NORTHRIDGE, CA - From language and culture to the arts, architecture and land use, the list of Spanish and Mexican influences on California’s history goes on. It’s something that native Californians may take for granted, but the rest of the nation may be unaware of.
Hoping to rectify that, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded Cal State Northridge history professor Josh Sides a $157,000 grant to conduct a workshop next summer for K-12 teachers and librarians on the Spanish and Mexican history and culture that shaped California and influenced the rest of the nation.
“If you look at the popular textbooks for history and social science teachers, the U.S.-Mexican War gets relatively short shift, and the Spanish and Mexican influences become footnotes in the grand story of America’s westward expansion,” said Sides, CSUN’s Whitsett Professor of California History and director of the university’s Center for Southern California Studies. “My goal is to get people to understand the extraordinary impact and influence thousands of years of indigenous history, 50 years of Spanish history and 30 years of Mexican history has had on the landscape that is now California.”
The workshop will feature California scholars, historical tours and in-depth study of the state’s diverse history from 1769-1884, “a critical period in the history of Latin America, the United States and the American West,” said Sides.
“Native Californians, Spanish and Mexicans grafted their own ideas and ideologies onto the landscape of California,” Sides said. “After the acquisition of California, arriving Americans simultaneously challenged and adopted these historic arrangements. The outcome of that process of co-option, cooperation and conflict was modern California. Not only did the United States acquire the largest landmass since the Louisiana Purchase, it also absorbed territories with rich histories of their own.”
The workshop will be offered twice next summer, the week of July 25 and the week of Aug. 1. Each day of the workshop will be organized around a theme—land use, religion, architecture, ethnic conflict and historical memory. The workshop also is expected to include trips to such places as Mission San Fernando, Los Angeles Plaza Historic District, which includes Olvera Street, the Yorba-Slaughter Adobe in Chino and Rancho Camulos, the setting of the 1884 novel “Ramona.”
Teachers and librarians who are accepted into the program will assume the title of NEH Summer Scholar and at the completion of the workshop will receive a $1,200 stipend.
While the teachers are learning about California history, Sides said he also hopes they will learn new ways to take what they’ve learned and present it to their students.
“With the different themes, the scholars will examine different types of documents, photos, physical sites, crops or personal testimony,” Sides said. “All the documents will help them form a better understanding of the past, but they will also inspire new humanities-based teaching tools that they can take back with them to their own classrooms.”