Although Latinx Heritage Month ended in mid-October, the Mills Latinx Student Collective (LSC) closed out the celebrations with one final event: the Yo Soy Monologues.
On Nov. 3, over 60 people filled the Mills Hall living room, eating pupusas and trying to find seating in the crowded room before the event began. The Yo Soy Monologues is an annual Latinx Heritage Month event, designed to offer students a place to share their poetry, whether it is their own work or something inspired by another Latinx author. This year, the event featured Maya Chinchilla, an English and Creative Writing MFA Mills alum.
Professor Arely Zimmerman of the ethnic studies department, who introduced Maya Chinchilla, said she felt the excitement of a little girl about to meet her favorite author
“I loved seeing the turn out,” Zimmerman said. “Over sixty people, and not just Latinx [people], but of diverse backgrounds, who are using writing to find their identity and explore in context erasure and invisibility.
Chinchilla read several of her poems from her book The Cha Cha Files: A Chapin Poética that touched on a range of topics. One poem called “Solidarity Baby” talked about growing up watching her parents and others who were fighting for their rights as people and Central Americans. Another poem illustrated the complexity of a Central American and American couple who fell in love and got married, but were separated due to the process of getting citizenship and residency.
Ana Dominguez, a junior in attendance, was moved during Chinchilla’s readings. Dominguez reflected on herself and the way she related to these issues of immigration and sexism.
“It was inspiring,” Dominguez said. “I don’t consider myself a writer, but hearing Maya’s words has inspired me to write more and see myself in a different way. That courage to write and just do it, it’s just inspiring.”
The last poem Chinchilla read was not from her book, but was something she wrote in response to the Pulse Orlando shooting and the victims’ diversity and identities.
After the readings, when asked how it felt to come back and see so many students listening to her at this event, she expressed how it felt great to give back to the Mills community.
“There is nothing like making it through a challenge and moment of growth that you’re not sure you will make it through,” Chinchilla said. “And then to come and give back to people with the same vision, it’s the most life affirming experience.”
After Chinchilla shared her poems, the floor was open to other students, faculty and community members in attendance to share their work. Hearing such heartfelt and personal pieces, Zimmerman offered her own poem to give back to those who shared.
Zimmerman believed that having Chinchilla come and read her poems and talk with students was a great addition to the event because of her intersecting diverse identities – being bilingual, Central American and a queer woman.
“It is was a way to make connections,” Zimmerman said. “For students to see themselves reflected in her writing.”
The Mills Hall living room emptied out and benches were put back in their places, but the words of Chinchilla and everyone who took a turn on the mic will continue to resonate with everyone in attendance.