Academia Cuauhtli / Eagle Academy
Honor our community’s cultural heritage, foster a social justice consciousness, and reclaim our collective identities in pursuit of educational freedom.
Cuauhtli Academy / Academia Cuauhtli is a language and culture revitalization project located at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (ESB-MACC) at 600 River St. in Austin, Texas. Fourth-grade students from three nearby east Austin elementary schools—Metz, Sanchez, and Zavala—are taught a Mexican American and Tejano history curriculum in Spanish every Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.
The Cuauhtli Academy is born out of a partnership involving several organizations: Nuestro Grupo (our community based organization); The Texas Center for Education Policy, University of Texas at Austin; The Tejano History Curriculum Project, an initiative of the Tejano Monument Project, University of Texas at Austin; the National Latino Education Research and Policy Project (our fiscal agent); The Austin Independent School District (AISD); and the City of Austin’s ESBMACC.
University faculty have been invested in precursory activities since 2011, including Dr. Cinthia Salinas, Associate Professor in Education at the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. María Franquíz, then Professor in Education at the University of Texas at Austin University of Texas and Dr. Emilio Zamora Professor in History in the same institution.
Acting on behalf of the Tejano Monument Project, Dr. Zamora designed a curriculum development and implementation project on Mexican American and Tejano history, secured funding from the Walmart Foundation, and directed it among approximately 1,000 fourth graders in six AISD classrooms. The Tejano Monument Project also provided financial support and promoted it as its initiative during the unveiling of the Tejano Monument itself on Texas State Capitol grounds.
Thanks to the efforts of the Tejano History Curriculum Project between 2011 and 2014, especially the six participating teachers and undergraduate students from the University of Texas, curricula are already accessible at the following website.
More recent history
The Tejano History Curriculum Project renewed its commitment to advance the teaching of Mexican American and Tejano history in 2014 when it once again partnered with AISD to develop additional curriculum and host a professional development workshop in May 2014 with twenty-two dual language teachers from AISD. The initial phase in the development of the curriculum and the preparation of the teachers involved four of the teachers from the previous iteration of the project who prepared and presented three new lessons (immigration/migration, civil rights, local history), in concert with Dr. Zamora. Professional curriculum writers at AISD subsequently elaborated on the curricula and teachers from the district’s dual language program implemented it during a summer school, dual language program in June 2014. The curriculum is now available to all AISD teachers in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eleventh grades.
You can read a recently-published piece on Academia Cuauhtli titled, Academia Cuauhtli and the Eagle: Danza Mexica and the Epistemology of the Circle by Angela Valenzuela, Emilio Zamora, and Brenda Rubio, here.
Nuestro Grupo, Our Group
I am happy to share more about our community-based organization that gave birth to Academia Cuauhtli. We are able to capture its genesis from when we were in our incubating stage from a published piece titled, “No time to waste: We must advocate for books for our children” that appeared in an online magazine, Somos en Escrito, edited by Armando Rendón.
Despite flash flood warnings, rain, and high winds, about 45 members of our community gathered at the Emma S. Barrientos’ Mexican American Cultural Center Austin on the evening of September 20, 2013 to listen to Armando present on his recently published book, Noldo and his Magical Scooter at the Battle of the Alamo.
Following him was Austinite and national children’s book advocate, Oralia Garza de Cortez, who delivered an impassioned lecture about the real crisis facing the Latino/a community with respect to children’s books on many fronts. This includes the numbers of books published annually, the ways that Latinos/as get represented in these books, and the challenges of using them in the bilingual or dual language classroom.
The consensus was a mixture of concern, outrage, and a commitment to take action, with a subset deciding to meet regularly to address this crisis.
The proposal for a Saturday Academy had special appeal because it held great promise for being that site that brought together our many concerns, including building capacity for the district to develop curriculum in the areas that we decided to give emphasis to, namely, migration/immigration, local history, civil rights, indigenous heritage, and the cultural arts.
Cuauhtli means “eagle” in Nahuatl and we admire its strength, beauty, and majestic flight. It has 360-degree vision, astute, and speed, allowing it to hone in on the object of its desire with great conviction and graceful precision.
Thanks to Rosa Tupina Yaotonalcuauhtli, our curriculum has a danza Mexica component, with her as their teacher. Our parents and children love it.
Because of its inclusive nature, danza has been described as a “moving habitat.” The children learn about our Mexica ancestors as they learn about the danza itself.
Danza is not dancing; it’s ceremony and our hope is that it communicates a sense of community, of connectedness, to our fourth-grade children.
We acknowledge and extend a special thanks to everyone involved in the preparation of our curriculum, and most especially to our committed AISD dual language teachers who because of their efforts, the curriculum is TEKS-aligned (i.e., adapted to state standards) and is currently available to all teachers in the district.
Thanks to funding from AISD and Humanities Texas, but most especially to the of all involved, we were able to inaugurate Academia Cuauhtli (“Eagle Academy”) in honor of our indigenous heritage on January 17, 2015.
We appreciate the participating faculty and students from the following universities: the University of Texas at Austin, Huston Tillotson University, St. Edwards University, South University, and Texas State.
AISD’s former Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Pauline Dow, and the ESB-MACC staff, especially Tiffany Moreno who has since moved on, and Laura Esparza from the Parks and Recreation Department have been awesome partners, as well.
Nuestro Grupo members consist of the following: Brenda Ayala, Randy Bell, Yvette Cárdenas, Martha Cotera, Larissa Dávila, Dr. Pauline Dow, Laura Esparza, Paola Ferrate, Jesse Gainer, Martha Garza, Oralia Garza de Cortés, Dr. Beatriz Gutiérrez, Kristina Gutiérrez, Dr. Arcelia Hernández, Beatríz Hernández, Julia Hernández, Olivia C. Hernández, A. J. Hope, Belinda Jiménez, Kathy Mariscal, Anthony Martínez, Manuel Martínez, Dr. Ramon Martínez, Alonzo René Mendoza, Dr. Christopher Milk, Dr. Isabel A. Millán, Dr. Delia Montecinos, Tiffany Moreno, Patricia Núñez, Juan Oyervides, Dr. Deb Palmer, Juan Ramírez, Luis Ramírez, Fernando Ríos, Dr. Haydee Rodríguez, Clarissa Riojas, Noreen Rodríguez, Jennifer Ross, Brenda Rubio, Joanna Sánchez, Martha Sánchez, Velia Sanchez-Ruiz, Gina Tillis, Modesta Treviño, Nancy Valdéz-Gainer, Dr. Angela Valenzuela, Maria Vaso, Jessica Ochoa Zamarripa, Dr. Manuel Xavier Zamarripa, Dr. Emilio Zamora.
Ours has been a labor of love and our team is so talented and passionate. It is quite a beautiful thing.