On Wednesday, the IUP Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement (MCSLE) hosted its weekly “MCSLE Lunch & Learn”.
The “MCSLE Lunch & Learn” is a weekly series hosted by MCSLE in the Great Hall of Elkin Hall every Wednesday during Crimson Common Hour. Each week, a different guest speaker, usually an IUP professor, speaks on a current topic.
In honor of National Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month, this week’s topic was “Latinxs and the Social Movement: Past and Present.” It was presented by Dr. Hilario Molina from the Department of Sociology at IUP.
Dr. Molina recently authored an academic paper on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the South Texas Latino population. The article will be published in the next issue of the Theory in action journal, published by the Transformative Studies Institute.
“I think Dr. Molina is great”, Tatiana Cleffi (junior, nursing). “That’s why I really tried to be [there] for the presentation.
As the name suggests, the presentation focused on highlighting some of the millions of Latinas who have had an impact on social change or are still having such an impact. Dr. Molina explained that he wanted to specifically highlight women because the story is usually told from the perspective of men as heroes.
“Growing up, I would visit my grandparents and see all these male hero figures,” Dr. Molina said during the presentation. “And even though there were also female figures, they were often on the side.”
Among the historical figures highlighted are: Petra Herrera, a Mexican will settle who originally disguised herself as a male soldier to fight in the Mexican Revolution, but after being captured as a woman, was expelled from the army and led an all-female battalion; Victoria Castro, founding member of the Brown Berets who in 1968 organized the East Los Angeles walkouts against systemic racism in schools; and Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers who was responsible for including women in the strike against farmworker exploitation in the 1960s.
“At the time, men would go on strike while female farm workers continued to work because striking was seen as a more masculine thing to do until Dolores said”no, all together which means ‘no, all together’ in Spanish,” explained Dr. Molina.
“It was important that they all strike together because one thing farm owners would do was keep paying those who worked, then instead of paying them on payday. [the farm owners] would just call immigration [the farm workers] and get away with it without paying,” Dr. Molina continued.
Some of the modern personalities highlighted by Dr. Molina include: Sandra Cisneros, writer best known for The Mango Street House who also fought against forced assimilation after being sued for having a house that was too “Mexican-looking”; Lizzie Velasquez, who after being dubbed the “ugliest woman alive” when she was just seventeen, founded one of the first anti-cyberbullying organizations; Raffi Freedman-Gusman, who became the first transgender person to work as a White House staffer; and Berta Caceres, a Honduran environmental activist who was murdered in 2016 for her activism to protect indigenous lands.
“Caceres found out that they were going to build a dam in the same area where his community lived,” Dr Molina said. “She feared the dam would compromise her community’s access to water and jeopardize their way of life. She protested and was murdered.
Although the presentation could not go into depth on every historical figure, since the MCLSE Lunch & Learn series is only supposed to last an hour, many students feel that it was beneficial to have attended the presentation and to have the impression of having learned a lot.
“I would definitely say I learned a lot,” said Veronica Duran-Paramo (junior, early childhood and special education). “I knew some people but there were others I didn’t know.”
The next Lunch & Learn will take place next Wednesday at Elkin Hall during common time. Students interested in participating do not need to register in advance, but will need their i-cards to access the event.