Heather Hathaway Miranda’s spot is “a powerful place and space where cultural roots were reaffirmed; goals in career, life and academics were set; and strength was found to persist when feeling isolated and marginalized was a reality for some Latina and Latino students.
“I’m speaking of the original La Casa Cultural Latina and its historical and phenomenal murals, which were completed in protest by then-student and muralist Oscar Martínez.
“These murals covered the entire living room ... and included the ceiling as well as the front windows that looked out over Chalmers. They are now part of a massive preservation project.
“The address 510 E. Chalmers, Champaign was the home away from home for innumerable Latina and Latino students — and allies — and when they entered, as I did the first time, they found a safe space that was also empowering at the University of Illinois.
“Where did I learn about the historical contributions of Mexicans and Latinas/Latinos to our campus and global society? Right there, sitting on couches and chairs among the murals, creating friendships with upperclasswomen and men, as we would build coalitions, organize programs, movements, rallies and protests, and socialize to form personal and professional relationships that have lasted a lifetime.
“The murals and that front living room were witness to many guest speakers from around the nation as well as many different ‘Taste of Latin America’ food nights and cumbia, mariachi and salsa music blaring for stress relief. The walls of these murals served as host of all-nighters during finals weeks and provided justification that we, Latina/o/x students, were Illinois and a part of U of I as well.
“We, too, bleed orange and blue, although we might just call it ‘azul and anaranjado.’”