Mexican Student Association (MexSA),
“Our mission is to promote our culture, values and identity as Mexicans and to contribute to the diversity on campus through cultural and academic activities.”
MexSA promotes cultural and academic events related to Mexican history, heritage, and culture. The organization encourages, promotes, and furthers the education of Latino, Hispanic, and Mexican students at the University of New Mexico. Through meetings, volunteerism, and events, MexSA members create a community of support for students. MexSA works closely with El Centro de la Raza to empower, transform, and develop underrepresented and Latino students at UNM. Events that MexSA sponsors are Loteria Night, and the Dia de los Muertos altar blessing.
UNM is designated as a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) with around 37% of students identifying as Hispanic on Main Campus. The Mexican Student Association (MexSA) at the University of New Mexico is a student organization supporting Hispanic student success at UNM by bringing together students with a desire to connect to their cultural identity together. MexSA meets every two weeks to plan events, discuss current issues and solutions affecting Hispanic students at UNM, and create friendships between students. Elizabeth Ruiz Castaneda, a sophomore in Chicana and Chicano Studies, says that MexSA is a way for students to build a community and explore their culture’s traditions together. For example, MexSA sponsored a Dia de los Muertos altar blessing last week. Elizabeth explained, “Dia de los Muertos was not something we did in my family, and a lot of other members’ families, so it was cool to experience that for the first time.” Ramon Alderete Sandoval, a sophomore in engineering, likes how MexSA’s influence extends outside of the UNM campus. “We reach out to high school students about financial aid, scholarships, and student life at UNM”, he explained. In September, MexSA sponsors an event celebrating Dia de la Independencia, Mexican Independence Day. “People get it confused with Cinco de Mayo”, co-president Anacaren Ruiz says.
MexSA supports first-generation Hispanic students as well. At UNM, many undergraduate students are first-generation, meaning they are the first person in their families to attend college. Anacaren says that MexSA is an important source of support for Hispanic, first-generation students at UNM. “It’s a way for first-generation students to show their presence and make them feel like they belong”, she said. Ramon said, “MexSA is a home for first-generation Hispanic students.”
Co-presidents Anacaren and Elizabeth explained that MexSA was very active and successful when their sister was involved a few years ago, but became inactive in 2016 before they re-chartered the organization this fall. “MexSA has been going on for years, providing support to Hispanics”, Anacaren said. Elizabeth agrees that organizations like MexSA are important with current issues Hispanics students face. “MexSA wasn’t active for an entire year. Me and my older sister took on the role of re-chartering. With the current climate [MexSA] is important to students, it helped me a lot and was a way to connect with people who were like me in college.”
“I know MexSA used to have bigger events and more people came”, said Elizabeth. Even if it is small now, MexSA members understand the need for the organization. Ramon joined MexSA because, “I wanted to connect with my culture at UNM, and learned about it through a friend.” Elizabeth’s favorite part of MexSA is seeing the interest students have in the organization. “My favorite memory is the first meeting because I saw that people were actually interested, and it wasn’t just for Mexican students. We had a student from Venezuela, and it was interesting that she chose to come and cool to see that we connect in different ways.”
MexSA continues to promote Hispanic culture and community through events such as Dia de los Muertos, Loteria Night, Posadas, and Batalla de Puebla. Students in MexSA are enthusiastic to learn more about Hispanic culture with their fellow members, and establish a community where students can feel they belong and face issues as students together. Ramon said, “MexSA is a place to support and connect Hispanics at UNM. I love the productivity and fun of it.” Elizabeth shares her goals for the organization: “Through events, I want to have students connect with other people, keep building community and bring students to be part of it.” Anacaren’s goals are: “Keep making Hispanics feel represented and have large events.” All the members of MexSA agree there is a need for the organization on campus, and that it will continue to grow.
MexSA website: (http://mexsa.unm.edu/) has information about the organization’s mission, meeting times, and events.
Sophia Fletcher (Mechanical Engineering, 2018), Jace Montoya (History, 2021), and Jordan Melendez (History, 2021) conducted this oral history on October 25, 2018.