|Eva Gallegos-Perez is an active member of Women's Rights and Action Center (WRAC) and Latino Chicano Student Association (LCSA).|
UMD junior Eva Gallegos-Perez is an activist. Part of her activism comes from childhood, when she witnessed the struggles of her mother and grandmother. She has also been influenced by a desire to make the world a better place and to fight for equality for men and women. She is deeply involved in her majors: Teaching Spanish and Hispanic Studies and Women, Gender and Sexualities Studies.
“In class, we get a historical perspective about people's attitudes toward race and gender. We also discuss and share ideas about how to change the world so it is a better and more accepting place for all people in the future,” said Gallegos-Perez.
Gallegos-Perez has an internship at the Women’s Rights and Action Center (WRAC), a student support center, and in her free time, she participates in the Latino Chicano Student Association (LCSA).
From Childhood Loss to Gaining a New Life in UMD
As a child growing up in Mexico, Gallegos-Perez felt inequality between the genders in her family and society. Her dad passed away when she was five, leaving behind her mom and grandmother, who struggled to earn money to raise three children. Because neither her mom nor her grandmother had an education, they were forced to work low paid jobs.
“My mom always told me to educate myself so that I don’t have to rely on anyone for living,” said Gallegos-Perez. “She doesn’t want me to struggle like she did.”
Eventually the family moved to Minnesota. Here Gallegos-Perez became involved in making changes in society through her involvement with the National Youth Leadership Council, working with community issues and education. Coming to UMD opened her eyes more than she expected. Right after taking the Women, Race and Gender class, she decided to pursue the woman studies major. “That one class changed my whole life plan,” said Gallegos-Perez. She decided to work to make positive changes for women in society.
Involvements in WRAC
As an activist, the Mock Rape Trial hosted by WRAC gave Gallegos-Perez new insight on women’s sexual assault issues. She was surprised to see the different responses to the same situation from audiences. Gallegos-Perez viewed this event as useful not only to women but to all at UMD in terms of raising more awareness on equality and finding fair responses to sexual assault issues.
“Everybody has to do something to break down stereotypes,” said Gallegos-Perez. “We need to stop looking at women through the old lens. Education plays a huge role, because it makes us able to understand others as individuals.”
The WRAC Brown Bag Lunches are some of her favorite events. Learning different ideas on feminism and changes in women’s roles in culture, society, politics, and the economy help her learn different perspectives. “We had a huge turnout for a lunch talk, ‘What is Feminism’,” Gallegos-Perez said. “By having Tineke Ritmeester facilitate the event and letting others give their viewpoints, we heard many different ideas and got people thinking about the inequalities happening in this country.”
Future with Diversity
Gallegos-Perez has facilitated many events that share cultures. One year, she was an active executive-board member for LCSA and worked on a number of events. She appreciates the role the events take in informing all of UMD about Latino Chicano history and culture.
After educating herself on the factors that impacted her life, Gallegos-Perez is grateful for the efforts her mother has made so she could get an education. She shows her appreciation for the opportunities she has been given and wants to give back to her community. She dreams of being a Spanish teacher and instilling pride in her pupils by bringing Hispanic history and culture to students. “Teaching language means teaching culture too,” said Gallegos-Perez. “I want to give hope to younger generations.”
She has learned much by participating in UMD multicultural activities. She has some advice for everyone. “Get out of your comfort zone. Attend events that share diversity, and go with an open mind.”
Written by Dayae Kim, December 2014.
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