Writing As A Form of Resistance
Writing on campus has had a long history of fluctuation, publications have come and gone with Nuestra Verdad Publicación, NUVE, being one of the latest. However, despite these publications never being permanent, their reasons for restarting are just as important for us as marginalized groups of students in order to show a voice on campus and in society. Such reasons are why we started NUVE. Our first year on campus as first-gen latinas was not pleasant. Many of us encountered forms of exclusion and lacked a good support group to relate to our experiences. This prompted us to start NUVE, a place where students of color can express their opinions without any fear of censorship. And like mentioned before, such reasons are reiterated in our interview with Maria Carvajal Regidor, a PhD candidate in English and Writing Studies, and many of these publications that have come before us, which Maria bases her dissertation on.
Latinx Publications before Nuestra Verdad:
La Carta Informativa
La Carta was a student-led publication that ran from 1975 (when La Casa was founded) until 2006. Though this timeline is not certain, it is actually the longest running student publication from La Casa, and which we and Maria base a lot of our research on.
La Carta published issues every couple of months, which covered topics like personal experiences from students, political opinions, and activists' work. Most surprisingly, this publication was funded and the students involved were paid for their work through La Casa.
Unfortunately, this publication came to an end around 2006. Although there are many reasons why that was the case, financial troubles and University/ administration censorship are the biggest reasons, not just for La Carta, but for the other publications on this list as well.
El Boletín de La Casa
Unlike La Carta, El Boletin mostly included writing from administration. This Newsletter ran from 1992 until 1997. Writing included collabs, such as with Mckinley Health, in order to inform students of things and issues happening on campus. This publication also aided students through their column “Ayudame” which was their rendition of “Dear Abby.” Students or parents were able to write in questions which was a great way to foster a community among Latines on campus.
The Literary Magazine
Roughly running from 1985 until 2004, the Literary Magazine was directly connected with La Carta, and instead focused on publishing creative writings by students including poetry, drawings, photographs, short stories, and more!
Other Marginal/Circulating Publications:
The Scrapbook- in 2010 and 2013 Latine students put together pictures from the entire year and from La Casa into a scrapbook.
La Carta Nuestra- was a digital publication and was named in reference to La Carta Informativa and Nuestra Carta. This was possibly the first digital Latine publication on campus. According to their twitter, this publication was an “independent, student-run publication dedicated to social justice, solidarity among POC & the issues that impact people of intersecting social identities.”* Although short lived (2015-2016), this publication once again reiterated the different needs and importance of writing and students of color.
Censorship and Criticism
Like already mentioned, censorship was (and still is) a big reason why such publications have started, and unfortunately, why they ended. Like in the case of Nuestra Verdad, the need and the demand to publish content without the fear of backlash in order to showcase the wrongdoing of the University (and society) is very prevalent in these past publications we have discussed, and in the content that they published. Maria does mention in our interview that many of the things these students published were very much political, and sought to inform and engage students. For example, during the Protest of 1992, the students were able to print and republish their list of demands through these publications in order for everyone to see what was happening. Such freedom to freely critique the University and demand for inclusivity and restructure could not have been (safely) possible or even ignored by other PWI publications.
Despite such publications from La Casa creating essential safe spaces, in the end, La Casa is part of the University and becomes part of the problem. Like mentioned before, many of the previous publications were funded by La Casa, however, as a cultural house, La Casa receives a lot of their fundings from the University, and such funding always fluctuates. While the cultural houses are underfunded to begin with, La Casa must also answer to those positions of power above them, and must adhere to these demands.
Such issues is why, a former staff worker at La Casa, founded La Carta Nuestra after coming across archives of La Carta Informativa. There was a sense of importance and need to be able to freely criticise and voice opinions without any ties to the very institution they were criticizing.
Like many social issues, writing as Latinx students often has much to do with intersectionality. As minority groups, supporting each other is an essential part of our collective existence, especially in predominantly white institutions such as the University. Bruce Nesbitt himself was very active in the establishment of La Casa, a perfect example of the extraordinary feats we can achieve when we come together. Writing is so essential to all communities all over the world, and has often been one reason to push students to writing, in addition to the other reasons we have discussed thus far. To emphasize intersectionality supporting other marginalized groups and condemning actions that seek to push us further apart from each other are all real reasons that writing is spurred by intersectionality.
Wanting to be heard, Create Change
Everyone has a voice, and everyone wants that voice to be heard. However, history shows a clear pattern of keeping marginalized populations silenced and pushed aside. Especially in academic institutions, administrators and those in positions of power often have strategic methods of controlling the narrative. Methods such as withholding funding from publishing organizations if they don’t like their words or actions and even forbidding the publication of certain topics. University officials forbid the publication of certain pieces in a 1990 issue of La Carta. The student editor then quit the publication and returned the next year to write an opinion piece about the clear act of censorship on the University’s part. There are countless other examples of the University trying to censor student organizations as well.
La Carta Informativa is a good example of students taking charge of how they were represented on campus and making their voices heard through writing. After the 1992 protests on campus, La Carta had a hand in affecting real change by distributing a list of demands, some of which have yet to be met by the University. El Buletin de La Casa had columns such as “Ayudame,” a sort of Dear Abby editorial where students could submit questions and a writer would respond. Students could ask questions about all sorts of topics, and the published columns would give another insight into the way Latinx voices were heard on campus. Publications such as the Latino Scrapbook and The Literary Magazine were more creative publications that focused on ensuring the voices of students would be heard and preserved in whatever way that took form.
As the title of this article indicates, writing is a form of resistance. In whatever way, shape, or form that may be for you: public or private, published pieces or social media posts, academic or personal pleasure. Writing is a method that creates a tangible record of our presence, our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Maria Carvajal Regidor mentions there is a long and deep history of Latinx student engagement through writing, and it is essential we preserve this history for future students to be better supported in their academic endeavors towards success.
Publications such as La Carta Informativa, The Literary Magazine, and even Nuestra Verdad are not easy to maintain. There are many reasons why publications of this magnitude die out, some of them less obvious than others. Funding is a huge part of any University organization, and some publications, such as La Carta benefited from direct University funding for the writers. That is one reason (among many others) it was able to be in circulation for so many years. For some publications, such as Nuestra Carta and The Literary Magazine, it’s just a matter of timing. Many of us are only on this campus for a certain amount of time, and when that time is up, there’s often not much more we can contribute to student organizations. Another reason, and possibly the one we need to combat the most, is the politics. As minorities in a PWI, administrators and those in power don’t often want to hear our voices critiquing their institutions. But speaking our mind and making our presence known is an essential practice in a space that wasn’t made for us, especially as we work to create a better campus existence for those that come after us. Which is why NUVE will continue to work hard and endure to make sure our voices are heard and our truths are told for years to come.
Nuestra Verdad is fortunate enough to stand on the shoulders of and benefit from the groundwork that was laid before us by these groups, and we want to make sure that it is known we are not the first group of students with these goals, and we will most certainly not be the last.
Thank you so much to Maria for taking the time to sit with us and being our personal archive as we unfortunately could not see this publication first-hand due to this pandemic.
We also would like to thank the Student Life and Cultural Archive and the Institutional Archive at La Casa for the images and information we have included in this article.
#NuestrasHistorias #Writing #Resistance #Historical
*La Carta Nuestra. Twitter, 2015, https://twitter.com/LaCartaNuestra.