UT’s Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off with talk from author, columnist Gustavo Arellano

Rund Khayyat

Gustavo Arellano — distinguished columnist and author of the book, “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America” — said ethnic studies are important to incorporate in higher education at Tuesday’s kickoff of UT’s Hispanic Heritage Month, the first in the University’s history.

Understanding Mexican-American history is a vital step to fully comprehending American history, Arellano said.

“Studying ethnic groups is something all students should do, because America is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, which are all connected in some ways.” Arellano said.

Arellano said once students realize the full context of how America developed, they can better understand society and political issues today.

“Life is bigger than just what’s happening to you, we need to take a step back and see the bigger story at large, see how things started and how they connect,” Arellano said.

Many hot topics have arisen that sparked American’s interests in ethnic studies, including immigration, said journalism senior Emma Acosta.

“Arellano is stressing that, in order for us to take an educated stance on immigration, we need ethnic studies,” Acosta said. “We need to know how and why people immigrated in the past, and continue to do so today.”

Chelsea Hunt, a radio-television-and-film and journalism senior, said because Mexican-American studies are American studies, it’s important to integrate Chicano studies into our American history courses.

“These studies help students understand the history, present and future of America,” Hunt said. “History is told from the side of the victors, so the point of this education is to look at the minority’s view. This also the view that isn’t necessarily the media.”

This month, dating from September 15 to October 13, will celebrate Latinos’ contributions to America. The Center for Mexican American Studies will host weekly events, including a speaker series and a fiesta tailgate.

Arellano said he thinks it is surprising that a diverse campus such as UT has never previously hosted a University-wide events commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month.

“I am blown away UT Austin is having a Hispanic Heritage month for the first time in its history,” Arellano said. “I’m sure there’s politics about it, you can either let this get to you or you can be happy it’s finally happened.”