Texas History and the Pan-American Child: The Spanish-Language Textbooks of Jovita González

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 2:10 PM
Virginia Suite C (Marriott Wardman Park)
Philis Barragán Goetz, Texas A&M University–San Antonio
In the 1930s and 1940s, Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy toward Latin America granted these countries a certain amount of autonomy in exchange for support during WWII. Influenced by these policies, Texas created a Good Neighbor Commission and the Inter-American Relations Education Division, which, in an attempt to advocate for Good Neighborism, established a curriculum for teaching Spanish to all Texas public school children from the third to the eighth grades. Coupled with the policies of Good Neighborism was the notion of Pan Americanism, which emphasized the United States’ and Latin America’s shared past.

Born on a ranch in south Texas in 1904, Jovita González was one of the first Texas Mexicans to receive a Master’s degree and the first and only Mexican American woman to be President of the Texas Folklore Society. By the late 1930s, her career as an academic faltered; she struggled to publish her manuscripts and to enroll in a Ph.D. program. In the early 1940s, after González moved to Corpus Christi with her husband, they wrote a series of Spanish-language children’s textbooks, Mi Libro Español and El Español Elemental, which were used in the Spanish program in the Corpus Christi Independent School District.

This paper argues that the publication of these works signifies not only the ways in which González’s research and perspective continued to affect the work that she produced after the traditional academic and scholarly opportunities were no longer available, but also how children’s imaginary citizenship was at the center of Pan Americanism. On a global and abstract level, the Pan American child symbolized the larger Pan American movement and the United States Good Neighbor foreign relations program, but on a local level, the Pan American child had the capability to bring an end to the racial tensions between Anglos and Mexicans in Texas.

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