El Curso de la Raza: The Education of Aurelio Manuel Montemayor tells the story of Chicano activist and self-described fronterizo Aurelio Manuel Montemayor, whose dual identities as an educator and political organizer informed his hitherto little-known role in developing a course, or curso, that cultivated Chicano leadership from the barrios. This memoir follows Montemayor during the formative periods of his life—his education, his teaching career, his political awakening—to describe the development of his critical consciousness in 1960s America. The book combines the personal and the political, leading readers along a journey of self-discovery that results in Montemayor’s most consequential, yet relatively unknown, contribution to el movimiento, the Curso de la Raza.
Along the way, Montemayor grapples with his Mexican and American identities, foregoes his literary pursuits in favor of uplifting la raza, and navigates the pitfalls of movement politics. From marching with the Mexican American Youth Organization to cofounding the first independent Chicano college, Colegio Jacinto Treviño, he recounts lesser-known events and projects of Chicano activism in South Texas. In doing so, he provides a more complete portrait of the Chicano movement through the lens of an educator-turned-activist from the borderlands.
In El Curso de la Raza, Montemayor contextualizes his critical consciousness for twenty-first–century audiences. Much like the goals of the Curso, the book aims to educate readers about deriving pedagogy from oppression, historicity from personality, and contemporary insights from past shortcomings.