La Bamba filmmaker headlines Heritage Month

September 24, 2018

Public Relations

Each year, our nation comes together in September to celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. What began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 was expanded in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15, now known as Hispanic Heritage Month. 

At Palo Alto College, one of our strategic priorities is to create and sustain a culture of inclusiveness. With 82 percent of our students identifying themselves as part of an ethnic or racial minority group, we encourage our community to embrace diverse perspectives. To join the national celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Palo Alto College will honor the indigenous heritages of South Texas during the 2018 Heritage Month through Oct. 12 with a series of free events including live music, panel discussions, film screenings, author readings, and more.

On Thursday, Sept. 20, renowned American playwright, actor, and film director Luis Valdez shared his experience as a Mexican American/Chicano activist and artist. Known as the “godfather of Chicano theater,” Valdez was one of the original organizers of the United Farm Workers union and is best known for his stage-to-film adaptation, Zoot Suit and blockbuster film La Bamba. In 2016, Valdez was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama, along with other notable recipients including Morgan Freeman, Berry Gordy, and Sandra Cisneros.

National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, Sept. 25, will include a special film screening of Willie Velásquez: Su Voto es Su Voz (Your Vote is Your Voice), whichtells the story of the Texas voting rights activist who founded the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project (SVREP) through grassroots efforts, which changed the Latino voting landscape in Texas and throughout the nation. A student plática following the film screening will be facilitated by Lydia Camarillo, executive director for SVREP. 

Artist Ernesto Cuevas, Jr., will speak about the history of muralism in Mexican/Mexican American art as well as his work using muralism as a tool for community organizing during his presentation on Monday, Oct. 1. Using cultural themes in his work as a painter, educator, graphic designer, and illustrator, Cuevas focuses on projects that have a positive impact on our community.

While Columbus Day traditionally honors the significance of Christopher Columbus’ journey to the Americas, Indigenous People’s Day honors the heritage and contributions of our indigenous ancestors. During a special event on Monday, Oct. 8, the Tehuan Band of Mission Indians – who are direct descendants of the San Jose Mission Indians – will provide a blessing, dance/drumming circle, and craft/art exhibit.

All events are free and open to the public, and a full list can be accessed online at

As we take time to learn about our nation’s history, it’s imperative to recognize the achievements and remember the struggles faced by our ancestors. By doing so, we’ll all gain a better understanding of our differences and backgrounds that ultimately make us one community.