Cesar Chavez, a prominent figure in the Mexican-American civil rights movement, is an important mentor and role model for many Mexican American and Hispanic students, but to CSU student Veronica Ronquillo, whose grandparents were activists in Cesar Chavez’s movements, he is an inspirational icon.
At the present, years after the junior math and art education major moved away from her family’s home and their passion for activism, Ronquillo has taken up her own voice and desire for change working for CSU’s El Centro Student Services.
“My grandparents and their brothers and sisters were directly involved in the Cesar Chavez movements as activists, and I’m proud that they fought for the advancement of Mexican Americans,” she said.
Ronquillo labels herself as Chicano, which generally refers to U.S.-born citizens of Mexican decent.
“The Chicano term was created by Cesar Chavez,” Ronquillo said. “It is more of a political term than a social one. Everyone identifies themselves differently, and there is a lot of controversy over what you identify yourself as.”
Ronquillo is from Los Angeles, where she lived in one house with her entire family — parents, brothers, aunts, uncles and grandparents.
She moved to Aurora in middle school with some of her family, including her three younger brothers, in order to escape some of the dangerous endeavors her dad was involved with in Los Angeles.
Her brothers, who are all now in high school, recently moved back to California to live with the rest of her family, leaving Ronquillo alone in the state.
“I am the first in my family to be able to go to college,” Ronquillo said. “I am my brothers’ inspiration to go to college, and they are my inspiration to stay in college. I want them to succeed and be able to pursue their dreams.”
Ronquillo said her quest to get to college was difficult because no one else in her family had done it. But she worked hard in high school and later was pushed by her teachers to talk to a CSU representative.
“I took my teachers’ advice, had an interview with CSU representatives, and pretty much got accepted on the spot,” she said.
In Ronquillo’s life, she has experienced both sides of racism. She said living around white people in Aurora, she received much scrutiny because she is Chicano. In contrast, she experienced racism from Latinos and Hispanics living in Los Angeles because she was lighter skinned and did not speak much Spanish.
“In Aurora, someone even told me to go back to Mexico,” Ronquillo said. “People are harsh. When you’re experiencing racism on both sides of the spectrum, you feel like you don’t fit in anywhere.”
Lupe Salazar, the director of El Centro, said has had the chance to watch Ronquillo grow throughout her college career.
“She has developed skills here that she will be taking with her wherever she goes,” Salazar said. “I have watched her mature, make better decisions and prioritize her life.”
El Centro co-workers said Ronquillo contributes much to the efforts of the organization to bring people from multiple cultures together.
“She’s very enthusiastic about helping others,” said Rocio Velez, co-worker and sophomore anthropology major. “She loves her job.”
Ronquillo encourages other students of color to get involved with their school and not be afraid to join organizations that will support them.
“If students were more open-minded and worked more together we could reach out more,” she said.
Staff writer Chloe Wittry can be reached at email@example.com.