Latino author makes economic case for teaching ethnic studies in schools

Making an economic case for teaching ethnic studies in America’s schools and universities is the focus of a book talk presented from noon to 1 p.m., Feb. 11, by ASU’s School of Transborder Studies. Author Jim Estrada, a corporate marketing consultant and former San Diego television journalist, suggested there is a substantial information gap about the nation’s largest non-white European populations that could negatively impact the United States economy.

Estrada’s book, "The ABCs and Ñ of America’s Cultural Evolution: A Primer on the Growing Influence of Hispanics, Latinos, and mestizos on the USA," offers important insights into today’s 53 million U.S. Hispanics – including how their history and culture are influencing the nation.

The author said that he believes sharing accurate, non-subjective information about America’s Latinos, their histories and their contributions to our nation will lead to better understanding of their growing influence as consumers, students, taxpayers, voters and members of the workforce.

Registration for the lecture in Interdisciplinary Building B, B161-B, on ASU’s Tempe campus is required. RSVP to

According to ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, Latinos constitute Arizona’s most rapidly growing ethnicity and could represent more than 50 percent of the state’s population by mid-century. Its 2012 report, Arizona’s Emerging Latino Vote, noted in particular the state’s disproportionate growth in young Latino citizens. “The ramifications will be profound, with major impacts to be felt in the health care industries, at all levels of education, the workforce population and in state budgeting – just to cite a few,” the report stated.

“There are many thoughts on how to create cultural competence,” Estrada said. “The logical place to start is in educational institutions, which are charged with expanding the knowledge base that affects our personal and organizational missions, goals and objectives.

“So it’s really up to our schools to address this critical need for ethnic studies. For students entering the marketplace, it will enable them to adapt successfully to a changing world.”

Estrada is owner of Estrada Communications Group, based in Austin, Texas. He has worked with major corporations, such as AT&T, Anheuser-Busch and McDonald’s, advising them on outreach strategies to Latino consumers for the past three decades. He said every few years, as his client contacts would change, he would need to re-orient their staffs about the Latino market: “My job was to help them avoid making mistakes, cultural faux pas, in their marketing communications.”

After many years, Estrada realized that what he was teaching marketing clientele could benefit a broader audience if compiled in a book. The primer’s 10 short chapters are a collection of essays about different aspects of Latino culture and history, from the Spanish conquest of Mexico to Latino voting rights. A book review by National Hispanic News noted that topics range from language, cultural diversity and history to relationships with the dominant majority, law enforcement and each other.

“Each of these chapters touches on historical and cultural tidbits neither likely to be known by the average non-Hispanic nor by the segment of Latinos themselves who lack exposure to their own contributions to society, or who know little of their place in U.S. history,” the critic observed.

Estrada said the media and entertainment industries are also responsible for projecting a less than positive image of Latinos, as well as those of other non-white, racial, ethnic and immigrant groups. He explained that for decades, mass media have misrepresented Latinos to the nation’s mainstream Eurocentric society through acts of “commission,” use of stereotypic portrayals in media and acts of “omission,” failing to provide factual information about the many Latino contributions to America, and even by historical revisionism.

“Creating cultural awareness and competency takes time and cannot be too daunting a task,” Estrada said. “Providing readers with basic facts, or the ABCs, together with a rudimentary understanding of the influence Hispanics, Latinos and mestizos are having on them and their personal interests can create a sense of ease about learning.”

The School ofTransborder Studies is an academic unit in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.