by Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos
In an e-mail sent by Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) President Sharon Hah’s on June 19, it was stated in a swift and inconsequential manner that “[The State of Illinois funded] $1.5 million for costs associated with facility renovations for the construction of a Latino Cultural Center….”
This event comes from the tireless contribution by State Senator Iris Martínez who stated on an historic meeting on May 1 organized by Latina/o student leaders at NEIU that “If I am going to continue to work hard for this institution… I want to make sure that Latinos are [being] catered to.” Now, finally, we, the Latina/o students of the university, have won, after years of being told there was never enough money, space, or time by many administrators!
This struggle began 27-years-ago with the university’s destruction of Albizu-Zapata Portable 1, a small, grassroots student-led space of Latina/o cultural and political affirmation. Fast forward to the present day and organizations like Que Ondee Sola (QOS) magazine alongside the Union for Puerto Rican Students (UPRS) and the Chican@ Mexican@ Latin@ Student Union (ChiMexLa) organizations have spearheaded this struggle with strong support from the Puerto Rican and Mexican communities of Chicago.
With members like Ruthy Venegas, Samuel Vega, Marcuz Erazo, Juan Morales, Jackie Nowotnik, Miosotis Santos and Joshua Cruz alongside Alpha Psi Lambda’s Stephanie Gómez, Jessica Urbina, and Vanesa Corado and the Movimiento Cultural Latino Americano (MCLA) organization this achievement was also made possible.
However, it must be stated that the struggle is not over. Complacency risks decreased funding for Proyecto Pa’Lante and Latino & Latin American Studies program (LLAS) every year. In QOS and in meeting after meeting we have made it a point to write and say “Latina/o Cultural & Resource Center” and not just a “Casa Latina” or anything else. This new space must include the vision that we as Latina/o students have placed out there, which includes the physical centralization of integral Latina/o-focused programs and student organizations. As we have stated before, QOS, UPRS, and the other Latina/o student leaders of NEIU must be at the table of planning and decision-making for this space – it is, after all, owned by the students of NEIU and no one else.