Over 50 people connected to UMAS y MEXA de CU Boulder turned out to Norlin Library for the panel exhibit and reception celebrating the student group’s dynamic history.
UMAS’ mission is to empower Latinx through education and activism. Amairany Casillas-Alcala, Adán García, and Ashly Villa-Ortega, all students that have been or are connected with the student group, curated images that centered around themes of Solidarity, Education, Activism, and Expression.
“It’s important to let people know the group has been here for 50 years, it’s still here, and the current members are still doing work with UMAS,” said Castillas-Alcala, co-chair of the group. “UMAS has done a lot that’s affected this university. This is about making sure that history stays alive.”
The event stemmed out of a pop-up exhibit curated by students that commemorated UMAS’ 50th anniversary and alumni voices. Megan Friedel, Head of Archives at University Libraries said that event didn’t do the UMAS story justice.
“I felt very strongly that the students should have a chance to sift through everything that we had collected, sift through all of the various strong feelings and emotions that had come up around the 50th anniversary event, and create something new that was theirs, so that they could feel what the legacy was themselves,” said Friedel.
Despite UMAS’ long and storied history on campus, the university’s archival collection on the student group is limited. The project idea came from Leslie Reynolds and Heather Bowden. When Friedel started working for the Libraries in May 2018, was given the opportunity to work with students that summer to learn more from alumni about the group’s history.
“We want the stories of Chicanx students to have a physical place in the library,” she said. “It won’t be up forever, but it just reinforces the library's commitment to supporting diversity and inclusion on this campus.”
The students worked with University Libraries’ graphic designer Andrew Violet closely on the display over two semesters. He said the Libraries are in solidarity with UMAS and are committed to protecting and honoring their history and legacy.
“The Archives are reaching out to underrepresented communities to say we care about your voice, we care about archiving your story, and we stand in solidarity with you as a community,” said Violet.
At the event, the keynote speaker Magnolia Landa-Posas of CU Engage at the School of Education discussed her time in UMAS at CU Boulder and what the group’s history means to the campus community today.
“It is important to be informed about the multiple histories that this campus holds in order to understand the different lived experiences that students go through on campus,” said Landa-Posas ahead of her speech. “When we forget or don’t know the history of resistance and advocacy on campus we continue to perpetuate systems of oppression whether implicitly or explicitly in the educational institution.”
This project, participants hope, will allow space for all communities to stop and think about the progress CU Boulder has made, and the work that still needs to be done for those who have felt marginalized.
The exhibit is on display in the Ventana Gallery on the 3rd floor of Norlin Library through August 2019.