produced is available in AISD district-wide in English and Spanish in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 11.

This year, Cameron Allen, who is the Executive Directo of The Seed project at Houston Elementary School (español), will also be offering English as a Second language instruction to the chidren's parents and grandparents while their children and grandchildren are in Saturday morning school at Cuauhtli.


Thanks to all the people that make it work.  At the ESB-MACC, these include Director Herlinda Zamora, Linda Crockett, Marina Islas, Lori Navarrette, Frank Baca, Ulises Garcia, Esteban Salas, Tina Herrera, Josh Gomez, Ernesto Garza, Matthew Rodriguez, and Anthony Garcia.  Special thanks, as well, to Laura Esparza, the Division Manager for Cultural Affairs in the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Austin.

Thanks to Dr. David Kauffman, AISD Executive Director of English Language of Multilingual Education, Claudia Santa Maria, Assistant Director of Elementary Dual Language, and Erica Baker AISD staff for their deep commitment to our program.  Many, many thanks, as well, to AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz, Edmund R. Oropez, Chief Officer for Teaching and Learning, for their unflagging support, and former AISD Board Member Paul Saldaña for encouraging overall AISD board support for our program.  

Thanks to Montserrat Garibay with Education Austin for her friendship and co-sponsorship support over the years.  Lupe Ramos with AAABE has also been an unflagging supporter such that together with Education Austin, nearly all if not all of our participating teachers are both AAABE and Education Austin (NEA "union" members).

Other co-sponsors include the LLILAS / Benson - UT College of Liberal Arts—a shout out to Lindsey Engelman—and the Center for Mexican American Studies, including support from directors, past and present, respectively, Dr. Domino Perez and Dr. John Gonzalez.  Both the Multicultural Engagement Center and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at UT have gifted us with support for our events, as well.

We always remember AISD's former Chief Academic Officer Dr. Pauline Dow who was instrumental in getting our partnership launched in 2014, followed by an inauguration on January 17, 2015.

At the risk of forgetting a person or two, I wish to acknowledge the many members of Nuestro Grupo over the years that have been essential to this overall effort that Academia Cuauhtli represents including:

Dr. Emilio Zamora, Martha Cotera, Modesta Trevino, Oralia Garza de Cortes, Brenda Rubio, Randy Bell (co-coordinator), Anthony Martinez (co-coordinator), Dr. Christopher Milk,  Alonzo René Mendoza, Irene Gomez, Alicia Guerrero, Rebeca Ríos, Vasti Saraí Ríos, Dr. Emma Mancha-Sumners, Dr. Isabel A. Millán, Gina Tillis, Larissa Davila, Julia Hernandez, Kristina Gutierrez, Dr. Jesse Gainer, Nancy Valdez-Gainer, Juan Ramirez, Belinda Jiménez, Manuel Martinez, Luis Ramirez, Julia Hernandez, Yvette Cardenas, Fernando Rios, A.J. Hope, Jennifer Ross, Beatriz Hernandez, Clarissa Riojas, Tiffany Moreno, Brenda Ayala, Noreen Rodriguez, Martha Sanchez, Olivia C. Hernandez, Dr. Manuel Xavier Zamarripa, and Jessica Ochoa Zamarripa. 

For our legendary spring field trip to the Alamo in San Antonio, Drs. Andrés Tijerina and Gilberto Hinojosa have given generously of their time to share their knowledge and expertise on the deeper, more complete story of the Alamo than anyone can possibly get there as a tourist or visitor.

Cuauhtli teachers over the past four years to whom we are incredibly indebted for their hard work and commitment to Academia Cuauhtli include the following:

Patricia Nuñez, Belinda Jimenez, Sandra Velazquez, Danny Ramos, Santa Yanez-Montemayor, Gladiola Campos, Michelle Yanes, Manuel Martinez, Luz Alvarez-Sims, Veronica Rivera Garay, Diana Rendon, David Carrillo, Katheline Alcantara, Julia Carrillo, Liliana Batista, Rodrigo Rodriguez Tovar, Lucy Castellano, Eliza Saenz, Nelson Aguilar, and Kathi Peterka.  Many, if not most, of our teachers come out of Proyecto Maestría at the University of Texas at Austin, headed by Dr. Deb Palmer and Dr. Haydee Rodriguez.  Largely because of their great sacrifices and efforts, we have a robust bilingual education teacher's movement in Central Texas.

Thanks to all of our Academia Cuauhtli parents for sharing your amazing children with us—and for being the blessing to our community that you are.
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With a brand new crop of volunteers ready to take on our many tasks, we collectively await and anticipate another exciting year!

Angela Valenzuela, Convener
Nuestro Grupo/Academia Cuauhtli

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