La Raza group harnesses local community interest

Club eases struggle of first generation college students

By Christian Urrutia, Photo Editor

One of the multiple clubs on campus utilizing cultural advocacy, La Raza Student Union serves as the active arm of the La Raza studies department and centralizes a lot of its efforts based off the content that is covered in the program.

La Raza Student Union member Maria Lara said the club serves as a place where students can come and share opinions about what is going on in the local community and abroad, for example the economic and political turmoil taking place in Mexico.

“In some ways, it’s similar to a debate club and we’re not afraid to share what is really going on (within our Latino/a communities) and we encourage each other to voice new opinions because we end up knowing each other so well,” Lara said.

The mission statement of La Raza Student Union can be summarized as developing student leaders and using advocacy in a cultural context to create community participation at Contra Costa College.

More specifically, it’s a place where Chicano/a and Latino/a students can come together to express their voices regarding issues affecting this majority group and the belief is that working as a community to create a better society with the tenets of democracy, liberty and justice at the forefront.

Lara said the club motivates members to support one another and to challenge preconceived notions they have of important topics such as immigration and cultural differences within Latin America.

Alejandro Gonzalez, vice president of La Raza Student Union, said that part of the benefit of joining the club is the cultural awareness of where a person comes from and interacting with the community.

“We try to do things for Latinos and undocumented students and immigrants in general, for example last year’s labor day, we brought first aid kits for the day laborers standing out in front of Home Depot,” Gonzalez said.

“Last semester we took supplies to them, and next semester we’re planning to do more of the same and hopefully different events,” Lara said.

La Raza studies professor and the club’s adviser Agustin Palacios said the club consistency on campus has been attributed to events that take place every year.

Dr. Palacios said the club seeks to create community at CCC and the philosophy behind the club sees the community as the first step in any form of organizing.

LRSU has been active since the 1970s and was “instrumental” in creating the La Raza studies department on campus instead of the other way around, Palacios said.

He said that what the students learn from classes informs their activities and gives them an opportunity to engage with the social issues they learn from La Raza studies.

Gonzalez said the club provides the chance to interact with and get to know people who struggle coming to this country and people working hard just to send money back home in the form of remittances.

He said that an understanding of struggles for undocumented students is gained, mostly about awareness of these issues on campus.

Future plans for the club include re-establishing a mural for indigenous peoples, that was previously erected in the Recreation Room located in the now demolished Student Activities Building and soon-to-be Campus Center.