United Farm Workers Unity Week started on a personal note for Kim Cárdenas ’17, who kicked off the week-long speaker series with a discussion of student Chicanx identity on Monday.
The Unity Week was founded to honor co-founder Cesar Chavez’s birthday, and is comprised of events fostering bridges between multiple organizations on campus recognizing the UFW people and their movement.
“Once I got to Cornell, I really started to think about my sense of identity,” Cárdenas said. “I became free to have choices to be able to distinguish myself from the average Cornell student because I didn’t come from the same upbringing.”
Barbara Cruz ’19, political chair of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán — a club that provides a voice for Chicanx students — shared a similar experience.
“I didn’t even consider myself Latina at all [before coming to Cornell] because that’s what everyone else was at home,” she said. “In college, I felt more ‘othered’ because of something I was pretty proud of being.”
Cárdenas said that school systems across the United States do little to recognize the Chicanx communities, adding that students often begin to recognize their identity in college.
Reflecting on her Cornell education, Cárdenas expressed her disappointment that college failed to teach her about her own cultural history.
“You don’t think that you have all of this historical importance until you do,” she said. “Then you’re part of these bigger-scale things that don’t seem to end.”
Cárdenas also stressed the importance of the events highlighting Chicana identity during UFW Unity Week.
“Our existence is always erased, it is always unseen,” she said. “These discussions can get us close to being situated back.”
Sierra Jamir ’18, co-president of the Filipino Association and a coordinator of UFW unity week, said her organization supports Filipino Americans and preserves their stories. Jamir will help give a talk focused on reclaiming Asian Labor histories on Tuesday as the UFW continues to host events throughout the week.
“The farm workers movement is a story primarily on the West coast, and a lot of the children of the original Filipinos who came to work stories are almost gone,” Jamir said. “There’s no one to pass down those stories.”