By Steven Adamo
Sharing stories of stereotypes about Chicana and Latina mothers in colleges was the main topic at Academic Boundaries & Strollers: Chicana Latina Mothers in the Academy.
The conversation, or plática, was a part of Adelante First Year Experience’s social justice pláticas.
The speaker, Christine Vega M. Ed. from the University of California Los Angeles, discussed her own personal experience going through school as a first-generation Chicana and mother.
During her presentation, Vega showed a word cloud consisting of stereotypes about Latina mothers in school — words like, callejera and whore were displayed around the biggest word on the screen, irresponsible.
The words were taken from a poll she took of Ph.D. students and community members.
“These are painful words,” Vega said. “Do these ever change as we keep moving up? They stay, they continue. So there’s gotta be a point where we have to stop these really aggressive, demeaning terms.”
Vega discussed being two years into her PhD studies when she was pregnant with her son.
She no longer fit into the desks at UCLA and she said that she felt invisible when nobody would move for her on the bus. “Not only did I feel awkward as a Chicana on the UCLA campus, now I am a pregnant Chicana on the UCLA campus,” Vega said.
In 2004, when Vega first enrolled into UCLA from Mission High School, out of the 10 students admitted into UCLA, she was the only woman. “Chicanas — women who are born in Mexico or from Mexican parents — for every 100 of us in elementary school, only 60 will obtain a high school diploma and only 0.2 percent will get a PhD,”
“Not even a whole human being.” From 100 Latinas, 54 will get a high school diploma and 0.3 will get a Ph.D,” said Vega.
For Vega’s dissertation, she collected stories from Chicanas and Latinas, took pictures of their day-to-day actions and researched the data. Vega approached her research through two different lenses: Critical Race Theory and Chicana Feminist Theory.
“By collecting these stories, by taking pictures of them, I think and I feel and I honor that these mujeres can be central to this work, elevating them; because for too long we’ve been marginalized,” Vega said.
During her time collecting these stories, she came across two co-madres — one named Octavia and the other Delcia. She shared a story of Delcia during grad school when she took time out of her class to pump breast milk.
Even though she received high marks and never missed a class, her professor deducted the time from her attendance which resulted in her receiving a B+.
After Delcia pointed out the flaw in the professor’s math, and with the help of Delcia’s advisor, her grade was changed to an A-. “What this professor didn’t know is that she was discriminating against her Title IX rights,” Vega said. “Parenting and pregnant people have rights.”