Las Mujeres: 30 Years of Chicanas and Latinas at UC Santa Cruz
University of California, Santa Cruz
Self-Portrait, after Frida, 1990, oil on canvas, copyright 1990 by Pilar Aguero
The history of Chicanas and Latinas is an unfolding story. For the one part, there is the official knowledge of conquest and colonization. For another, there is a more circumscribed knowledge from individual women whose memories tell us about creativity, perseverance and imagination. This exhibit focused on the many women who have been and who are currently part of the University of California at Santa Cruz. Their backgrounds are remarkably similar. Often the first to go to college. Often a first generation U.S. native. Always a deep desire for individual accomplishment nurtured by the consciousness of group membership. The information presented was found in university admissions, graduation and accounting records. The knowledge culled for this exhibit was found in the crevices of women's minds. Many of the women were sought throughout the U.S. in various fields of life. This was but an introduction to a more extensive project that entails the documentation and voices of the Chicana and Latina women who are students, faculty and academic support staff of UCSC. They are all alumnae. They are all us. In its short history, the UCSC campus has been home to some of the most remarkable women in Chicana and Latina circles. Many of the graduates went on to pursue graduate degrees at such prestigious universities as UC Berkeley, Stanford, and UC Santa Cruz. Evangelina Enriquez, class of 1968, went on to co- author, La Chicana, the most authoritative book on Chicanas and Mexicanas written in English. They were part of an intellectual cadre that has become an important part of the scholarly world. For example, Gloria Cuadraz (class of 1980), with her biographically based research on first generation scholars, tells us about the dilemmas faced by underrepresented students who pursue graduate degrees. Juana Mora (class of 1976) made a most unequivocal contribution to the social basis of alcohol dumping in minority communities which recasts our knowledge about the sources of substance abuse and its repercussion in our communities. Denise Segura (class of 1976) furthered research on Chicana occupational discrimination. Other scholars address economic conditions of Chicana farmworkers, mental health and educational outcomes. To be sure while every generation has excelled, the class of 1976 yielded some of the most important pathbreakers in contemporary society. Chicana and Latina women have much to offer the world of history. The objective of the exhibit is to demonstrate that everyone leads a life in need of documentation. Everyone makes major and minor accomplishments in life and these must form part of the global historical record. A most rewarding part of this research was reminiscing with these women and being part of the pride with which they weave their collective histories. In a most unassuming manner many speak with pride of each other's accomplishments, not giving much account to their own part in this feat. The display cases were but a glimpse into the history that some of the women who have been pioneers as students, organizers, faculty and support staff at UCSC have begun to share with us. This was not an exhaustive exhibit. Our hope is that one will be inspired to continue a legacy of a path blazed by these women, our precursors. Unlike the early years when the students relied upon each other to serve in many roles, today we have a host of faculty (13 in diverse fields such as Biology, Anthropology, Psychology). In the early years, all of the women speak to the importance of Professor Matute-Bianchi as a role model and as an advocate. Today's students continue to seek professors as advisers and role models, but they can also look to the past to see women like themselves whose hard work has been compensated with success in various aspects of their lives. As we embarked upon the 34th year of this campus it was fitting to look at the remarkable record of success from this group of otherwise underrepresented populations. Today we work upon a time in which race and gender (both important characteristics and analytical concepts exemplified by these women) are seen as negligible or inconsequential in our social world in terms of university eligibility and accomplishment. In some respects our history continues to unfold, like the history of many others. We are at point one again. Yet today we embark on university life with the clear record of a past history of success and perseverance. Chicanas and Latinas exhibit tenacity with their survival and their enduring success. The text found in these cases was derived from personal interviews, written communications, and official records. This was a project based on original research conducted by Kathryn Blackmer Reyes. The project was helped by the collaborative efforts of Irene Reti, Jacquelyn Marie, Christine Bunting, Carol Champion, Cheryl Gomez, and Martha Ramirez. Finally, without the the women--Las Mujeres-- and their willingness to reminisce there would be no story.