Other Activities and Initiatives
CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies Blog
Blog Post by Angy Rivera (John Jay College, 2013 CUNY-IME Becaria)
Many assume that because I’m undocumented I don’t have a voice. I often hear some refer to people like me as “voiceless” or “invisible”. There is always a need to give me a voice, to humanize me, to speak out for me, and to advocate for me. What many fail to see is that I can do all that for myself; if only they stopped to listen. At some point in my life, I also thought I was voiceless.
When I was younger I wasn’t undocumented and unafraid, I was very afraid and ashamed. I thought this status was a curse, but I know see how it is also a blessing. I have a love/hate relationship with being undocumented. While it has kept me from many opportunities and has limited my existence here in the United States; I’ve also learned how to fight for my rights and education. I’ve met a lot of amazing people because of the path my immigration status has taken me on.
The CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies awarded me one of their scholarships this year and I’m so thankful for that. The scholarship allows me to not worry about financing my education for a little while. It means one year of not stressing over money so much. To focus more on school and my career. It means one year of being able to invest more into my community.
I decided to volunteer with the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC), a non-profit organization led by undocumented youth working on creating equal access to education for all regardless of immigration status. I had already been volunteering there in a different area of the organization; so I switched over to organizing.
As a fellow for the organizing section of the organization I was able to work alongside other youth, many of whom are undocumented as well. Together, and with the help of the CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies, we organized the NYSYLC’s first ever Dream Team Convening. There are Dream Teams in various campuses and high schools, several Becari@s met at these clubs. The clubs have created a safe space for undocumented youth in school. A space for them to meet each other, share stories and resources, cry, make friends and become unafraid. The convening would put all these Dream Teams under the same roof in order to provide each other with the skills necessary to stay active. Many students find themselves dropping out of high school or college because of the lack of community, Dream Teams are there to change that.
When the Dream Team Convening finally took place I couldn’t help but feel honored to be surrounded by such amazing individuals. Young people who are ready to change the culture of their campuses. Who are no longer afraid or ashamed to be undocumented. Who are stepping up and claiming the respect and dignity they’ve always deserved. Who are pushing for the New York Dream Act and/or creating their own scholarships while they wait for the state to provide support. They’re a force to be reckoned with.
We are standing up and being our own advocates. We are using our power and our voices to push for the changes we wish to see in our community, and in our state. We are creating spaces and opportunities that didn’t exist before.
I’m thankful to the CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies for their constant support and for believing in the power of education for all. Their scholarship program and educational events show that by providing the necessary tools, students are able to succeed.
Blog Post by Jasniya Sánchez (Baruch MPA, 2012 CUNY-IME Becaria)
Balancing work as a private Math Tutor, volunteering at Qualitas of Life Foundation as Academic Coordinator, attending graduate school part-time, working along side fellow youth and students at MAYAS (Mexican American Youth Advising Students) promoting education, family and friends is not a walk in the park, but all of these experiences haveleft me with valuable lessons learned and have made me a better person.
Through all the ups and downs brought about by juggling all these responsibilities I would like to highlight the following experiences:
1. Winning the IME Beca & Inauguration of the CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies at Lehman College
2. Being the Academic Coordinator at Qualitas
Winning the IME Beca & Inauguration of the Institute of Mexican Studies at Lehman College As a Mexican citizen living abroad, I was extremely happy and proud to hear about the creation of the IME Beca for Mexican citizens in need of financial aid to continue/start their college education. and immediately visualized a brighter future for the Mexican community of this great city! For me IME Becas symbolizes hope, opportunity and believe in the talents and dreams of young Mexicans like myself. When I received the amazing news that I had been one of the selected winners of the first IME Becas to be awarded ever by CUNY and the IME, I was overcome with great joy and also an enormous sense of responsibility came over me.
When I learned about this great initiative I assumed the responsibility not only to make good use of the award granted, but also to make my country and community proud. It is every IME Becario's responsibility to make our community proud, inspire future generations to reach for the stars and lend a helping hand to those that are following our footsteps. I am proud to be Mexican and call myself an IME Becaria!
2012 was surely a very promising year for CUNY and the Mexican community in New York City, which not only saw the IME Becas come to life, but also celebrated the inauguration of the CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies at Lehman College. As a CUNY student and Mexican, I could not have been more excited and proud! I see the CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies as the home away from home for all of those Mexicans living in the great city of New York and the place to highlight and share the beauty and richness of our culture to future generations and the world! For all of this and the great team at the Institute, I am very proud and humble to have been elected to be part of the executive board and will do my best to help the Institute fulfill its mission.
Being the Academic Coordinator at Qualitas Volunteering at Qualitas has been such a rewarding experience since I started being involved with this amazing organization since 2009. In 2012, as the Volunteer Academic Coordinator at Qualitas of Life Foundation I had the great opportunity and challenge to coordinate their financial education programs. This task consisted on training and managing facilitators, maintaining relationships with strategic alliances, scheduling workshops, conducting workshops, revising and creating educational material and my personal favorite interacting with our workshops participants. Being part of a small organization, I was exposed to all different aspects that make up a nonprofit organization. As a Master in Public Administration student I could not have asked for anything better than being part of an organization like Qualitas, where I have learned so much in a short period of time. Today, I am proud to say that the shy girl, who could not speak in front of a small group of people, now is able and very much comfortable speaking in front of large audiences whether they are workshop participants, board members during Qualitas' board meetings, Qualitas' annual reports or delivering a speech at CUNY's college fair for the Mexican community. This is just one of many examples where Qualitas has given me the opportunity and challenge to take charge, believe in myself and shine! All of the staff that has come through Qualitas since my arrival in 2009, board and committee members, alliances, volunteers and facilitators have always been supportive and a pleasure to work with, thank you! I look forward to continue my work at Qualitas in 2013 now as part of the staff!
Oh 2012, by far you have been one of the most challenging, yet the most rewarding year yet to come for me. As a Master in Public Administration student (Baruch College), young professional, Mexican citizen, New Yorker, Latina and immigrant, if I had the opportunity to go back and do it all over again, I would not change anything about you. 2012, you were perfect with all your imperfections, thank you! Now I can't wait what 2013 has in store for me.
Read more about Jasniya here.
Victor Pajarito wrote our first blog post for the CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies Blog. Victor is a Lehman College senior and a winner of a 2012 CUNY-IME Becas Scholarship.
Discovering my Nahuatl Roots
“Nitze! nehua notoca Victor, tehua keni ti mo toca? kentika? Kuali?”
(Hi, my name is Victor, what is your name? how are you? Good?)
It was a Wednesday afternoon and I had just gotten out of my French class at Lehman College. As luck would have it, I still had one more class to go. But this next class wasn't just any other class; it was my first Nahuatl class, talk about being out of the ordinary. My Nahuatl class was back in Brooklyn, where I live, at Mano a Mano: Mexican Culture Without Borders, an organization that offers Mexicanidad, courses in various cultural subjects like music, dance and language. Everyday I dread that near two hour commute from Brooklyn to Lehman and then vice versa, but luckily for me I had my iPod with me. As I turned it on to listen to the few Nahuatl songs that I had, I began to melt down to the melodic voice of Lila Downs. I couldn't help but to realize that I was minutes away from immersing myself in a completely different and new language, the language of my ancestors – the Aztecs.
Being that I’m a Linguistics major, I have been exposed to and have studied various different languages myself, but Nahuatl was unlike anything I have ever witnessed or studied before. How I found myself dabbling into Nahuatl was not by chance, but I feel, for the most part, it was because of fate. I was recently fortunate enough to be given a scholarship by the Mexican government, and as an “IME Becario” (Institute for Mexicans Abroad scholarship winner) I was also placed in an internship to become more active in the Mexican community. The internship that I chose was to work with the CUNY institute of Mexican studies, to organize their indigenous languages campaign. I thought this internship would suit me best, because it combined my love of languages and linguistics along with my love to help people and my community. My task is to help organize several events and workshops that will help raise awareness about Mexico’s rich linguistic diversity.
A lot of the time people think that just because one is Mexican, or comes from Mexico, Spanish is the only language that they speak. In fact Mexico is home to various indigenous languages like Nahuatl, Zapotec, and Mixteco, to name a few. Many times Mexicans who only speak an indigenous language get the short end of the stick and are stuck with providers who only speak Spanish and have no knowledge that they may speak an indigenous language. For this reason they often get stuck with Spanish interpreters at courts and hospitals. I want to be able to help these people, and I believe that the first way I can help them is by raising awareness about Mexico’s indigenous languages. This is the reason why I felt the need to learn an indigenous language, to put myself in their shoes and mentality so I can understand the indigenous population better, at least on the linguistic level.
The train had arrived at my stop and soon after I was a block away from the building. As I walked up the stairs to the room where the class would be held at, I jumped for joy on the inside. The teacher came in and to my surprise didn't have a professor or teacher type of feel when he taught, it seemed more like he was engaging us in a conversation, while learning through that dialogue. Immediately the first thing we learned were the personal pronouns “Nehua (I), tehua (you singular), yehua (he,she,it), Tehuan (we), Mamehuan (you plural), and Yehuan (they).” We learned that there are different ways for saying things in different parts of Mexico where they speak Nahuatl and that they are not necessarily wrong, just different, because people speak differently.
We also learned our first Nahuatl words, which were the words for flower “xochitl,” book “amoxtli,” sand “xali,” mother “nantze,” and father “tastze.” I saw some of the other students struggling to make sense of the different sounds and structure of the Nahuatl language, but I think that the reason for that had a lot to do with the fact that many of them tried to bring Spanish elements into Nahuatl and were reluctant to the fact that they are two complete different languages. Soon after, the first lesson came to an end, and by the end of it I found myself able to introduce myself in Nahuatl and greet someone. As I was leaving the class, a news reporter from Televisa, a Mexican news network, asked if she could get a few words from us, as to why we were taking the class and what did we think of our first class. Two weeks later I got home late and saw that my family was Skyping with my family members in Mexico. Through Skype my aunt told me that my cousin told her and the rest of the family that his high school teacher mentioned me in his class. She said that she saw on the news a young man who was from Mexico, now living in New York, who is learning Nahuatl, and how remarkable it was that someone so far away was learning a language that not many people there bother to learn. She remembered my name and my cousin immediately shouted that he was related to me. My aunt said that I have made my family in Mexico very proud. But I think I have made my Aztec ancestors even more proud.