Illustration by Clara Hollowgrass
As our country has advanced in trying to to be inclusive of every identity, there is a part of this movement that has flown under the radar: the drive to include aspects of other cultures’ ideas in the curriculum for American students.
Fortunately, at Berkeley High School (BHS) we have many of these types of classes, including Chicanx Latinx Literature class. This class has been taught at BHS for many years, but a big change is taking place this year. The class is now being taught by Amanda Moreno, a Latina-identified woman who is very proud of her rich background.
“Chicanx Latinx Literature is a class all about celebrating our culture and studying the texts that come with it,” Moreno said, “many Latinx-Americans feel like they are caught between two worlds — the American side of them and the Latinx side,” she continued. In this class, people can express who they are without fear of judgement. Moreno wishes she had been able to take ethnic studies classes at her high school and acknowledges their importance now more than ever before. “In this country, and with the presidency, people are feeling very invalidated. This class gives many people a way to validation, if just for one hour a day,” said Moreno.
When Moreno was in college getting a background in English, she had a lot of Latina teachers who exposed her to new literature. “I did not get pulled into books until I started reading Chicanx Latinx Literature. These books celebrated my culture, and I was able to really connect to them,” Moreno said.
Although the class will stay the same for the most part, there will be changes that come with a new teacher. For example, this year there will be more focus on poetry. Moreno is also going to be bringing some of her favorite literature to class. An example of a book that will be studied includes: Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, which is a series of essays about the author’s experiences as a Chicana Lesbian and the divides between her many identities. Although this is a literature class, there will also be focus on art and food as well as the contributions Latinx people have made to American culture.
Luisana Rodriguez Sequeira, a student in the class, said “As an immigrant myself, I don’t identify with many cultural customs here in the US, I’ve accepted that. But by being in this Chicanx Latinx class, I realize that that isn’t an excuse to also dismiss my own culture, and that by learning more about my culture, I can also better understand not only my ancestors, but myself also.”
Ultimately, Ms. Moreno wants to provide an environment of cultural appreciation and support. “I want everybody to come to this class to learn about this culture and to experience the literature that came from this background,” Moreno concluded.