Mujeres Activas. On July 18th I arrived in Santa Barbara and was in awe; the city is incredibly beautiful and the weather was perfect. As a Dominican woman, a self-identified Latina, and a Ph.D. student I was excited to be attending my first MALCS Summer Institute, but I did not know what to expect. I started my MALCS conference experience at a 9:00 a.m. panel and spent the rest of the day listening to Chicana testimonies that helped me understand, for example, how to begin to think about the reconciliation of cultural and academic epistemologies. In one day, I met so many Chicanas and Latinas doing amazing work in and outside of academia. The mujeres theorized and wrote from a place of engagement and for social change. The paper presentations were not only theoretically rigorous, but they went beyond theory and provided ways to practice social change as well. As the day progressed I became more and more inspired by them and elated to see Latina faculty and graduate students actively making such a difference.
en Letras. It was on my third day at the conference, at the panel on Outside of the Southwest: Chicana/Latina Activism During the Chicano Movement moderated by Maylei Blackwell, that I began to appreciate the power of words. Listening to the testimonios of the panelists prompted tears as I realized that we all have a shared history of struggle and survival. The next panel featuring Yovani Flores and Dulce Juarez entitled Testimonios: Mujeres de Arizona Forming Home and Healing in the Face of Rejection was beyond powerful. It was an amazing and moving panel. As Yovani Flores read to us a very personal and emotional piece, tears formed in my eyes. I saw myself in her, and I felt connected to her and to the audience in such a powerful way. She allowed the audience to feel what she felt as a little girl visiting Puerto Rico for the first time. He story brought back memories for me of leaving Dominican Republic when I was 7 and not returning until I was 17. I forgot what it was like, but like Yovani, I connected with my country and remembered that being Dominican was not mutually exclusive from being an American. Needless to say I cried throughout the entire panel. Letras are a powerful vehicle. It is through words that writers remember and re-live memories and experiences in order to heal or to share their story, but those letras touch the audience and listeners, allowing us to remember our own similar experiences. It is easy to forget our own struggles especially because they bring bad memories, ones that we do not want re-live. However, at MALCS I learned that figuring out the roots of some our traumas and bad experiences is key to moving forward and living a healthy life. I would like to personally thank Yovani for her heartfelt piece and for helping me remember that regardless of locality, one can still maintain a sense of self and be true to where you came from and who you are.
y Cambio Social. We are, indeed, all Arizona. Dulce Juarez’s performance during the same Saturday panel reminded me of that fact. Regardless of where you live and what you look like, todos somos Arizona. What happens to our own brothers and sisters affects our own quality of life. We need social change in American society, especially when it comes to issues of gender, race and ethnicity. The women I met at MALCS are all making a difference in the lives of the students they mentor, and in the lives of many other women, including myself, through the work they do in the academy and Latina communities.
I was especially pleased to meet Dr. Chela Sandoval at MALCS 2012 because I employed her work on oppositional consciousness in my undergraduate honors thesis and never imagined that I could meet her in person. She is phenomenal. I was also lucky to meet Dr. Edwina Barvosa, a fellow political scientist, who inspired me with her wisdom and guidance to get out of my post-candidacy-exam rut and re-attack the writing. At the Tortuga Awards Banquet, Professor Barvosa generously talked with me about my process and plans. Just having the chance to meet and talk with these two amazing women at MALCS motivated and re-energized me.
MALCS. Thank you for the inspiration and motivation you re-lit in me as I continue my path towards attaining a Ph.D. in Political Science. I feel more complete and whole after participating in this special gathering. Thank you MALCS for allowing me the space to remember, to cry, to feel a sense of belonging and to re-commit to the important work we all do.
Yalidy Matos in a Ph.D candidate in Political Science at Ohio State University. She is a new member of MALCS.