For 30 years, Centro Cultural Cesar Chavez has been a home base for Latino/a students. When it was established in 1972 as the Chicano Cultural Center, it was housed in the basement of Milam Hall. In 1977, the students moved into a rather run-down house on university property, which would become the permanent home of the Cultural Center.
Now, the Centro is about to be demolished, and a new structure will rise in its place. On Thursday, Nov. 1, students, faculty and administrators gathered to celebrate the rich history of the cultural center, and to symbolically welcome the new center, which should be completed by the end of 2013.
“At a time when so many campuses are questioning whether cultural centers are needed, we believe deeply that OSU is strengthened by our centers,” said Vice Provost for Student Affairs Larry Roper.
Roper said the construction of this new cultural center, along with three others scheduled for replacement with new buildings (including the Native American Longhouse, the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center and the Asian and Pacific Cultural Center), is a reinforcement of the university’s commitment to the support of cultural communities and the recognition that OSU is part of a global community.
He credited OSU President Ed Ray with doggedly pursuing the improvement of OSU’s cultural centers.
“Ed’s commitment to a rich and diverse cultural life and creating a campus culture that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion are a hallmark of his OSU Presidency,” Roper said.
Ray said that cultural centers are known to support student engagement, encourage retention and offer a number of specialized services to the students who regularly make them their home away from home.
“Cultural centers provide a touchstone, a safe place and a familiar environment for students of different backgrounds,” Ray said. “But they also reach out (to the broader community). They really do enrich everybody’s lives.”
Centro Cultural Cesar Chavez internal coordinator Pedro Arenas thanked everyone who had gathered to celebrate the center’s new future, and joked that the Centro provided an important purpose, even if it was just a place for tired students to take naps.
A number of students spoke about the importance the Centro has had in engaging with many student groups on campus. Nicthe Verdugo of MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Atzlan) said the Centro was essential to promoting the culture and history of Chicano students on campus, and provided many leadership opportunities as well.
“By having the opportunity to work with El Centro,” she said, “It has given us the opportunity to be better leaders.”
Elizabeth Ramirez of Kalmekak Community Outreach said Centro staff has open arms for any students who come to visit.
“El Centro is always so welcoming,” she said. “We hope to foster a connected and better community for years to come.”
~ Theresa Hogue