Why I Majored in Chicana/o Latina/o Studies

Julián Villaseñor ’21

Coming from an immigrant family from Michoacan, Mexico, but being raised in Chicago, Illinois, there is a lot about my culture and history that isn’t addressed or talked about. Being in spaces like Pomona allow me to put these experiences into words. Furthermore, because Chicanx Latinx studies covers the wide range of perspectives and histories of all Latin America and the relationship with the United States, expanding my worldview as well -- I am actively learning about experiences different than my own as a Chicanx/Mexican-American. I also chose to major in CLS because of how interdisciplinary the major is; CLS is a blend of linguistics, history, literature, anthropology, sociology, education, and so much more.

I enjoy the close relationships I have been able to foster with my professors; my ID1 course, the introductory writing course all Pomona first-years are required to take, was Chicanx Latinx Los Angeles with Professor Gilda Ochoa. Prof. Ochoa made herself a resource for me inside and outside the classroom, assisting with a wide range of applications, problems I’ve faced, and more. Her passion gave me the initial interest into taking more CLS classes. Then, when Professor Arely Zimmerman began teaching, the way she merged Politics and CLS, my two interests, together, I knew I HAD to major in CLS. To all the prospective students interested in CLS: If you are looking for a holistic major you can call home, I couldn’t recommend CLS enough. CLS covers a wide range of topics with such a nuanced lens; there is something for everyone here.

While I am just a sophomore, I’ve already begun thinking about my thesis for CLS: Understanding and Positioning Mexicans in Chicago. When we look at where Mexican immigrants are migrating, the third largest enclave outside of East LA and Houston is Chicago. This seems counterintuitive though, as Chicago is nowhere near the border. I’d want to research Chicagoans and see why they chose Chicago, alongside other resources such as finding historical documents and understanding immigration patterns.

Sara Reyes Noriega ’21

My journey to CLS was a long one, and I did not really give it a chance until my sophomore year. My biggest fear in taking CLS classes was that they’d be very Chicanx-centric, and as someone who is Guatemalan, that is something I cannot relate to; I soon learned that I was wrong and that there is space for Central American experiences within CLS. I finally gave in and took my first CLS class (Politics of Citizenship with Professor Arely Zimmerman) in the fall of 2018, and for the first time, I felt like my experiences were actually being talked about and validated, as our histories have rarely been included in traditional forms of education. I was still set on a different major and considered CLS as a minor, but slowly, I began to be more convinced that CLS was the major for me. In CLS, I see the stories of my immigrant family (and friends) being talked about and represented. I know that with by majoring in CLS, I am learning more about my communities, but I am also learning the tools to help and elevate the communities that have gotten me to where I am now. 

I love how interdisciplinary this major is, and I feel that it’s one of the few that really combines different fields. I came in to Pomona interested in public policy analysis, politics, and sociology, and I find that CLS brings in all of those fields (and others) in a way that no other department does. There are so many different avenues to look at Chicanx and/or Latinx experiences through, and CLS allows me/us to do so. 

I am currently preparing for a SURP project with Prof. Zimmerman looking at the experiences of Central American undocumented and DACAmented students in higher education. Although I am a bit scared on what this whole process will look like because I have never done research like this before, I am also incredibly excited for it as I learn more about the research process but also give a voice to my communities.