“My name is Ralph Armbruster Sandoval. I’m a professor in the Department of Chicano and Chicano Studies, and I’m also the chair of the department.”
So it’s my understanding that the Department of Black and Chicano Chicana
Chicanx Studies departments blossomed because of student activism. And I just wanted to ask you why you think that the method that they used added to the weight of the cause. Like, for example, the hunger strikes. Why do you think that method was strategic in this case?
Ok, so you’re asking me about the origins of the department or the hunger
strike specifically? Because there’s two different things there.
The Hunger strikes specifically.
Okay, the hunger strike was in a way, let’s see it was twenty-five years after
the department was first established. And if you want me to speak more slowly or something like that, I can.
I know you’re recording it, but still. So twenty five years after, you know, it’s
almost like a whole generation had passed. So the people from the 60s and 70s who protested and demonstrated and did all they could to establish a department, they had “moved on”. But the students of that era still had ties to the alumni from that and the people that created that, were affiliated with Mecha and then Mecha at UCSB had its own unique kind of organizing context so Mecha became known as El Congreso in 1975 and so they had ties with those alumni and those alumni didn’t just kind of fly off, if you will, and didn’t maintain ties with the current students and students wanted to maintain ties with them as well. So but 25 years later, at the beginning, the department, for instance, only had three faculty members and 25 years later, they still had three not the same three. But in other words, they hadn’t really expanded and they had a feeling the students of the 90s, that the university had kind of tokenized them, meaning that they had created a place to kind of quiet them down, but they really didn’t offer them any substantial change. So it was just kind of a what they call it, like a co-opted device, like something to kind of quiet down. I often say that if a baby’s crying, of course you’re going to give the baby something that they would want, you know, like a pacifier. And so truly, they like, pacify restive masses. Sometimes you can ignore them. Sometimes you can mock them. This is what Gandhi said. It wasn’t me. You can mock them. You can ignore them. And sometimes, you know, push comes to shove. You might have to give them something to pacify them to kind of quiet them down. The other thing you could do, of course, is, you know, repress them. You could arrest them. You could do mean things to them. But you know, if you try out all those things you could pacify them, which the system did in 1970.
But by the 1990s, they were saying, listen, we’re not really going to take these pacification efforts any longer. And so we want to do something substantive. And initially, they tried to do everything that you can think of, meaning going to other professors, going to university officials, you know, in other words, engaging in talk and conversation and trying to compromise and whatnot. And none of it really was successful. Cesar Chavez, of course, who had regularly relied on hunger strikes many times throughout his life. Taught a class here in 1991 in IV theater; it’s the only time he ever taught a stand-alone class. The quarter-long class was like a three-hour class. I think it was, yeah, like it was called farm labor organizing in California or in the United States or something like that. And yeah, so the students, some took that class, some in or had been farmworkers themselves, if not their families and parents and stuff. So they understood that struggle very intimately, very personally. It was like a real thing for them and they respected, admired him, and that was like his weapon of choice, if you will, right, the hunger strike.
So, so lots of things like it all kind of added up to they tried to do the regular thing, which is talk to the powers that be. They ignored them. They were really angry about what was going on, not only here in California, I mean, started at UCSB, but throughout California and the whole United States. It was just everything was going in the wrong direction. And the way that I interpreted in the book that I wrote about the strike was that they had to do something significant, something spectacular because they were being ignored. And so I kind of interpreted the hunger strike as a scream as a plea for attention. And so when they got out onto the administration building Cheadle Hall, they just camped themselves out there, you know, and it was really hard to ignore that. You can imagine a group of students all Latino, you know, Latinx. I mean, they weren’t using that terminology. Two of the students, by the way, were of Guatemalan ancestry, so they’re Central American and the other seven were Mexican and Chicano. And you know, they just said, ‘you can’t ignore us anymore. You guys were right here. We’re like starving right in front of you. And if you don’t do something about it, we’re going to continue to atrophy. Our bodies are going to decline and we could even die. Do you really want that to happen?’ So it’s kind of like playing, as we used to say. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And that’s what they did.
Well, there’s two questions like why did they do it? And maybe like, why did it work? But I think that’s why they did it. It’s because they didn’t know what else to do, and they knew that Chavez had used it to bring about positive change. And Chavez died, by the way, in ninety-three in April of ninety-three. And the UCSB strike was basically a year, 13 months after his death. And prior to the UCSB students’ hunger strike and UCLA students had done the same thing in May of ’93. So only in other words, only a month after Chavez had died. And so it was kind of like this moment, a moment that was happening. Seeing that Chavez had done that, you know, you have like a toolkit on it sounds kind of random. He had a tool belt on and you had your hammers and wrenches or whatever. What could you pull out from your toolkit that you would use? Yeah. And it was a strike. They tried everything else. It was like, OK, they use everyone’s going to use a bad word. What else do we have here that we could use you guys? We use that one. We use this one. We use that one. What did this other guy do? And it wasn’t I don’t think that directly in terms of like kind of copying or emulating him, but everybody knew that he had regularly gone on hunger strikes before. And in fact, that when he passed away, he was on a fast not really a strike because he was called to testify in a case that would have potentially bankrupted the union. So it was pretty grave stakes. And he was sixty-six and was already getting kind of old and already went on a number of hunger strikes and his body just gave out anyways. Sorry. I don’t know if that answers your question.
No that was a great answer. Thank you so much. So what made you want to get
involved in this department specifically?
Oh, good question. I have a PhD in sociology, and sociology is an odd field in
a way that it’s rooted really in social justice to a degree, but it’s a very. It’s a very diverse field, so not everybody in the field is committed to that kind of project, from my perspective. So I think there have been all kinds of people that have been, you know, radicals and even revolutionaries or people committed to radical social change. But that hasn’t been the main current in the field. You know, sometimes you have to fight people to get to embrace that perspective. Whereas since you kind of Chicana studies, Chicano studies, that’s not what we’re about. We’re about that from the very get-go. So it’s more openly acknowledged and recognized. And even though there may be other kinds of differences and kind of internal fights and things of that nature, you know, hopefully, you’re all playing on the same field. So I guess, you know, I liked being in that environment where I didn’t have to like consistently prove myself and try to convince people like what I was doing that the world was messed up and that The reason why we’re here is to do something about that is to turn the world upside down. I think sociology, again, there’s a major strain of thought that believes that and encourages students and faculty and others to get engaged
in those activities. But coming out of UC Riverside, UC Riverside, where I got my Ph.D. in sociology, that wasn’t a conducive environment to practice that kind of sociology. Everybody was telling me not to do that. So when I got here, I was like, it was a breath of fresh air, like, you could truly be yourself.
That’s a nice feeling.
It is. You didn’t have to be serving another master, if you will. I did apply to
come to the job here in the sociology department at UCSB, and I really respect this department here. I didn’t get that job. I got the job and Chicano studies well. But the reason why I applied for it is the reason why I just gave you. Um, but there wasn’t a PHD program in Chicano studies, back way back when, back in the day, and the hunger strike produced that program here. Oh, in the first place.
That’s really impressive
Yeah. So that’s what I mean by earlier is that I don’t know if you’ve got a chance to look at my book. It’s no big deal if you have it. They had like six demands, and one of the demands was getting more faculty. Another demand was to get like grapes off campus as there was another grape boycott that Chavez was engineering and they had a whole bunch of demands. But one of the other demands I think is important is was the Ph.D. program. There wasn’t one here at UCSB and there wasn’t one, frankly, in the entire nation, if not world at that time. So the first one ever created was here and it came out of the strike in 1994. So now people are getting pieces in Chicano studies, which is good.
Yeah, but it’s also, you know, if you look at it the other way, it’s like, really, is that what it took? People had to like, threaten to die to kind of get something like that. It’s really sad too. It is. Right?
Yeah. Yeah. That was one of the reasons that that question came to mind because it was such an extreme measure that they had to take in order to feel heard. So I thought that that was like an important part of the history.
I mean like theoretically. And if you think about it in an abstract way, like I used to when I was doing the research, I still do sometimes. I remember the cell phone commercials where people are talking on the phone and because especially now with Zoom and stuff, people say, “I can’t hear you,” or people say, “can you hear me now?”
So that could be like a metaphor for, you know, like, let’s say people are out
here demonstrating and they had a bullhorn and they were passing out leaflets and whatnot. People would ignore them, wouldn’t they? Some of us would listen and hear. But the thing is, we do not want to be ignored. We want to be heard. Can you hear me kind of like the phone? It’s like, Yeah, but in a way, the hunger striker just sits there, just sits there. But it’s like they’re shouting. But it’s because they use their words and their words didn’t have any impact. So they’re kind of like, done talking and they’re done eating. And as they say, like, if you didn’t listen to me before, maybe you can hear me now. Yeah, it’s kind of a very unique strategy. But some people oppose it, too. They imposed it back then because they felt that if it didn’t work like I said the toolkit thing, they had nothing else in their toolkit, nothing else in their arsenal, nothing else on there. Sounds macho to say, nothing in their holster. If you shoot that bullet, so to speak and it doesn’t work, then what the heck are you going to do? That’s another issue.
Yeah. So why do you think it was important that this happened, like during that specific time period, you kind of answered that with like it being right after Chavez’s death? But why do you think that this place specifically during that time? Like why UCSB?
Well, I mean, the other thing in California was Proposition 187. I cannot stress how important that was. So Proposition 187 would have basically, like criminalized all people who are undocumented in California and anybody that was going to school k through 12 as well as college, but mostly through K through 12 who was undocumented, would have like obligated the teachers to like, inform the INS because we had the I.N.S. at that time, not ICE Immigration and Naturalization Service. It would have turned them into like Border Patrol agents. So if there’s a kid in their class that they knew there was undocumented, they had to turn them in, right? So basically, they wanted to kick undocumented kids out of school. And anybody that was undocumented too that went to like the emergency room or to seek medical attention would be denied access to health care. So it was a demonization. I mean, we’ve seen it, you know, a lot of people think, Oh, California is real chill today in terms of our race relations and whatnot, and we’re very democratic and we’re blue and Yippee, so to speak. You know, California has not always been like that. And in the nineties, because we had a recession and because we had a really right-wing governor named Pete Wilson rallied behind this Prop 187. So we heard the steady drumbeat of every day that the reason why California was in, you know, not doing well, people are unemployed. Same things that you hear today high rates of crime, high rates of smog, anything that they could blame on somebody who was frankly Mexican. But Latino as well. Anybody who was brown was like a villain, the enemy. And so and I think that trickled down to UCSB and to other campuses because they were saying, like, I mean, basically they were saying, Get out, we don’t want you here. You know, they felt that education and health care were like a magnet that was drawing immigrants to come from Latin America, from Mexico here, so they could take advantage of the system. Right? That’s what the narrative was.
And so, you know, if the campus wasn’t hospitable to Latinos, then UCSB was saying, get out, too. You know, like, we’re not going to provide you guys with a decent department. We’re not going to provide for you. We’re going to sell grapes on campus. The other thing they were doing was INS raids, which UCSB wasn’t in charge of. The Federal government was. of like Latino families in IV. So they wanted to create a community center, right? And a lot of people that work here and there still to this day are Latino, right, in terms of groundskeepers, janitors, all that kind of stuff. But they lived in IV and they weren’t providing any services to them. So they wanted to tear down building 406 too back during that time period. This is what we’re looking at in front of us. That should have been built in the 1990s.
But the reason why it wasn’t is because they went on a hunger strike because the original blueprint was to expand that way. So if you go around this building, you know you’ve been building 406. El Centro was slated for demolition. So they saved it. You know, so that place has always been like a home away from home for Latino students, right? So they were just like, Hey, the 187 thing that’s happening statewide is kind of happening here too, because, in a way, they’re not making this like a welcoming environment for us. And they’re telling us to get the hell out. So, so you know, so that’s on the one hand. But they had specific grievances like the department wasn’t growing. Oh, they also were pissed that only 10 percent of our students at that time were Latino. You know, back in the day, they only had one percent 1970, and then it inched up to 10. We’re like, Well, I think in the 90s, maybe a third of California today, you know, Latinos are a majority. And so you. But back then it was like, Hey, thirty-five percent of our state is Latino, and only 10 percent of our students are like Raza. We use that term in that era. So we’re like, What the heck are you guys? What the heck? That’s not really right.
And their big thing was in Ventura County, Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County, the tri-county, central coast. There were all these Latino students that we could be attracting to come here to recruit them, but they weren’t doing anything to do that, you know? So we’re like, What the heck is going on here? So that’s why they created even a college day back in 1991. That’s where I came from was to like, bust these kids from these local schools to like, get them in like, Hey, this is what higher education is all about. You don’t have to come here. You go to Cal State, you go to community college. But we want to encourage you guys to come here. Yeah. So that’s one of the reasons why they did that as well.
And slowly but surely, you know, today we’re a society. You know, like 30 percent of our students are Latino, something like that. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine percent. But it was all because of what they did. So one of their demands was to increase funding for EOP and for other recruiting and retention efforts. One thing to bring a Latino student on campus, another thing to retain them, to get them to finish their degrees right? So they had like a really, I think, wide encompassing agenda, you know, from the department to students they didn’t talk about like CAPS. Unfortunately, the CAPS is, you know, the mental health thing. That’s a whole nother story But anyways, they I think that for what they were doing in that era, they were like thinking so far ahead, like, we’ve got to keep it central. We need a community center for like youth and Isla Vista, and we need to stop the I.N.S. raids all these kinds of things. So they put all that on the table. And I think one of the students told me that we were at war. It seemed like there was a war going on, and if it was that serious, then it merited a serious response like the hunger strike.
And you kind of already answered this, but what has brought. Like what specifically brought you to UCSB and how has your experience been so far? Have you encountered any challenges?
I mean, what specifically brought me to UCSB? I mean, when you get a Ph.D., you know, you have to eventually go on the job market and you have to like, seek out a job. You’re not going to be unemployed with a Ph.D., although it happens. So I applied to lots of different places and I was lucky enough to get interviews and job offers even. But UCSB was hard to turn down because of the history, right? I knew the history that was here and that was engaging and like, attractive to me. So. What was the other part of the question?’
How has your experience been so far here?
Yeah, that’s a very tricky question. Yeah, no. People ask that like, what’s been your experience? I mean, I think my experience has been like mixed, mixed in a good way. The thing that’s been saving grace for me is that when I first got here, actually, the students in Congresso interviewed me at building 406, and they asked me what I knew about the hunger strike. And my honest answer was I didn’t know much about that. What I was really interested in as a graduate student, what I wrote my dissertation on was the Anti Sweatshop Movement. And I was an activist. I was an organizer. I got interested in what was happening in Central America, even though I’m not Central American, in the 80s. And I was involved in labor unions and that kind of stuff. And so, unfortunately, the hunger strike here didn’t leave any impact on me in my twenties, if you will. So I felt really stupid, actually when they said that. What’s your take on it? I don’t think they said that. They just said, you know, what do you think about the hunger strike. And I was like, Oh God. But I couldn’t really lie to them. Yeah, that didn’t make sense to me. That was unethical. But I got the job, and I think the students knew that I was probably going to be in solidarity with them in terms of my politics and organizing and activism. And so and the strike had just happened four years prior, so I was hired in ’98 and the strike was in ’94. And I would’ve never been hired had it not been for the strike, never been hired because one of the demands was to increase the number of faculty in the department from, say, like three. I still love it. They said they wanted fifteen.
How many did they get after that?
Well, so it went up to like eight, but two other professors were hired the same year I was. So I think in nineteen ’88 when that year started, it was like seven. So they got like a compromise. Actually, they were very smart. Sometimes you’re like, oh, that’s really dumb. Why did you ask for fifteen? That’s just like crazy talk. You know, you ask for the moon. You always ask for the most you can get, hoping that they will actually give it to you, right? Yeah. So they asked for fifteen and they got eight. It’s a lot better than three.
Okay, so anyway, so I got, you know, when I was here, some of the students from that era were still here. Some were like super seniors; some were active in the area, working at UCSB, working in the community. And they’re like, Yeah, Ralph, you know, you should write something about the hunger strike. And I said, you know, I totally would be open to that. I support what you guys did back then, but I’m working on this other thing right now in my book on the sweatshop movement. That’s my primary passion right now, and maybe I’ll get to it. So in 2009, I finally started doing it in earnest, you know, and it took a long time for the book to come to fruition and get published.
But during that time period, this whole time period and even up until today, the best part of my experience to answer your question has been working with students in Congreso and in other organizations, not just them. But I have a very special place in my heart for them, for what they did. And not only in that era, but even before that, because they put their bodies on the line, they sacrificed themselves for our department and for a better world. So meeting them has totally turned and changed my life upside down. It gives me a reason to like, live basically. Yeah, to be in a community with other people that kind of share the same values that I do. So that’s been the best part of working here all that time. And yeah, I’ve gotten roughed up here and there like anybody would in a predominantly white institution and all that kind of stuff. But I survived. You know, I survived and the thing that made it survivable, that’s a word is being in a community again with other people that care, and it’s not just them, it’s other faculty, it’s other people that work on campus in EOP and CAPS and all these other places that you continue finding people that share your values here, your commitment. And so even if we get messed with, I’ll clean that up for you. Even if you get messed with, there’s another word I could use. You can still just talk behind the scenes and go, wasn’t that really messed up that they did that? Yeah, that was messed up and start like, you know, talking like that. And then after you kind of process that you say, Well, what are we going to do about that, you guys? Well, what can we learn from our past? Oh, they did the hunger strike back in the day. I think we could do that. I don’t know. Maybe not. That hunger strike seems kind of rash right now, but maybe we could do this. Maybe we could do that. Not only can we learn from Chicano students, but what about Black students? What about Asian-American students? What about queer students? What about undocumented students? Because once you start digging into this campus, you could see that we really have this rich tradition of activism and organizing, and it’s inspiring. And you know that you kind of students are part of that.
It’s really amazing. I’ve been finding that a lot in the living history project. I didn’t even realize that it was such a huge part of our campus.
Yeah. Yeah. I know it’s not like they put that as one of their calling cards.
No, and they should.
Well, I think I share your perspective, but you know, so you know, North Hall is right up there, right? You see that. And you know, the pictures are up there for the takeover in 1968. Have you seen that?
I don’t think I have.
Ok, we need to go up there. You want to go up there? … So just take it in for a second. This is October of 1968. [black and white photos on the wall under North Hall]
Twelve Black students, some of these folks, it’s really interesting in terms of gender. This is the only one of a Black woman there was. I know there were others, but I’m glad that they did this anyway. They took over this side of the building. This is like a locked unit. Back in the day. This was known as the computer center. Ok, so they took over. They had a long list of demands. They were also not listened to and the – ‘can you hear me now?’ So they decided to take over this building and they said,’ Listen, you guys, if you don’t give us our demands, we’re going to destroy all your records.’All the university’s records, all destroyed. So, you know, again, can you hear me now that got their attention? Here’s the newspaper, back in the day it wasn’t the daily nexus. This is all on the Living History Project too, but it’s one thing to see it there and another thing. So a couple of little stories like this.
There was a group that was like a multiracial radical organization of the United Front that involved white, Black, Chicano students. So these were students in UMAS, which is the group that preceded Mecha the United Mexican American students and first, you know, Chicano Power or Black Power, but they’re in solidarity too. And one thing that was really amazing to me that’s always discussed is so these folks, I think they probably I’m not sure how well-planned they are. Sometimes when you’re an activist, you do things, but in the seat of your pants, you to spontaneous. Yes. So you take over a building like they did, and I’m not sure if they had brought food in and whatnot. So somebody said, Hey, guys, you’re probably getting hungry up there as they’re negotiating because eventually, obviously, they got the university’s attention. They came over to start negotiating and somebody said, you guys must be hungry, so they pass them on grapes. The grape boycott was going on at the time, United Farmworkers, right? And they threw down the grapes. They’re saying, ‘we’re not eating these grapes’.
Ain’t that a great story?
Yeah, that’s an amazing story.
It still sends chills up my spine. You can see the newspaper covered that. This is at Berkeley, it was in the air, everybody knew because the boycott started in 1965 and it was in its third year so, I love this, I mean the whole thing is just really striking. But the fact that Black students initially organized and they asked for a Black Studies department and out of the Black Studies department came our department. So like, especially when Black Lives Matter was really hitting and it’s been going on for a while, but after George Floyd was killed there was all these demonstrations, we had to like as a department say like our department came out of this Black Struggle because there’s this anti-blackness in our community and we need to recognize the fact that these people did all these things, not for us, but they opened up space, not only opened up space for us but you know for other marginalized groups and communities, right. For example, look right over here I wanna show you this other thing up here, so anyway check this out…years ago, read that thing [plaque on the entrance of North Hall] So this is what existed prior to that [installation of pictures under North Hall bridge] The BSU, they organized back in 2012 and they had a whole list of demands, some of the demands went back to 1968 and they were in touch with Alumni, that’s what I mean by the Congreso people, so this first thing is like twisted, cause it says that UCSB was committed to diversity [laughs], so they were like ticked about this side, it was small, it wasn’t right, and, yes, and it makes it look like the administration was nice.
And like it was their idea.
Exactly, so one of the things [on the list of demands] was like, listen, this is dumb, we want to have this thing that’s really on display. That’s kinda hard to see, like you would never really see that [the plaque], so do you want to see the one they created for the hunger strike?
This is where they went on strike and they camped out here on the lawn [in front of Cheadle Hall]. Yeah, what do you think? [points to nothing – no marker indicating that the strike happened]
It’s not there.
That’s my point…we need to take our cues and learn from Black students because the way they got something– they demanded and the system listened to them. They asked for CAPS, better cops in IV, and all that kind of stuff, they asked for so many great things in 2012 and they got some of it. You ask for a lot hoping that you’re gonna get some of it, but here there’s not a single marker to mark anything, the 1970s, 1990s, any of the eras, and I’m grateful that the Living History Project is trying to archive stuff and make things available because not a lot of that stuff is found on campus. We talk about like decolonizing space– you know this building is named after Cheadle, so Vernon Cheadle was a UCSB Chancellor from 1961-1978 and Chancellor Yang took over in 1994 and is still here today, he’s almost going on 30 years, but did you know that there’s only been one or two buildings named after people of color on this campus? And one of them is that little tiny building, Building 406, but they wanted to tear it down. But, anyway, when you’re walking around, not you just personally but anybody again on the visitor thing [prospective student tours], you know what they usually say “let’s go to the 8th floor of the library” which is really cool because you can see the Channel Islands and it’s a beautiful view, but maybe they should teach them a little bit more.
Over in IV, one student was killed because there was a riot in IV after the bank burned down and the national guard came in and they shot to disperse the crowd and a student was killed over there. There’s a little tiny marker, to mark that, and actually, that student was really pro-establishment, really pro United States, and he just happened to be accidentally shot and killed, but one visitor guide years ago when I was eating lunch over there said “Uh and this is where a student was killed years ago, but you might wanna ask your parents about that because I don’t know anything about the war.”
Oh my God.
I was like please make it stop. It was just so clueless….Do you have any more questions?
So where does our Chicano Studies department stand today and do you think that the changes that have been made are reflective of where we stand today as a community and what does the future of the department look like?
Well I think like we were just saying, the Chicano Studies department came out of the movement and really referred to people that have Mexican ancestry, people say that the word Chicano refers to someone that has Mexican ancestry. I mean I think that’s the kind of simple definition, but also it’s greater than that, meaning that somebody has a political commitment to, from my perspective, bring about radical social change. It’s not just an ethnic marker, it symbolizes, if not obligates, I think one to do something to enact some kind of social change, now how somebody does that is open-ended, but the fact of the matter is the Chicano population or the Latino population or the Hispanic population embodies more than just people of Mexican origin. There’s people from Central America, South America, from the Caribbean, indigenous people, there’s people who are AfroLatino, I mean it’s a very diverse and rich community.
Even within Mexico, even that is multilingual, multiracial, all this kind of stuff, so I think that that’s pressing on the department to acknowledge that reality and so it’s not only just about that, also about queer issues as well– you know recognizing the fact that there’s a lot of fluidity there, a lot of gender fluidity, but also just in terms of that kind of spectrum of sexualities. The question of sexuality, the question of indigeneity, the question of Central Americans, like I think that those things from my perspective the department is engaging with but we haven’t really dealt with them as strongly as we maybe could have. Other departments, like the Chicano Studies department at UCLA, changed its name to Chicano Studies and Central American Studies, CSUN has an independent department called Central American Studies. We’re different, I mean we live here in SB, our Central American population is not as extensive as it is in San Fernando Valley and LA proper, but you know I think we could be doing more and perhaps we’ll keep on moving in that direction. We hired a new professor that hopefully, you’ll be able to take advantage of or take classes with, he’s Central American, Guatemalan, his name is Giovanni Batz, so I think we’re moving in the right direction but it just takes time and sometimes what facilitates that is a push from students. It always has been, right? I’m not saying that that’s what’s necessary or what has to happen. Again students shouldn’t have to take desperate measures to do things, they should be done for them already, but we need to recognize that the world is changing, frankly, and we need to keep up with those changes as best we can.
Thank you and what do you see for the future of the department?
I think the terminology would not just be about words, it would be about a commitment. So, if we say that were this Central American Studies or Indigenous Studies, that implies that we would be working to uproot systems of injustice, race, class, gender, sexuality, colonialism, imperialism. It would be more explicit, again, in trying to turn the world upside down, so I think that’s what our mission is and I think that’s what we’re doing, but I also think that it could be more explicit, so that’s what I hope we do in the future: make known our values and our commitments, that everybody knows where we’re coming from, from the very start.
How does it feel to be a part of and a leader of such an incredible legacy of these students?
Well, it’s a little daunting because you have like some pressure on your shoulders to keep that going. But again it’s also, I feel reassured that others– I’m following what they did and hopefully I continue on that legacy, continue building on it as best as I can and it’s not just, it’s not my doing, it’s the faculty’s doing as well as the students and the people that have made their little contribution, your ‘granito de arena’ (little grain of sand), everybody put forth their ‘granito’ to the Chicano Studies project and it’s just my turn, I guess, to be the leader for this moment. Somebody else will take my place, and hopefully they’ll build on it, expand it, change it, do whatever they wanna do with it, but it won’t just be them by themselves, they’ll be in connection with their colleagues, and the community in general. Well, it was really nice meeting you and I hope that was okay like going through all that.
Of course, it was great, thank you so much.
Yeah, go through El Centro again because you’ll go through it with a different perspective now. It didn’t look like that, the students saved it because they were gonna destroy it because it had earthquake damage, so they saved it once with the hunger strike, and then the second time the University pumped a lot of money into it, like a million dollars, it looks nice now. Before, you would step in it and the floor was cracking, it was falling apart, people were sleeping in there, it was kind of a nightmare but you could do some little research on that.
By: Mina Matta