When the crowd was asked how many of their parents or grandparents were migrant farmworkers, half of the room raised their hand.
The Campus Events + Entertainment Mexican American Cultures Committee hosted the annual César Chávez Legacy dinner, named after the Mexican-American farmworker and civil rights activist, in the Union Ballroom Thursday.
Victor Saenz, an associate professor of educational leadership and policy who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, said UT’s complicated history shows how it has treated Latinx and African-American students in the past.
“We’re rewriting that history right now,” Saenz said. “The University of Texas is supposed to serve all of the residents of the state of Texas. Any time we fail in that mission, we need to hold our institution accountable.”
Government senior Jordee Rodriguez, the first Latinx president of the Liberal Arts Council, said her parents have been barred from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border for the past 50 years. Rodriguez said the only way to solve the social, political and economic problems of the U.S. today is to unite the way marginalized groups did during the Civil Rights Movement.
“I challenge you to be a part the creation of the twenty-first century civil rights movement that fights for its women,” Jordee Rodriguez said. “That fights for its queers. That fights for its undocumented people, and that fights for every member of this society that has ever been told that they do not belong by their oppressors.”
As part of an art exhibit in the event, a painting called “Using Our Voices” by undeclared freshman Karla Rodriguez was displayed, which is an image of a woman screaming with several other screaming heads in her mouth.
“More recently, as Latinx community members, we have to stand up and scream to make our voices heard,” Karla Rodriguez said. “My art piece symbolizes the echo that we create.”
Catherine Grace Treviño, an electrical and computer engineering sophomore, is a member of the Butler School of Music Mariachi band and played during the art exhibition. Treviño said she has played mariachi music since she was 15 and it was an honor to uphold this Mexican-American tradition.
“I feel like César Chavez’s message ‘Sí Se Puede,’ which translates to ‘Yes, we can’, is such an important message for people right now, especially during this time in the United States,” Treviño said. “Whatever you do, do it with all of your heart and soul.”