American Indian/Raza Heritage Month at Palo Alto

Photo of Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Latino U.S. Poet Laureate will present at Palo Alto College.
Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Latino U.S. Poet Laureate, will present at Palo Alto College on Nov. 4.

By Jessica Hurtado
Pulse Staff Reporter

Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Latino U.S. Poet Laureate, and 14 other events at Palo Alto College will celebrate American Indian/Raza Heritage Month to honor the indigenous heritage of South Texas. The events are free and open to the public.

The purpose of the combined event between Native Americans and Hispanics is to include the identity that is often put aside.

“To combine both the Native American and Hispanic Heritage Month was to focus on our true identity, to who we are,” said Juan Tejeda, instructor of Mexican-American Studies. “The American-Indian part is important to our cultural identity.”

Tejeda wants to encourage students to think critically about who they are in their cultural identity, to wonder where they came from, and not to forget they are not just Hispanics, but Indian, and to embrace their mixed cultures.

“I’ve learned the deeper understanding of our culture and heritage…,” said Barbara Jean Ramos, a sophomore majoring in Mexican-American Studies who is president of Somos Más, a student organization.

Ramos said she has learned more about who she is and where she came from by being part of this group, and she expects others to learn and understand, as well.

Activities for students and the community to enjoy include everything from a film series, music, dance and literature from important scholars, academics, writers and artists.

This is the second year that Palo Alto College has combined these cultures into a month-long celebration, starting Oct. 12 through Nov. 19.

Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Chicano/Latino U.S. Poet Laureate in history, will present on Nov. 4 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. He recently retired from the University of California-Davis and is the author of 30 books, including poetry, short stories, young and adult novels and picture books for children. He will have a free reading and discussion at the Performing Arts Center.

The opening concert ceremony on Oct. 12 featured Nina Diaz, the guitarist and vocalist of “Girl in a Coma,” an award-winning band. She is now on her own, and Palo Alto witnessed the world premiere of her new band.

The Yanaguana Drummers, American Indians in Texas, were also part of the opening ceremony that included free food and drinks.

Palo Alto will have the World Premiere of 100% NDN featuring Jesse Borrego, an actor from the film “Blood In, Blood Out” and the TV series “Fame” and “American Crime”. It is a theater/dance production by Isaac Cardenas, and it will be followed by a panel discussion on Indigenous Identity presented by Dr. Carmen Tafolla. This will take place Saturday, Oct.17, from 8 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center.

The impact that is expected from this celebration is for people to walk out of the events with a better understanding of their roots.

Tejeda invites everyone to unite and identify themselves not just as Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, Hispanics, Americans, Latinos or Chicanos but as Mestizos.

For more information about the events, contact Juan Tejeda at or call him at (210) 486-3125.