By Julio Sanchez
From leaving Guatemala at a young age to achieving her master’s degree, Carla Osorio Veliz is now living out her dream of being a professor at a community college.
Veliz is an adjunct lecturer in the Social Sciences Department at East Los Angeles College where she has been teaching sociology classes for a little over a year. She gives her students alternative articles written by people of color like Bell Hooks, Angela Davis and William Edward Burghardt Du Bois.
She has invited guest speakers to her classes to talk about social issues like gender, patriarchy and capitalism. Some of her guest speakers volunteered, sent supplies to and were present in North Dakota during the protests against the construction of an oil pipeline on native land last year.
Veliz says her first-year experience as a professor at ELAC has been amazing and that the first time that she taught a class, she was in awe of seeing her dream become reality.
“I grew up in East Los Angeles and I was undocumented so it’s like full-circle coming back to this institution (ELAC),” Veliz said. “Also, the department has been very welcoming, especially as a woman, since there isn’t a lot of women of color teaching. I say it’s rewarding because I feel lucky to have students who are really humble and I can see them following their dreams like I am.”
Veliz came to the United States when she was 3 with her mother and her 1 year-old brother to reunite with her father. She says that she sometimes thinks about the life she would have had if she had stayed in Guatemala.
However, the experience of leaving her home and being separated from her family has driven her to be a part of several community organizations that deal with intergenerational trauma as well as other social issues.
Veliz says that she is grateful to be involved in a community space called Solidarity House of the South located in South Central. The space is run by an autonomous collective for people of color and offers monthly workshops, healing circles, open mic, and much more.
She said that she is also honored to have the community space located a block away from the Black Panthers headquarters.
“We recognize the work that was done by these amazing political figures back in the 1960s and also try to continue that legacy of giving back to others,” Veliz said. “A lot of my students are Latino and Asian and those cultures are communal based, but once we cross the borders as immigrants, this country tends to force people to assimilate and consume. That’s why we reject the individualistic values and we praise community and well-being type of values and principles.”
Veliz was also an organizer for the community organization Community Education for Social Action, where she met Patricia Ornelas. Ornelas and Veliz have continued to keep CESA alive and now have a strong bond that gravitates around bettering each other and the community.
“When you view the world through this other lens, you feel lonely,” Ornelas said. “She’s like chosen family. She’s a sister to me and I continue to learn from her and will continue to learn from her. I just really appreciate that we have each other.”
Aside from her career and social work, Veliz makes homemade natural products. Her interest in making her own products came after reading that the products major corporations make are harmful due to the toxins and chemicals that they contain. Along with her friends, who are also artists, she sells her products and offers workshops on how to make natural products.
The next big event that Veliz and members of Solidarity House of the South are organizing is a winter solstice fundraiser on Saturday, December 23.