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English or Spanish? Hispanic Texas A&M alumni leading the way for non-Spanish speaking Aggies

The Texas A&M Hispanic Network leader shares her story about growing up with a missing piece of her culture
Posted at 10:47 AM, Oct 13, 2022

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — English or Spanish?

That’s the question most 2nd generation Hispanic families are having raising their children in the U.S.

Our story begins with Tamara Garza a community leader, Aggie alumni and proud Hispanic says it was hard to find that connection to those that were like her as a student.

“I came to Texas A&M back in the Fall of 1997 - back in the 1900s, and I tell you the campus looked very different back then. We had single digit representation Hispanics, so finding community on campus was sometimes difficult.” Explains Texas A&M alumni, Tamara Garza.

Growing up in San Antonio is where Garza found one of her interests that kept her rooted to her culture while on campus – Mexican Folklorico Dancing, but a personal roadblock stood in the way.

“They would dance with these beautiful dresses – these beautiful Jalisco dresses, and I said, “Oh I’ve always wanted to do that … but I’m probably not Mexican enough or be cool enough for that.” Said Garza.

But Garza didn’t let fear hold her back.

“I ended up being a part of that organization for 4 years, I met my husband, in that organization and language was never an issue.”

But one battle has remained throughout her life – not being Hispanic enough because she didn’t speak Spanish and studies from The Pew Research Center say Garza is part of the 71% of second-generation Latino population where speaking Spanish has declined in the household.

Garza said she wants to preserve her culture starting with the next generation – her children.

“I don’t want that for my children, I don’t want them to have that feeling. I want them to know what it’s like to feel and belong because there have been times in my life where I don’t feel “Mexican enough” or “Hispanic enough” because I don’t have that language.” Explained Garza.

Despite not being a fluent Spanish speaker, Garza continued to advocate for Hispanic representation at her alma mater as she is the co-chair for the Texas A&M Hispanic Network and said they help to pass on the culture to current and former students.

“We know we have a lot of first-generation students that then become first generation professionals and the mentoring doesn’t stop when they’re in school so, our alumni who are now doing wonderful things in the world can come back and help these students [find a sense of belonging while at A&M].”