This past summer in the infamous Westside of San Anto, a six week program of Mexican American Studies courses called “MAS for the Masses” was offered for free to the community at the local father/son owned coffee shop Barrio Barista.

The following is an interview with community artist and activist Moni Avila, who founded the project.

unnamedHow and why did this program start?

“My original plan was to invite friends over and teach Mexican-American studies. Nothing too formal. I have always believed that education starts in the home.  I grew up learning very little about Mexicans in history and I knew little to nothing outside of my personal family stories. My husband was taking a history course at SAC and was appalled that only one and half pages were dedicated to Mexican-Americans, out of a whole college US History text book. For his final he did a presentation on Mexican-Americans being written out of history. So summer came around again and I thought why teach only our kids. Why not teach the kids in the neighborhood? Let’s make it free and just see what kind of turn out we get. This summer we had about 30 kids come through the program.”

Who is in charge of the curriculum…and what is the focus?

“At first I searched online to see what curriculum was out there and stumble across the UTPANAM site. The site is a host to an already complied outline. At first I wanted to scale the six weeks lessons into 1hr 1/2. I was working out the kinks as I went. Well after two weeks of and trying to cram in 6wks into an 1hr 1/2 I thought lets scrap that idea and pick 4 chapters from A History of the MexicanAmerican People by Julian Samora. We did and things went a lot smoother but it’s still a work in progress.

“The lessons covered were:

  1. Aztecs to Mission Indians
  2. Conquest of Mexico
  3. El Chuchumbe
  4. Scapegoating in the 1930s-40s American Repatriation Act & The Zoot Suit Riots
  5. Furthering a Rich Tradition: Folklore
  6. Search for Equality & What the Future Holds”

Was the location for this program intentional?

“The location was Barrio Barista, a local father/son owed coffee shop. It was important for me to have the classes there as a way of giving back to the community. The kids got to hang out in a nice little neighborhood spot and we got to bring them business.”

What has the community response been like?

“A little overwhelming. I mean I wasn’t expecting local businesses to step up to donate door prizes. We aren’t a 501c3 and people get funny about donations, but we were welcomed. Business put up our flier on the counters and doors even the drive through windows. The councilman was super excited and wants to join in on future classes. People were asking to teach.

“I chose to make it happen and work out the kinks along the way.”

Is there any way folks can support this project?  How?

“Sure they can like the Facebook page Facebook.com/Masforthemasses and stay up to date on future workshops if they have an idea for a presentation or would like to present, come on the more the merrier.  T-shirts and canvas bags would be great or like office depot gift cards. The book we are going to use for the family classes will be A History of the MexicanAmerican People by Julian Samora. The same book used for the kids summer program. If people would like to donate books that would be great. If author’s have Mexican-American History books to send our way for the platicas that would be even better.

“I am just extremely thankful to everyone who has shown interest in helping support this endeavor.”

Moni Avila