The Necessity for Latino History in Illinois Schools

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryRecently, the Illinois State Assembly has been passing legislation to make Native American history required in Illinois public schools. In 2021, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law the teaching of Asian American history to educate students in Illinois about the contributions of Asian immigrants and Americans of Asian descent as well as counter prejudice against Asian Americans during the Covid pandemic. These are important steps in making Illinois residents aware of the diversity of this great state. In my view, it is also necessary to include the teaching of Latino history in all our public schools in Illinois. Latino history and Latino studies is now taught as a requirement in Chicago Public Schools. This is commendable and necessary. However, it is not being done in all of Illinois.

Latinos have long since moved out of Chicago and indeed the Chicago area. To give an example, the industrial city of Sterling is 23 percent Latino, and the town of Mendota is 26 percent Latino. These places are well past the Chicago area, and Latinos currently make up 18 percent of the state’s population. With this many people who are Latino in Illinois, why isn’t Latino history mandatory throughout the whole state? What have been the major contributions of Mexican Americans in Illinois? What have been the contributions of Puerto Ricans in Illinois? What have been the contributions of Salvadorans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans, and Costa Ricans in Illinois? Latinos are spread throughout the whole state, and they have helped Illinois in its agriculture, industrial, technological and business sectors for decades. Surely our Latino young people should know what they and their ancestors have given this wonderful state.

Diversity is the key word that in so many ways describes Illinois. We are all many, and out of the many come one. We all live in this great state, we all have our dreams of what we wish to be and wish to accomplish here, and no matter what our different backgrounds and walks of life we in our own way helping to build this state for ourselves and our children. But for us to know where we are in the present we must remember our past. It certainly would help to have all our future generations to know about the great and small contributions of Latinos in Illinois. I applaud the necessity of schools now teaching Asian American history and soon the necessity of teaching Native American history. Now I think we should also require teaching the history of Latinos in Illinois so all of our young people, whether Latino or not, can know and appreciate the contributions made by Latinos in Illinois.

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