La Raza Student Union has a long history at Contra Costa College dating back decades. Nationwide student protests during the 1960s and 1970s paved the way to forge La Raza studies and the La Raza Student Union, LRSU adviser Edgar Mojica said.
He said, “The goals of the protests were to establish an awareness of who we are, our history, social issues, dreams and visions and to respond to those needs.”
La Raza studies professor Augustine Palacios said, also as a result of student protests, 10 sections of La Raza studies were offered at CCC in 1970 with an enrollment of 400 Latino students.
“The long history of Latino culture is not reflected on the college website. We’re working on changing that,” Palacios said.
Maria Lara, the LRSU president, said that the core mission statement and even some issues covered by the LRSU have remained similar over the years.
“Our goal is to bring awareness of Latino culture and what they’re going through right now,” she said. “The struggle of our generation is to find our own identity. Students feel that LRSU is only for Mexican students. It’s not, it’s for any Latino students who wants to be involved as well as being open to everyone and I encourage people to come. The more people we have the easier it is to identify issues.”
Another challenge faced by the LRSU is the environment of the community college itself.
Students come to CCC and do what they have to do and get out (transfer) making it hard to maintain structure, Mojica said.
Despite the challenge of transferring and departing students, LRSU has managed to maintain a presence on campus by staying active with events and community-service projects as well as receiving support from the college administration, Mojica said.
“Every event is an attempt to keep traditions alive,” Mojica said. “(LRSU) brings focus to the student population through community service, (bridging) the community with the college and make the college more prominent.”
The LRSU plans to target healthy eating habits of Latino children in San Pablo as their community outreach event this year.
Lara said she read an article stating that high numbers of Latino children in the San Pablo area were categorized as being obese and was inspired to change those numbers.
For Hispanic Heritage month, which ran from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the LRSU did not participate with an event on or off campus.
“We don’t identify as much with that term, so instead of celebrating Columbus Day we celebrated our heritage with Indigenous Peoples Day that was held in the Library and Learning Resource Center (on Oct. 12),” Lara said.
“From what we’ve learned Hispanic is a term that was imposed by the U.S. government and it generalizes Latinos as being all the same,” she said.