Chicanas/Latinas celebrated through personal memories in Semana de la Mujer exhibit

Every year, UCR’s Chicano Student Programs (CSP) coordinates Semana de la Mujer, a week-long series of events that celebrate Chicanas/Latinas and coincides with Women’s History Month. Semana de la Mujer 2023 included an exhibit at the Rivera Library that will be on display till the end of March. 

“This year, the committee wanted to do something a little different,” said Arlene Cano Matute, CSP Assistant Director.  

Since fall quarter, CSP staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students have been meeting weekly planning the 2023 Semana de la Mujer series. It was at a committee meeting that the idea of an exhibit at the Tomás Rivera Library commemorating the women and femmes in the lives of UCR community members was born.  

“Having this exhibit at the Rivera Library made perfect sense to us,” said Arlene. “Named after our first Chicano chancellor in the UC system, who was a poet, author, and also from a campesino family, it speaks to the stories of so many of our students at UC Riverside, a Hispanic Serving Institution.” 

Arlene and the committee connected with the UCR Library’s Special Collections Public Services Outreach and Community Engagement Librarian Sandy Enriquez. Sandy was part of a group of UCR Library staff members who previously worked with CSP on the digitization of Nuestra Cosa that coincided with CSP’s 50th anniversary last year. 

The Library’s Head of Facilities Dave Schuster was able to work with Sandy and the CSP committee on how best to bring their vision to life in the Rivera Library. 

From the start, Sandy understood the responsibility that came with a community-centered exhibit like this. 

“Chicano Student Programs did a call for submissions from the UCR community,” Sandy explained. “Community engagement like this is so meaningful and necessary. It takes a lot of responsibility and trust to build connections. I am so happy we were able to facilitate this exhibit and collaborate with Chicano Student Programs to create this unique space.” 

18 people submitted items, coming mostly from UCR students but UCR alumni, staff/community members (including two from the UCR Library), and a seven-year-old who is the daughter of one of CSP’s committee members also contributed. Each person who submitted also wrote their own item description that is included in the exhibit. Items submitted include pictures, illustrations, clothing, jewelry, pottery, photos, and more.  

You’ll see items that bring back memories of deportation and separation of families, memories of loved ones who have passed away, dolls and blankets that remind people of their family in Mexico and Central America, and many more objects that evoke memories of happiness and sorrow. 

“This process of developing and memorializing our stories is painful sometimes, but we hope that it was also joyous and healing,” Arlene said. “I hope people take the opportunity to read the submissions of the women and femmes that are part of our exhibit, they are inspiring!”    

Sandy adds, “When we think of exhibits, we often think of very famous or influential people’s stories, not ordinary and intimate moments like these. But I hope this exhibit helps people realize that this is their space too, and their stories deserve to be showcased with the same care and intention. It’s a gift to be a part of sharing these memories.” 

The exhibit reception took place on February 22 at the Rivera Library. At the reception, Arlene spoke about the exhibit being influenced by the work of Dr. Yolanda Chávez Leyva from the University of Texas, El Paso who talks about memory as esperanza (hope).  

“Dr. Chávez Leyva reminds us that memories bring us back home. It becomes reparation and healing for us. Memory work is more than an emotion. It's our responsibility. In this exhibit, we make a conscious decision not to forget and not to let anybody else forget,” Arlene said speaking to the crowd.

View the exhibit on the first floor of the Rivera Library till the end of winter quarter. 

Event: Semana de la Mujer exhibit 
Location: Tomás Rivera Library, 1st floor 
Dates: Feb. 22, 2023 - Mar. 24, 2023