MEChA de Yale @ Mount Holyoke


by Karla Maradiaga, JE ’15

As a junior at Yale who had yet to attend any conferences, I was not sure what to expect at the last ECCSF conference at Mount Holyoke. Thoughts of speeches given by prominent professors and activists came to mind. But the Mount Holyoke conference was much more than that. The conference consisted of several workshops and events that fostered a discussion about the current issues that Chicanos and Latinos face today. One of my favorite discussions was about being a first-generation college student.

Many students offered their perspectives on struggles with the college application process, LGBT issues, socioeconomic status, the disconnect between family and academia, and a sense of obligation to keeping family in mind when formulating career goals. Although I am not a first generation student, my parents attended college and worked during the bulk of my childhood, and I am no stranger to financial difficulties and to cherishing every spare minute of time that my parents could offer. It was very uplifting to hear the perspectives of students that have struggled and overcome many of the same issues that I have faced, but that seem to be silenced in many of today’s universities, in which Latinos are horribly underrepresented. The conference also involved the appearance of Jose Gonzalez, one of the teachers in Arizona who fought against the school administration’s ban of ethnic studies in high schools.

Most importantly, though, the conference provided an opportunity to learn alongside Latinos of many different backgrounds and to begin to formulate friendships with scholars on the East Coast, some of which, I hope will last a lifetime.”

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Mechista of the Week: Juan Díaz

Juan Díaz, Class of 2015

Juan Díaz, Class of 2015

Juan Díaz, Class of 2015

Residential College: Morse College

Hometown: Atlantic City, NJ

High School: Atlantic City High School

Why did you join MEChA? I joined MEChA because I wanted to get involved with the Latino community, but also do it in a socially conscious way. I knew that MEChA did a lot of cool stuff around things like immigration, worker’s rights, and other community issues, and I wanted to be involved. It has ultimately been a very fulfilling and enlightening experience, and I have learned so much about myself and my community through MEChA. We attempt to eliminate injustices in a far more involved and more conscientious way than typical community service groups.

What other activities are you involved in aside from MEChA? In addition to being in MEChA, I’m also a member of Community Health Educators, where I teach middle school students a comprehensive health curriculum. I also volunteer on Saturdays at the HAVEN Free clinic, where I interpret. I also work at the Art History Department.

What is your favorite experience with MEChA? My favorite memory of MEChA is definitely attending ECCSF [the East Coast Chicano/a Student Forum]. It’s so great being able to go on a small roadtrip with some of your closest friends, and the conferences are pretty fun too! Our ECCSF conference in April will hopefully be a similarly wonderful experience. But most my most important experience is attending our weekly MEChA Monday night meetings, they are so refreshing and rejuvenating, especially on Monday nights!

Mechista of the Week: Adriana Embus

Adriana Embus, Class of 2017

Adriana Embus, Class of 2017

Adriana Embus, Class of 2017

Residential College: Timothy Dwight College (“the BEST!”)

Hometown: Columbus, Georgia

High School: Brookstone School

Why did you join MEChA? When I first visited Yale, La Casa Cultural was one of the deciding factors, and subsequently the diverse student groups it had to offer. Once I heard about MEChA de Yale, I knew I had to be in it; the energy and passion every single one of the members had for social justice was just so inspiring. In fact, back at home in Georgia, there were so many social justice issues I felt completely passionate about, but there was never a group to organize enough support. Here I feel so grateful that there is a group to fight for our rights as Latinos and also to act on those issues that affect our community the most.

What other activities are you involved in aside from MEChA?  I am a representative on Freshmen Class Council (FCC), which advocates for issues pertaining to freshmen on campus. I am also part of Sabrosura, Yale’s Latin dance team and a member of Steppin’ Out, Yale’s Step Team. Another one of passions is Yale Faith and Action and my involvement with Quest Scholars Network.

What is your favorite experience with MEChA?  So far, my favorite experience with the MEChA group was organizing last week’s Día de los Muertos Altar (Nov. 1) with other freshman in the group. Not only did I love working with the other freshmen, I loved learning about the Día de los Muertos tradition (since I’m Colombian and we didn’t really celebrate it back home)! Moreover, some Mechistas attended Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA’s) Día de los Muertos parade in Fair Haven on Nov. 2 and I absolutely loved getting out in the community and participating in this wonderful celebration. I also really look forward to MEChA weekly meetings because they foster great conversation, awesome memories, and inspiring people.

Mechista of the Week: Cathy Calderón

Cathy Calderón, Class of 2017

Cathy Calderón, Class of 2017

Cathy Calderón, Class of 2017

Residential College: Davenport

Hometown: San Fernando, California

High School: Granada Hills Charter High School

Why did you join MEChA? My curiosity and admiration for MEChA has grown over the last decade due to my involvement with an Aztec dance group called Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc, which has worked on various community events with MEChA. I had never joined MEChA because there was never an established organization at any of my schools and I always wondered what it would be like to be a Mechista. I knew from the moment that I got accepted to Yale that I would join MEChA for these reasons and to further my knowledge of political and cultural issues affecting the Latino community in order to work towards social justice and equality for all.

What other activities are you involved in aside from MEChA?  I am a volunteer interpreter at the free HAVEN clinic, which provides health care for people without health insurance. I am planning on becoming a volunteer at the New Haven Free Public Library to help younger students improve their literacy. I will always be a member of Cuauhtemoc because it is the root of my passion for social justice and I never stop learning from my fellow dancers.

What is your favorite experience with MEChA?  So far, I really enjoyed the Café con Karaoke event that the scholarship committee put on because we had great food and company, oh, and we made a soul train happen. Although I wish this issue did not exist, I enjoy protesting for workers’ fair wages in front of Gourmet Heaven because protesting makes me feel alive (come out and support, Fridays at 5:30 pm!). I am grateful to be part of such a passionate and active group and have made some of my closest friends through MEChA de Yale.

Mechista of the Week: Ava Tomasula y Garcia

Ava Tomasula y Garcia, Class of 2017

Ava Tomasula y Garcia, Class of 2017

Ava Tomasula y Garcia, Class of 2017

Residential College: Calhoun College

Hometown: Chicago/South Bend, IN

High School: Interlochen Center for the Arts (MI) and John Adams High School (IN)

Why did you join MEChA? I wanted to be part of a social justice group that did not limit itself to one area. MEChA knows that immigration is connected to education, to poverty, to voting rights, etc. It is hard to find such all-encompassing student groups!

What other activities are you involved in aside from MEChA? At Yale, I am also part of FAIR College Counseling, Oye spoken word, and hope to get involved with the Women’s Center. I am trying to keep in contact with the groups I’m part of at home: Students for a Democratic Society, Occupy Education, and others.

What is your favorite experience with MEChA? I’ve really enjoyed the weekly boycott of Gourmet Heaven over wage theft – it’s the most visible project MEChA’s done so far this year and it’s great to see the direct effect it is having. Also, I like freaking people out and there’s plenty of opportunities for that on a picket line.