I think we studied California and the missions in 4th or 5th grade. I know we studied Latin America in 6th grade. Among my classroom projects were a travel brochure for Panama City and the Tenochtitlán Times, a one-sheet "newspaper" about Cortés's conquest of Mexico. (I'll have to see if I can find it. I'm afraid I took a pro-conquistador point of view and probably stereotyped the Indians.)
I took four years of Spanish in junior high and high school and earned the outstanding achievement award in the subject. (I should've earned the junior-high award too, but I was robbed.) I ate tacos and enchiladas at home and occasionally had Mexican meals at the local Red Onion. I think my parents hired Latino crews to do large-scale cutting and trimming on our yards.
As I recall, I don't recall anyone's complaining that we were learning too much about brown-skins. But that was in 1960s California, not 2010s Arizona (the racist state). I guess things have changed.
The situation today
Now I live in Culver City between Sepulveda, Centinela, La Tijera, and La Cienega Boulevards. A nearby church has a statue of Junipero Serra, who seems to be the patron saint of Southern California. At the nearby mall, most people seem to be non-white; the population may be 25% white, 25% black, 25% Latino, and 25% Asian and other. My brother married a Latina, so my in-laws and nephews are Hispanic (though I don't think the nephews realize it).
So how were the Pilgrims 3,000 miles away more relevant to my upbringing than Latino studies? Answer: They weren't. They weren't the first Euro-Americans; the Spaniards who colonized California, the Southwest, and Florida in the 1500s were. As I wrote in a previous posting, the first non-Native children born in America were Latinos. Pretty much the first everything was Latino: a blend of Spanish and Indian cultures.
No doubt California's cultural pattern is repeated throughout the Southwest. So why the hell is Arizona so worried about Latino studies in one city, Tucson? Is this really that big a threat to the white dominance of the country?
The conservatives who passed Arizona's ethnic studies law are acting like scared (white) rabbits. It's pathetic that they think they can stem the demographic tide that'll make the US non-white in a few decades. Grow up, you whiny babies. America is becoming more multicultural by the day and you can't stop it.
You'll have to start putting the brown-skins in concentration camps, as you did with the Indians. And even that won't work. The non-racist majority who elected Barack Obama will thwart the racist minority who wants to ban Spanish, ethnic studies, and
In short, you lose, racists. Get over your prejudices and start appreciating multicultural America. Grab a burrito, pop in a DVD of Ugly Betty, and enjoy.
For more on the subject, see Send Minorities "Back Where They Came From"? and Native Lit Class Threatens Arizona.
Below: St. Jerome School, a Spanish-style church building with a statue of Junipero Serra in front.