¡Celebracion! celebrates Latinx educational experience at UT-Austin

James Treuthardt

The organizers of “¡Celebracion!,” an event put on by the Center for Mexican American Studies, stress the impact of Latinx educational experience on many UT students’ lives. 

“¡Celebracion!” kicks off the spring semester for the Department of Mexican American Studies and announces the winners of the annual Sam Z. Coronado Student Poster Art Scholarship Competition, which honors the Latinx educational experience.

Students were challenged to create a poster depicting both aspects of the Latinx educational experience and the theme “Tierra,” which translates to “Earth” in English. The winning competitors used graphic design and photography to communicate their interpretation of these ideas.

Center Director John Moran Gonzalez said he sees the theme “Tierra” as connoting the connection between the Latinx people and the land they came from despite many years of displacement.

“The connection between the community and tierra is still strong,” Gonzalez said, adding that the event celebrates not only Latinx people, but serves as “a showcase of student artistry and excellence.”

The contest awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships to UT students. The contest rules outlined that citizenship or documented status did not impact any student’s ability to win a scholarship.

Rubinia Leal, a Mexican American and Latina/o studies graduate student who won first place in the contest, values the scholarship because it gives every student, regardless of heritage or grades, the chance to win. As a student from Mexico, she said the scholarship gave her a rare opportunity that many do not offer.

“It was open to everyone,” Leal said. “It was the only opportunity I was looking at that I had a chance.”

The scholarship honors Sam Coronado, a UT alumnus and cultural activist who co-founded the Chicano Arts Student Association. Coronado taught students for decades as a professor at Austin Community College and, in his early days, worked with the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans in Houston. He passed away in 2013.

Leslie Tufino, a social work junior and third place winner in the scholarship contest, believes “¡Celebracion!” shows the impact that Coronado had on both Latinx students’ ability to develop their passions and on the Latinx community.

“He helped raise awareness towards issues that affect the Latinx community,” Tufino said. “You can see how his passion, art, can reflect on (students).”