‘Yes, we are here’: Alianza, Chicanx/Latinx staff organization, celebrates 25 years of community

Deborah Chen/Staff

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The Alianza Staff Association, a campus Chicanx/Latinx staff association, held a luncheon Wednesday as a tribute to its 25th anniversary.

The association celebrated its ongoing commitment to supporting Latinx staff and building solidarity with other staff organizations. Many faces, new and old, came together at the Alumni House in a family-like gathering to “be grounded against natural and political disasters,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor Cruz Grimaldo.

“We started out in the early ’90s, gathering to discuss workforce issues in higher education,” Javier Gonzalez, co-chair of Alianza said. “The Latinx staff are an important part of the community at UC Berkeley.”

Along with a performance from Mariachi Luz de Oro, a student-run mariachi group, guest speakers included Grimaldo and Chancellor Carol Christ. The event ended with a video compilation and closing remarks from members of Alianza.

Marcolina Feliciano, one of the founding members of Alianza, said the organization is a valuable campus tradition. Michael Bustillo-Sakhai, a campus senior and a member of Mariachi Luz de Oro, said he believed community was crucial in a large campus, especially when separated from family.

In her keynote speech, Grimaldo expressed her gratitude for the association. When Grimaldo first started working on campus 19 years ago, she was a first-generation professional and a single mother. With the help of Alianza, she said she developed the skills that allowed her to thrive. Now, Grimaldo is the first Chicanx/Latinx to be appointed as director of financial aid and scholarships.

(Alianza was) a statement to reinforce the notion that I belong,” Grimaldo said to the audience. “But also a reality check that there was still a need for such space, and these spaces were born out of struggle and a need to lift ourselves up as a community.”

Christ said she wanted to acknowledge the “uncertainty and peril” that students who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients face and how the imminent “Free Speech Week” will affect many individuals in vulnerable communities.

In an unexpected move, Christ announced that the administration will be working to change the policies that “currently allow” events such as Free Speech Week to happen — a declaration that was met with booming applause.

“Once Free Speech Week ends, we have to come together as a community and think hard about our policies,” Christ said to the audience.

For Unit 1 Resident Director Judy Juarez, this luncheon was a chance to reconnect with friends and colleagues. She said she appreciated the family atmosphere of the luncheon, “especially in the times that we’re in.”

“Having these identity-based organizations brings a sense of family to the work that we do,” Juarez said. “It’s great to have a place where we don’t have to explain what we’re going through. It’s essential for people’s well-being.”

Francesca Munsayac covers student life. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fcfm_dc.