South Texas Experience: Love Letters is dedicated to Juanita Garza, a chingona mujer historian from the Rio Grande Valley who died in 2011. Her work focused on the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, influences of of Native American and indigenous people of Mexico to the cultures of the Rio Grande Valley. She worked to ensure the heritage and history of our people here in the RGV would not be forgotten and that history involving the culture of Mexican-Americans should be collected and taught. She had an open door policy and was never afraid to tell us the truth of European and white influence in how history is recorded, within the constraints of teaching at an institution where institutional racism was and is the norm. She lived in Weslaco and her father was born in Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
I never had seen local history being taught or expressed in such a way until I took her history freshman class in 1997. Close to 20 years later, I was working at a local nonprofit and had organized a few local events and she came up to me at a restaurant in Mcallen during the lunch hour. She was much smaller than I remembered, I was sort of afraid of her, when she taught us. I didn’t think she would remember who I was, but she came up to me and said she had been following the work I was doing and was proud and happy for the stuff I was doing. I almost died de pena. I never took anything more than basic history classes with her and probably learned more when I visited her office and her notes to my assignments, in ways that I didn’t understand at the time.
Her teaching and being a chingona in action left an impression on me and how radical love looks like in action. Thank You.
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