Monthly Archives: September 2014

Dichos for Success While in College a Long Way From Home

by Sara A. Ramirez

It’s been over a decade since I left my childhood home in Dallas, Texas, to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Notre Dame. And it has almost been a decade since I graduated from there. Although I was the first in my family to leave home for college, I was certainly not the first out of that group to leave a place I understood as “home.” I am the daughter and granddaughter of Mexican immigrants. My people are migratory people. We have been moving for centuries, and I’ve learned to appreciate my nomadic status as part of my life path.

One of the Chicanas whose writings have helped me understand “home” differently is Gloria Anzaldúa, who professes, “[I]n leaving home I did not lose touch with my origins because lo mexicano is in my system. I am turtle, wherever I go I carry ‘home’ on my back.” I haven’t lived in Dallas since I was 18, but “home” has been with me when I lived in other places like South Bend, Indiana; Oakland, California; San Antonio, Texas; and even London, England.

Since I left, I’ve met lots of Latinas—who like me—have chosen to attend college a long ways from home. I’ve consulted with one of them, Sonia I. Valencia, to offer you some dichos. Sonia is originally from Orange, California, and has also relocated to three cities away from home to pursue her bachelor’s, master’s, and now doctoral degrees. I hope the following tips help you on your journey as you leave one of the first places you’ve called “home” and come to know the home you carry on your back.

“La/El que nace para maceta del corredor no sale.”

This dicho encourages you to break out of the maceta (the plant pot). Like a healthy plant, you are bound to blossom. Imagine your consciousness to be like roots that—as you experience and learn more—grow longer and deeper into the pot in which you’ve grown comfortable. You will likely get the feeling that the pot isn’t for you anymore. Allow your roots, your leaves, your flowers to keep growing beyond the pot, off the porch, past the sidewalk, and as far as you can go.

This growth may happen in lots of different ways. For instance, many of us who are the first in our families to go to university believe we should pursue majors that will make our families happy, so that one day they can proudly tell la comadre that you’re a doctora, an abogada, or an ingeniera. But just as you made the decision to leave the place you call home, you will recognize the importance of continuing to pave and follow your own path. Anzaldúa writes, “I had to leave home so I could find myself, find my own intrinsic nature buried under the personality that had been imposed on me.” Let yourself fall in love with subjects outside of what is considered traditional. Take a Women’s Studies class or an Ethnic Studies class when you get the chance. When you’re at the campus bookstore, check out what other professors are having their students read. If the books seem interesting, get the book and/or jot down the name of the class and/or professor. Google their faculty profile, and try to take a class with them in the future.

Remember, you won’t know what’s “out there” or “in here” (*points to heart*) until you venture off the path you think you’re supposed to follow.

“No hay mal por que bien no venga.”

But while you’re out there reaching far beyond your comfy plant pot, you will stumble and sometimes fall. Although you may proceed with caution, some things will not go as you planned. This dicho is for those times. Loosely translated, it means, “No bad will come without good.” I have heard this dicho not only from my parents but also from my beloved Chicana mentors, and I live by it.

When something goes wrong, try to remember that there is a silver lining to every cloud. There will likely be times when you will remember the dicho above and then ask, “What good could possibly come of this?” When that question comes up, consider any lessons you may have learned or how this “bad” incident will direct you to a different path that could possibly be good. When I was a senior at Notre Dame, I applied to various doctoral programs in English and two M.A. programs in English  I was accepted only to the Master’s programs, one of which was at Notre Dame and the other was in San Antonio. Going to San Antonio was the best thing that could have ever happened to me; this is where I met three Chican@ mentors, who helped me come to consciousness as a Chicana feminist. It was they who encouraged me to pursue Chican@ Studies or Women’s Studies for my doctorate. With their guidance, I was accepted to five of the eight doctoral programs I applied to the second time around. Of course, I cried when I didn’t get into the other programs, but I had to remind myself, “No hay mal por que bien no venga.” When one door shuts, another one opens, and here I am.

“La sangre te hace pariente, pero la lealtad entre amig@s te hace familia.”

To help you see the “bien” in the dicho above, you’ll need social support. For many, family is important, but don’t believe that that’s all you have. There are people outside of your family who can and will care about you as much as (and sometimes more than) those with whom you grew up. As this dicho indicates, “blood” makes you relatives, but loyalty between friends makes you family.

Learn “to make familia from scratch” even when your relatives are close. This means forming bonds with the people who are around you at school. Get to know the student organizations on campus. Type in “student organizations” (sometimes called “Student Activities” or “Student Life”) into your school’s homepage search bar to learn about what’s out there. Pay attention to flyers put up on student bulletin boards to find out when their meetings are, and attend! If you don’t see an organization that reflects your interests, ask one of the staff at the Student Activities office how to create your own.

Creating community is essential to not only your college experience but also your life experience. A lot of times we’re told to seek out people who are unlike us so that we can learn from them and they can learn from us, and that’s important. It’s equally significant, however, to seek out people who will understand you (e.g., your humor) and share your interests (e.g., your love for cumbia, your disdain for homophobia and sexism). You’ll need a support system during rough times, which might happen when you miss your loved ones or when you get your first C.

Special thanks to Luz Ponce de Chihuahua, México, who directed me to these dichos.

Sara A. Ramírez is a Ph.D. Candidate in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also part of the Third Woman Press Collective and an adjunct instructor in Women’s Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Collective Imaginaries

Photo of two women side by side, June L. Mazer and Bunny MacCulloch

June L. Mazer (right) and Bunny MacCulloch. All rights reserved UCLA Center for the Study of Women

by Lizette Guerra

Yolanda Retter-Vargas, my mentor and predecessor at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, taught me that even within my own perceived community there were many communities: Latinas, Chicanas, Lesbianas, feminists, and others. She drilled into my work ethic the notion that I could not truly be at the service of my community, or any community for that matter, if I did not make a true concerted effort to represent everyone, women, men, lesbian, gay, rich and poor, of all cultural backgrounds and beliefs. Yet, historically, this belief has not been central to our profession. Archivists have been privileged with the power to decide what is deemed historical and what is not. What do we preserve for future generations and what do we leave out of our collective imaginaries?

Despite the reality that Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the world, people of color and the LGBT community in particular continue to be underrepresented and in effect invisible within archival collections, the public record, and historical research. The partnership between the UCLA Library, CSW, and the Mazer Archives reflects an increasing awareness amongst archivists and librarians about the importance of collecting more ethnic studies and LGBT materials. In recent years, our profession has been moving away from exclusionary collecting practices and progressing toward more community-oriented approaches that include donors and patrons in the archival process. The collections in the Mazer Archives project not only reflect this nation’s rich history, but also, more importantly, provide communities who have long been under-served and under-documented within the historical record with a resource that respectfully reflects their experiences and contributions to U.S. history. Each step of the way, we have made it our priority to include the Mazer Archives’ staff and affiliates in the archival process. We have chosen to do so because each of the stories contained within the collections represents a community’s memories. The presence of such materials within an institution such as UCLA contributes to a community’s visibility, legitimation, and continuity.

Yolanda Retter-Vargas and Barbara Gittings standing side by side.

Yolanda Retter-Vargas (left) with Barbara Gittings, UCLA, 2006. Photo by Angel Brinkele. Angela Brinkele Papers. All Rights Reserved UCLA Center for the Study of Women.

“If we don’t collect these things,” Yolanda always said, “no one else will.” The partnership between UCLA and the Mazer Archives is a perfect example of the type of innovative project that Yolanda would have supported. This partnership has allowed us to document and provide wide access to documentation of early lesbian activist and literary history in Los Angeles since the 1930s—stories that might otherwise have been lost or forgotten. As Yolanda wrote in her dissertation, On the Side of Angels: Lesbian Activism in Los Angeles, 1970-1990 (University of New Mexico, 1999), “Amid the criticisms, let it be remembered that once there was a vibrant movement that put women first. In a world that was (is still) bent on undermining women, that kind of prioritizing and commitment deserves respect and study. Regardless of what terms are used to describe (or disparage) the lesbian activist movement, its spirit persists within the generational cohort that created it during a ‘social moment’ in U.S. history. It persists as a vision, an ideology, a submerged network and as a significant contribution to the tradition of resistant consciousness and pro-woman advocacy. Blessed Be.”

This essay is reprinted with permission from June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives: Making Invisible Histories Visible: A Resource Guide to the Collections. Edited by Kathleen A. McHugh, Brenda Johnson-Grau, and Ben Raphael Sher. Los Angeles: UCLA Center for the Study of Women, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-615-99084-2.


Herstory Archives

June Mazer Lesbian Archive

In the June Mazer Archive, the following are Latina collections:

Terri de la Pena Papers

Terri de la Peña is a novelist, short story writer, and children’s book author whose writings deal with complex issues of identity, homophobia, assimilation and resistance focusing on the lives of Chicana lesbians. This collection contains materials related to the creation, dissemination, publication and revision of both fictional and nonfictional works by Terri de la Peña. The bulk of the collection is made up of drafts of her first novel, Margins, also considered to be the first lesbian Chicana novel. The collection includes correspondence, contractual information, promotional materials, drafts and notes.

Connexxus /Centro de Mujeres Collection

The Connexxus/Centro de Mujeres Collection contains the administrative records of Connexxus / Centro de Mujeres, one of the first Los Angeles non-profit organizations that catered and provided services to lesbians.

Lizette Guerra is the archivist and librarian at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Library and Archive. She received an MA in Latin American Studies and an M.L.I.S. in Information Studies from UCLA in 2007. She has research experience working in museums both in Mexico and Guatemala. She has done archival, curatorial, and cataloging work for the Autry National Center’s Southwest Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, CA.