By Amanda Jasso
Hispanic Heritage Month is officially celebrated between September 15 and October 15 of every year. This year in Texas, #HHM coincides with a very heated debate about a controversial Mexican American Heritage textbook proposed for Texas public schools. Education amongst and for Latinos has a long history in the United States and in Austin, but historically, the space for Mexican American and Latino youth to get in contact with significant educational materials related to their culture has been lacking. Efforts in higher education, though, have made huge strides to address this issue, with roots beginning in the second half of the 20th century, particularly during the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
Juárez-Lincoln University was a Chicano institution of higher learning in Austin, Texas offering BA, MA, and M.Ed degrees under the auspices of Antioch College in Ohio. It was named after Benito Juárez and Abraham Lincoln in an effort to reflect cultural parallelism. It was founded in 1971 using an alternative “university without walls” approach, which was an educational model that formed after a statewide Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) conference in 1969 held in Mission, Texas. The philosophy behind this approach was embedded in community; its culturally based education included Chicano history, language, and arts. The main goal of the program was to allow students to design their own projects that emphasized the rich bilingual and bicultural environments in which they lived and worked, and they were encouraged to invest their skills in the local community.
The program was initially housed at St. Edward’s University, but in 1975, after an enrollment of nearly 200 students, the school moved to its own campus at 715 East 1st Street. The program took a minimum of 15 months to complete and areas in which degrees were awarded included special education; bilingual education; elementary, secondary, and adult education; guidance and counseling; administration; and supervision and program curriculum development. Artist Raul Valdez painted the beautiful and powerful Los Elementos mural on the side of the building facing north, employing Mexica and Toltec symbology to depict an indigenous farmworker and the Quetzalcoatl. Valdez was an art student at the University of Texas at the time, and in an interview conducted for the Austin History Center, he describes how he received a failing grade for the mural.
Unfortunately, Juárez-Lincoln was shut down in 1979 after Antioch University withdrew its support. Community groups, including the League of United Chicano Artists (LUChA), continued to use the space, and after real estate developers announced that the building would be demolished, the neighborhood groups went to court in an attempt to turn the building into a neighborhood center. However, after litigation, the building was demolished in 1983. Today, there stands an IHOP where the university once inspired and engaged Mexican American graduate students, even if only for a brief moment in time.
You can find out more about Juárez-Lincoln University and the history of Austin’s Mexican American communities at the Austin History Center. Here are some resources that were used to create the post:
AF M4300 (3) Mexican Americans – Juarez Lincoln University
AR. 2015.012 Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (ESB-MACC) Oral History Project Collection
A 378.764 HO Hojas: A Chicano Journal of Education