Oregon State’s Centro Cultural César Chávez began in 1972 with just nine students who met each week in the basement of Milam Hall. At that time, the group called themselves the Chicano Cultural Center. It wasn’t until 1976 that they got their own building on campus. A year later, they moved to their current location, across the street from Gill Coliseum.
Four decades later, Centro is thriving.
“We try to provide a space for students where they feel welcomed, and we try to create a space where culture is the center,” says Agustin Vega-Peters, Centro’s external coordinator. “But it’s the events I really like. They’re informative. Some of them are fun. They get to the deeper issues of things.”
April, for Centro, is full of such events. It’s their annual César Chávez Tribute Month, a celebration not only of the labor leader and activist who is Centro’s namesake, but also of Latino/a culture in the U.S. and elsewhere. And this year, says Vega-Peters, will be big.
“This year is our 40th anniversary,” he says. “Event-wise we’re doing even more than we have in the past.”
For example, Centro’s annual Tribute Month dinner on April 27 will kick off Mi Familia weekend, a new event that introduces Latino/a families to the Oregon State community.
Mi Familia is sponsored by various groups on campus, but Centro’s staff – all of whom have a hand in organizing Tribute Month – have worked hard to make this year’s events collaborative. At this year’s Tribute Month dinner, the families who will attend Mi Familia Weekend will be able to get to know each other before their orientation to campus begins.
Likewise, Centro staff this year made it a point to collaborate with other campus cultural centers. Oregon State’s Pride Center organized the Queer Latin Artists event on April 3 event, and the Asian Pacific Cultural Center organized the April 11 event, American Colonization.
“It’s really cool how the centers connect in some ways most people wouldn’t think about,” Vega-Peters says. “Like in immigration. The focus is on Latinos immigrating, but immigration life, whether you’re in one culture or another, works in some of the same kinds of ways.”
Ultimately, according to Vega-Peters, the goal of Tribute Month is to present events that represents the whole Latino/a community.
“Latino culture encompasses a huge amount,” he says. It’s kind of hard to pull that together, but our staff has been really, really great this year.”