The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Una Noche en la Plaza: grassroots organization festival

Multicultural Student Services sponsors event celebrating Hispanic and Latinx-focused organizations
Photo by Isabella Matczak
A variety of tables line the Chippewa Lounge for students to visit

The Multicultural Student Services (MSS) sponsored the event Una Noche en la Plaza from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21.

This festival, held in the Chippewa Lounge right outside McIntyre Library, celebrated grassroots organizations that mainly work with Latinx, Hispanic and immigrant populations from across Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Many different UW-Eau Claire organizations were invited, including the Latin American & Latinx Studies department, the Equity in Student Matters Commission, the Intergovernmental Affairs Commission, the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center, the Latinx Student Association and more.

Other organizations located in Wisconsin joined the event for a night of networking as well, such as Puentes Bridges, Vecino a Vecino and the League of Women Voters of Greater Chippewa Valley.

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The League of Women Voters (LWV) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that was created at the national level in 1920, after women were given the right to vote through the 19th Amendment.

While the LWV’s original mission was to educate women about the voting process and encourage them to participate in government, it now works with men, high-schoolers, diverse organizations and new citizens as well, intent on making democracy work for all people.

Linda Presley, a member of the LWV-GCV, said, “The younger voters are our future. Talking with the students, it seems that they are very aware of the issues, they are very concerned, and they really want to vote. Their vote is their voice.” 

Presley said students can become members of the LWV free of charge, and highly encourages them to do so, as the younger generation will be needed to carry on the organization’s goals.

Author and activist Eloisa Gómez, who is part of the LWV of Milwaukee County, was invited as a key speaker for the event. Eloisa Gómez is the co-author of Somos Latinas: Voices of Wisconsin Latina Activists,” which was published in 2018.

This book includes 25 different narratives from Latina activists in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, many stories from this demographic often go unnoticed and uncelebrated, despite the rich history that Latinas have created in community activism throughout the country, Eloisa Gómez said.

Eloisa Gómez has been a core member of the LWV-MC for about seven years, and helped form El Comité por el Voto Latino (Latinx Voter Outreach Team). This team focuses on the south side of Milwaukee, the heart of one of the largest Latinx communities in the state, Eloisa Gómez said.

“The inspiration (behind the book) was knowing that there were so many wonderful Latina activists, who years ago, received no recognition whatsoever. You couldn’t find them in any literature … so we wanted to uplift their voices,” Eloisa Gómez said.

Eloisa Gómez spoke more on this issue during her presentation, as well as her initial struggle in writing “Somos Latinas.” Neither she nor her colleague, Andrea-Teresa Arenas, had ever written a book before, and they felt as if they were in over their heads.

“Some of our women didn’t speak English, but that didn’t stop them from being in the faces of policymakers and others who were viewed as barriers to change,” Eloisa Gómez said. 

Although telling their stories wasn’t always easy for some women, the longing to be heard overpowered any fear they had. Eloisa Gómez thinks of her book as a manual to create change, which she claims cannot happen with one person alone; it takes a community of voices.

The co-authors were so touched by the generosity of the women they interviewed that they decided to donate the proceeds of all books sold back to the Wisconsin Historical Society Foundation and the Chicanx & Latinx Studies program at UW-Madison

Una Noche en la Plaza was organized by Rosa Gómez, the coordinator of MSS. 

“I think really our main goal with (the event) was to inspire our students to become changemakers … it’s really important to recognize our own influence, our own privileges that we have and how we can harness that to make change,” Rosa Gómez said.

Matczak can be reached at [email protected].

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Isabella Matczak
Isabella Matczak, Staff Writer

Isabella Matczak is a first-year English student and this is her first semester on The Spectator. She thoroughly enjoys any horror/vampire-related films, walks in the forest, cats, thrifting, yoga, reading and spiced chai.

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