UT Professors Research Mexican American Representation and Education

Jennifer Berke

Mexican Americans were historically neglected both in education and in government representation, according to two UT professors who presented their research Wednesday.

Emilio Zamora, professor in the Department of History and Jason Casellas, assistant professor in the Department of Government discussed their current research projects funded by the Center for Mexican American Studies.

Casellas’ project will focus on how well Mexican Americans are represented within the educational sphere. He said education tends to be the most concerning issue in Latino communities.

“High school drop out rates and a low socioeconomic status, among other issues, demonstrate how Latinos are consistently disadvantaged,” Casellas said. “Congress in turn has responded by paying scant attention to Hispanic education issues.”

The drop-out rate and the low socioeconomic status have been consistent throughout Mexican-American history, he said. Casellas said that as a political scientist, his study would also look at the larger implications of bilingual education.

“The Bilingual Education Act, along with other legislation was a great advancement for the Latino community,” Casellas said. “I want to take a look at the trends and patterns in social, political and economic spheres and explain why the trends seem to continue without improvement for Latinos.”

Zamora said his project will focus on Mexican Americans’ representation from 1940 to around 1980. The group was represented poorly in both the House and the Senate until 1961. Zamora said his main goal is to focus on the history of policy formation in Texas legislature and how Mexican Americans were represented during that time period.

“I’ve compiled a set of data of Mexican Americans in the senate and the house from 1846 to 2011,” Zamora said. “When we measure data, we have to qualify. There are explanations, and I want to associate those numbers with trends and patterns.”

Program coordinator Luis Guevara said the grant both professors received from the center will further their research into Mexican-American representation in education and politics throughout history.

“It’s all work in progress at this point,” Guevara said. “They will be reflecting on the research they have done so far and hope to continue doing.”