From “Pagando por Palabras” to “Celebrando Tradiciones”

The Texas Story Project.

For every word that comes out of your mouth, you have to pay a nickel. You don’t know what to do because Spanish is all you know and what always comes naturally. You are only allowed to speak a language you don’t even know as well, forcing you to assimilate.

This is what Belinda Menchaca’s parents faced as they were growing up during their years at school. Both of them were born in Texas but their primary language was Spanish. As kids, they experienced oppression for not speaking English and were forced to pay for speaking their native language because in that time a nickel was a big price to pay.  For this very reason, they refused to teach Belinda and her older siblings a word of Spanish. 

Belinda Menchaca grew up to attend Trinity University, where she met her now husband. Because he was from Mexico and spoke Spanish she decided to take as many courses on it as she could to learn the language. After graduating college, she worked at an advertising company where she would give interviews in Spanish. There she had several benefits to being bilingual, including more compensation. 

Now Belinda celebrates her 27th year of working at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Located in the West Side of San Antonio, the Guadalupe offers classes and hosts events for kids and their families as well as the community. They give the opportunity to learn about the Mexican culture through dance and music, specifically folklórico, flamenco and mariachi. They are in charge of holding the Texan Conjunto Festival every year in May, as well as the poster contest for it. Being the director of the Guadalupe Dance Company from 1992-2011 and now the Director of Education, she has seen and experienced a lot. As a dancer, she has travelled across the country for performances and learned that many people have assumptions about Texas being all rural. She recalls one instance in Buffalo, New York, where a woman from Veracruz was very moved by their performance because she saw that a dance company from San Antonio, Texas was able to come all the way and represent her culture. That connection that many people make to their roots is rewarding for Belinda because it creates a “sense of community and belonging.” Most of all she now says that she is “proud to live in San Antonio with such a vibrant culture that’s appreciated.” She is proud that for years they have had great impact on the community here in San Antonio, as well as throughout Texas and even nationally and internationally. They are able to share their traditions, history and culture through the visual and performing arts going back to Mexican and Spanish culture, which is a huge part of the city and state.  

Montserrat Moreno is a freshman at St. Mary’s University majoring in Business Management. She has experience with digital advertising and writing/publishing press releases, as well as public speaking. She is a new member of the Code Blue Dance Team, continuing her involvement with dance for 6 years. 

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