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El Centro Chicano y Latino is open Mon - Fri, 10am - 5pm, up through Friday, June 13th. 

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Letter of Support for El Centro and director Elvira Prieto from 2013 Alumna

"Growing up, I was raised in a culturally rich Mexican and Puerto Rican household."

To Whom It May Concern:

El Centro was my home away from home. When I started my undergraduate journey at Stanford as a FirstGen student from a low-income background, I found a sanctuary in El Centro and within Comunidad. Elvira Prieto, the Associate Director at the time, quickly became a warm and familiar presence in my life.

During my four undergraduate years, I was involved with Mariachi Cardenal, Ballet Folklórico, Derechos, Nuestra Grad and was a founding member of Latin@s Unid@s. Growing up, I was raised in a culturally rich Mexican and Puerto Rican household. While my Mexican identity was fulfilled and clearly made visible in Comunidad programming, my Puerto Rican identity was not. For this reason, I became involved with helping establish Latin@s Unid@s. My involvement with this VSO was when I witnessed firsthand Elvira’s openness to welcoming new perspectives to Centro. As a freshmen in 2009, El Centro was named “El Centro Chicano” and had aesthetics reminiscent of the founding Mexican/Chicano students who, among other feats, went on hunger strikes to have Stanford establish this much needed cultural space on campus. While I highly respected the advocacy and tenacity of these alumni for paving the way, I also was among a group of students who wanted El Centro to do better. It was a space that used to be more catered towards students of Mexican origin, given the demographics of students who operated and utilized the space. I witnessed Latinx students of non-Mexican origin advocate for more Latinx inclusivity. The staff at El Centro listened and more importantly, they took action.

By the time I graduated in 2013, this cultural center was on its way to being renamed “El Centro Chicano y Latino” after surveys and myriad town halls where alumni, current students, and other stakeholders came together to discuss the name change and the future of this vital space for Latinx students. I recall these being heated discussions at times, but always respecteful. Throughout this time, Elvira was a key supporter and an active and critical listener. As a Stanford alum, who participated in the hunger strike in the 1990’s, Elvira’s love for this space comes from a place of genuine authenticity and deep found respect. Elvira knows what this space means to Comunidad and has championed its existence, quite literally, since its founding.

When I returned to campus a few years ago in 2018-2019 as a graduate student, I visited Centro and was amazed at its evolution. Not only did the physical space capture the Latinx cultural inclusivity I yearned for ten years prior, but its programming reflected this as well. I recall attending a welcoming event with Afro-Puerto Rican bomba music and dance, something that in my freshmen year would have likely been mariachi or ballet folklórico. As a graduate student, El Centro quickly became a safe haven for my fellow graduate classmates of color as it had always been for me in my undergraduate years.

Spaces like El Centro are of utmost importance and vital for building community and collective action. There is always room for improvement, but mutual respect and transparency should be foundational between stakeholders for any advocacy to successfully move forward.

Sincerely,
Diana González
B.A. 2013, M.A. 2019

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