New student organization celebrates Mexican-American Studies

By Gladys Nuñez, Pulse staff writer

Students play the Chancla Toss at the Somos MAS booth during PACfest.
Students play the Chancla Toss at the Somos MAS booth during PACfest.
Photo by Gladys Nuñez.

For the first time in Palo Alto College’s history, the Mexican-American Studies program has established a student organization called Somos MAS (Somos Mexican-American Studies).

The organization was established to promote the MAS major and Mexican-American culture.

“About 70 percent of our student population at PAC is Mexican-American,” said club co-adviser Mariana Scuros-Ornelas, a PAC Sociology, Humanities and Mexican-American Studies professor. “Many students have only surface knowledge of the culture and know almost nothing about the significant contributions Mexican-Americans have made to American society in many areas.”

After a long process, the group officially organized this semester and meets the first Thursday of each month in the Performing Arts Center, Room 181, at 5 p.m. The last meeting of the semester was in April, and meetings will resume in September.

“[We] advise the club and bring up issues of concern, make sure that they’re fulfilling the purpose and the mission of the organization, and just to be here as help in case they need any support services,” said club co-adviser Juan Tejeda, PAC Music and Mexican-American Studies professor. Tejeda also directs the college’s Conjunto Palo Alto.

Somos MAS elected four officers: President Augustine Ortiz, Criminal Justice major; Vice President John Hernandez, MAS major; historian Elida Cervantes, Horticulture and MAS major; and Secretary Karla Araiza, Bilingual Education major.      

With 11 members in the club right now, the organization aspires to keep growing. Joining the organization does not require that you be Mexican-American, take MAS courses or enroll in the program.   

Some of the events the club has participated in include the National Association of Chicano and Chicana Studies Conference (NACCS), the César Chávez March for Justice and running a booth at PACfest.

Jose Yznaga, a MAS major, attended the NACCS conference in March here in San Antonio and met people from all over the country. He even made acquaintances with people from cities like Chicago and San Diego.

“What I learned most was, despite the media reports and the rhetorical syllogism of the dominant society, is that being Chicano isn’t something to be ashamed about,” said Yznaga. “We have a very strong and beautiful culture, traditions and history to be proud of.”

Tejeda said he has seen an increase in students enrolling in the program and taking MAS courses. What most students don’t know is that most MAS courses are also core classes. For example, the Introduction to Mexican-American Studies course, HUMA 1305, fulfills a Humanities core requirement, and the Mexican-American Fine Arts Appreciation course, HUMA 131, fulfills a Visual and Performing Arts core requirement.

The Mexican-American History I course, HIST 2327, and Mexican-American History II course, HIST 2328, fulfills a History and Social and Behavioral Sciences core requirement. Also, the Mexican-American Literature course, ENGL 2351, fulfills a Humanities core requirement. SPAN 2312, Intermediate Spanish II, and SPAN 2315, Spanish for Native Speakers, are core classes, too.

Cervantes also decided to major in MAS after taking one of the program’s classes.

“I honestly took the class because it was the only one that fit my schedule in Fall 2012,” said Cervantes. “When I read the course description, it sounded very interesting, but I had no idea that it would change my life. I believe that any Chicano/a would definitely benefit from taking these courses.”

An important development is coming up for the program soon.

“In the near future, the program will have a Mexican-American Studies Center, which will house a meeting space, a small library and serve as a point of coordination for the program,” said Scuros-Ornelas. “With our new president, Dr. Michael Flores, the program is beginning to receive meaningful institutional support.”

If you are interested in joining the club, you may contact Mariana Scuros-Ornelas (, Juan Tejeda ( or any of the Somos MAS officers or members. For more information on the Mexican-American Studies program, visit