Dedman College Research Graduate News History

West Dallas Teens Road Trip To The Border And Back, Exploring Mexican-American History


Originally Posted: March 13, 2018

KERA story published Tuesday, March 13, 2018 on SMU Graduate History alumna Carla Mendiola. She is teaching high school students chicana/o history.

A man dressed in gold and black blows a trumpet shell. A teenage boy beats on a drum. They’re part of a group that performs traditional Aztec dances.

On Saturday morning, they’re inside the gym at the Wesley-Rankin Community Center in West Dallas. Some of the kids watching may have seen these colorfully dressed dancers before, but few of them know what the dances mean.

The performance was the first lesson of spring break. A group of West Dallas teenagers is spending the time off from school learning about history – specifically, Mexican-American history.

The kids left Dallas over the weekend to travel across Texas from Austin to San Antonio, from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston and towns in between to experience history many haven’t learned in school.

Before climbing onto the bus, they tried out a few dance steps with the members of Mitotiliztli Yaoyollohtli. They also learned about how their neighborhood has changed in the past few years, as new homes and business have popped up.

Luis Sepulveda, a community activist and former Justice of the Peace, tells the students about a lead smelting plant that once polluted West Dallas.

“I want development, but I want…what’s your name, mijo?”

“Alex,” answers a student.

“Alex? That’s my son’s name. I want Alex to be able to come in and open up his own business here in West Dallas. That’s what I call economic development.”

Sepulveda and others helped make sure the government declared the area contaminated and launched a cleanup.

“You are the next generation,” he says. “You’re the ones that have to come in and make sure we come in and get all the recycling programs going.” READ MORE