"Wyoming has really missed an opportunity to engage with the growing Latino population in the state." - Dr. Cecelia Aragon

Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Dr. Cecelia Aragon is a Professor in the Department of Theater and Dance and the Latino and Latina Studies program at the University of Wyoming.

She also serves as the Faculty Affiliate of Culture, Gender, and Social Justice.

Dr. Aragon's research explores the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality with Indigenous performance artists and Danza Azteca in Latina/o performances.

She started her own bilingual theater company in Albuquerque and has made great contributions to Wyoming through her work with local Latinos in higher education.

Show Notes:

• How Dr. Aragon reconnected with her roots
• Why Dr. Aragon founded her own theater company
• The difference between Latino and Chicano
• How Dr. Aragon shares her cultural heritage to her students
• Which topics are covered in a theater diversity course
• The challenges for American students who were born in Mexico
• Why the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference is successful
• How to give Latinos a voice in the US legislature

Emy diGrappa: 00:08 Welcome to First, but Last? Brought to you by the Wyoming Humanities. I am your host, Emy diGrappa. Wyoming is called the equality state because we were the first to give women the right to vote. 150 years later, we wonder what Wyoming women think about the progress toward equality now. Let's find out, and thank you for listening. Today, I would like to introduce you to Dr. Cecilia Aragon. She is a full professor in the department of theater and dance, and Latino and Latina studies program at the University of Wyoming. She also serves as a faculty affiliate of culture, gender, and social justice. Welcome, Cecilia.

Cecilia Aragon: 00:54 Thank you, Emy, for having me on your podcast.

Emy diGrappa: 00:57 Oh, I love having you. And I just want everyone to know, just in case, I call you Ceci, that you're also known as Ceci. (laughs) Not just Cecilia.

Cecilia Aragon: 01:07 That's right. Yeah.

Emy diGrappa: 01:09 So the first thing I wanted to, you know, I love, I love your name, first of all, Cecilia Aragon. And I'm really interested in where you grew up and how you made your journey to Wyoming.

Cecilia Aragon: 01:24 Sure. Well, I'm originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico. We are 10th generation of Santa Fe-ans, and born and raised in Santa Fe, and have many relatives, and kind of my whole cultural heritage is about the New Mexico history and geography, and grew up with a Spanish father and a mother who identified as Navajo and Pueblo. So that interesting mix of being from New Mexico, being both of Spanish culture and Native American culture. And I grew up there, in Santa Fe, in both Albuquerque and New Mexico. But I also was very familiar with the Pueblos and also the Navajo reservation that my mother, um, and my grandmother are from. And when I was in high school, or entering my freshman year of high school, my father was transferred to Texas, due to his job in restaurant management.

We relocated to a place called Midland and Odessa, Texas. And my father managed restaurants in that area, and this was during the 1970s, oil boom of the Permian Basin. And that was a complete cultural shock for me, because I had grown up my entire life in New Mexico, and speaking both English and Spanish and, and, and being surrounded by Native American culture and also, you know, the, the Mexican-American culture, and the Spanish culture. So when we moved to Texas I, it was a big cultural shock, because it was very Anglicized. And the schools were English only schools, and so that, they didn't encourage us to speak Spanish. And, and they didn't encourage us to, it, you know, to value our, our cultural heritage.

So I graduated from a Garden City high school, and, there in Texas, because my family bought a ranch in Texas, and we were closer to the county school than we were to the Midland Odessa City Schools. So we went to the county school. And so we, I went to, um, that's where I graduated, I did my undergraduate degree at McMurry University. And I double-majored in secondary education and theater, and that's where I got certified as a teacher for theater, arts, and speech, and debate. And I taught for several years in Texas. And then after feeling very displaced and, um, missing my homeland, I decided to go back to Albuquerque, to live with my sister, but also to go to, enroll in a graduate program, a master of arts, in theater, film, and dance.

And I went to the University of New Mexico, and I was there, at the time, I needed to do a thesis, a project. And I, that's when I, uh, reconnected with my uncle, Rudolph Anaya, and he was giving me these, he gave me these scripts about New Mexico, and these plays, and he told me, um, "None of my plays had been produced, and maybe you can start your own theater company and start producing my plays." (laughs) I was like, "Hey, that sounds like a really great thesis project (laughs)." So, I, I started my own theater company, Bilingual Theater Company, La Casa Teatro in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And I produced a lot of my plays at the South Broadway Cultural Center.

And produced a lot of Rudolpho Anaya's plays. And so, up to now, I have directed about 10 of his plays, uh, for young audiences, but also for family, uh, for family audiences. And I, I lived there, in Albuquerque, and, you know, felt reconnected with my homeland. And, and my culture, and my roots. And I, um, after my graduate program, I received an internship to work at the Julliard School in New York City. And so that was an internship that lasted a year, and I went to New York City and worked in arts administration, and it was a wonderful experience, and I think that's where my love of arts administration comes from, because that, the training that I got at the Julliard School really solidified my leadership skills and my administrative skills in the arts.

And upon completing my internship at the Julliard School. I then received a teaching position at one of the largest high schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and that was at Cibola High School, on the West Mesa. And I taught for four years. And I do remember, one of my professors telling me, and one of my professors and, and also a friend of mine telling me that if I, I wanted to teach at the university level, that I needed to get a PhD. And I said, "Well, first of all, I need to experience what it's like teaching at the university level." And I did get an evening job teaching at the community college, which was the Technical Vocational Institute at the time, and now it's, uh, Central, Central Community College, in Albuquerque. And I loved it. And at that time, I said, "I have to go back and I get- get my PhD."

So after teaching four years at, as a high school drama director, I went back to get my PhD at Arizona State University. And so, I got my PhD in theater, and indigenous performance studies, and theater for young audiences, were two of the main interests that I had there. And while I was doing my PhD, I also worked with a Pima-Maricopa indigenous community. I worked with the Yaqui indigenous tribe. And I also work at the Navajo School, up in northern Arizona. And so I had a wonderful experiences, and I put my own experiences of being Mexican-American, Chicana, and indigenous, all of that put together, and wrote my dissertation. And that was what my dissertation topic was, was looking at how children participate in these ritual ceremonies and performances and dramas that are, are within our culture.

When I graduated from Arizona State University, my first teaching job was at California State University San Bernardino. And I taught there for about there years, and it was a teaching institution, and I loved it, and I enjoyed it. However, I was really missing the research component of, of what I was trained to do. And so I was looking for more of a position at a research one institution, where I could do more research. And at the time, I just sent out my prayers to the universe, and I was really blessed to have attended a conference where there was a professor from the University of Wyoming who noticed the work, the kind of work I was doing. And so at the time, his name is Dr. Edmund Yoss, and I reached out to him after I met him at the conference.

And he said, "You know, we really would like to have you come do a research week at the University of Wyoming." And at the time I was like, "Well are there any Latinos in Wyoming?" (laughs) He says, "Of course there's a lot. There's a, you know, a community of Latinos, and it's a very interesting, they have a very interesting historical background." And so I was intrigued, I came out to Laramie, in 2015, and I really enjoyed my time here. I gave a research presentation, I did some research at the American Heritage Center, and co-library, and I did some interviews with some community members here in Laramie. And then I went up to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and also, uh, noticed that there was a growing and thriving Latino community up there.

So I was really impressed with what I, uh, what I saw. And the people I interacted with. And it was in 2015, the fall of 2015, I, that was my, my first, my first year, here at the University of Wyoming. And I've been here 16 years.

Emy diGrappa: 10:31 Yo- so you've been here 16 years?

Cecilia Aragon: 10:34 Yes.

Emy diGrappa: 10:35 Wow.

Cecilia Aragon: 10:36 Yeah. Yeah.

Emy diGrappa: 10:37 You came and never left (laughs).

Cecilia Aragon: 10:40 Yeah. And I, I, I didn't think that I was gonna like it. I, I really had it in my mind that this was really the stepping stone for me to, you know, achieve another position somewhere else. And, 'cause I have always heard my other colleagues say, "You- well, you have to start off, you have to start off somewhere, and then kinda work your way up to, you know, other research one institutions." And so yeah, I, I, I came here thinking that I was gonna just be here three, four years. And it turned out that, and, and within 16 years, I got married, I had a child, and I went up for tenure, not just once but twice. So now I'm a full professor. So the University of Wyoming has treated me very well.

Emy diGrappa: 11:28 Well tell me a little bit about, because I wanna kind of go backwards, because I thought, when you were saying that your uncle, Rudolpho Anaya ...

Cecilia Aragon: 11:37 Yes?

Emy diGrappa: 11:38 ... he had plays written, and you took those plays, those scripts.

Cecilia Aragon: 11:42 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa: 11:43 And you created theater out of them, right?

Cecilia Aragon: 11:46 That's right. Yes. I, um, started my theater company, La Casa Teatro, and I was, every, every season I would produce one of Rudolpho Anaya's plays that he had written. And so I did that for six years, and I was pretty much known as Rudolpho Anaya's director.

Emy diGrappa: 12:06 And what were the, what were those plays about?

Cecilia Aragon: 12:08 A lot of them really explored the culture of New Mexico. It has a representation of New Mexico. Uh, for example, his, one of his first plays, Ay Compadre, deals with, um, Chicanos aging. And, and really settling into, kinda like, mainstream, dominant Anglo society. And, you know, building up their retirement, and building up their homes. And, and, you know, it's just buying into that whole, you know, culture of, like, Anglo society, what they, what, what they tell you, you know, to dream for. And what you should already be achieving, you know, when you have your mid-life crises. And then now you're in retirement. So, so Ay Compadre's really a story about Compadres who come together to, um, to talk about their, you know, their midlife crises. But now their, their, their age of retirement, and what life holds for them after, after retirement.

And, and, and during this time of, like, kinda like a, a crises, right? Uh, the midlife Chicano crises (laughs).

Emy diGrappa: 13:21 So let's go ba- go back to, and explain some of that terminology. Because ...

Cecilia Aragon: 13:25 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa: 13:27 ... you call yourself a Mexican-American.

Cecilia Aragon: 13:27 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa: 13:30 But you also call yourself a Chicano.

Cecilia Aragon: 13:33 Yeah.

Emy diGrappa: 13:34 Explain, explain both what that means to you.

Cecilia Aragon: 13:38 Right.

Emy diGrappa: 13:38 That Mexican-American, and Chicana.

Cecilia Aragon: 13:40 Well, both of my parents were very involved in the Chicano movement. So that is my upbringing, my childhood upbringing. And in New Mexico there's the land grant issue, the land grant that my family's from is called Atrisco, and that's located in the southwest valley of Albuquerque. And so I group up with this political, social, economic consciousness of justice, of social justice consciousness. And so, my parents both identified as Chicanos, and my mother more so also identified as Mexican-American, because of her upbringing of, of, of also being, you know, a [Spanish 00:14:25], of Mexican heritage, and also Native American indigenous heritage. So these terminologies were always some terms that I, that I would identify with. Mexican-American because of our cultural heritage, and Chicana because of our political involvement and, uh, political activities that we were involved in during the time.

And, and that was kinda, you know, being involved, you know, having seen my mother and father be involved in LULAC, the southwest voter registration programs, being involved in Head Start, and being involved in other community organizations and, and seeing them being activists. And I embed that identity. And that's why I call myself a Chicana, but also recognize my, my Mexican-American history, and recognize my Native American ancestry as well.

Emy diGrappa: 15:30 Well I think that's beautiful. And, and those are, you know, all, all really interesting ways that you identify yourself with. But then how does Latino/Latina work into that?

Cecilia Aragon: 15:45 Well.

Emy diGrappa: 15:46 You call yourself a Latina now?

Cecilia Aragon: 15:48 I do call myself Latina, with people who have no historical reference with terminologies. Right? Latino, Latina, and then LatinX, and I've also heard the, w- terminology used as Latin-equis. These are all really broad, generic terms, right? And when I'm introduced to Anglos or other people of color that are not familiar with these terminologies, but they are most familiar with using Latina or LatinX, they are comfortable with that terminology, and I understand that sort of sensitivity. And then when I get to know people, I, like you, and, and also other colleagues, I self identify as Chicano and Indigenous.

Emy diGrappa: 16:48 I, I think that's really interesting. And I'm wondering, as you became interested in theater and, and dance, of indigenous cultures, what, what was your influence, besides you were saying your, your mother, Navajo, correct? Or was that your grandmother?

Cecilia Aragon: 17:05 Yes, my grandmother, Navajo, uh-huh.

Emy diGrappa: 17:07 Okay. Was that, was that the influence that led you down that road? Or was theater something always in your blood, that you loved that outlet of expression?

Cecilia Aragon: 17:20 Yeah, no. You know, when you grow up, and I grew up in Santa Fe, I grew up with all the Pueblo fiestas, and the Pueblo dances. I grew up with the, the Zozobra that happens in Santa Fe every year, the burning of the Kookoowee in the southwest valley. And I also grew up with, like, all of the indigenous dances, the corn maiden dance, the deer dance. And, you know, all of the other, the Navajo culture believes in a puberty right of passage for women called a Kinaalda. So I attended a lot of those ceremonies. And there was a lot of song, a lot of ritual, a lot of dance, a lot of, of chanting. And then also, in the Apache tribe, there is the rite of passage celebration called, for young girls called a Nias dance. And it is the coming of age celebration.

So I, I was very fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of cultural art, literature, cultural dances, performances, rituals, ceremonies, songs, chants, La Pastorella, and all of the, you know, the Easter plays, and all of the Christmas plays, and everything like that. So I never knew that that was theater. I never, I never saw it as, as kinda like the western world likes to call it, performance and theater. I just saw it as, as part of my life growing up, of part of my cultural arts that surrounded me. As, as ritual, as celebration, as pageantry. That's what I saw it as. It wasn't until my formal years in high school where, then, I was exposed to Shakespeare.

I saw Shakespeare more like theater, right? And then I was never really involved in high school, it wasn't until I was in college that I started getting more involved in the formal sense of theater and performance, when all my friends that I was involved with, I was involved in student government in college, and all my friends were in theater and they were like, "Oh, Ceci, you should come and, you should rehearse with us. Or you should come and audition." And I really didn't know anything about this kind of formalized theater at all. And then when I started taking classes, and I started, of course I was on a business track, I was on business administration and pre-law (laughs), 'cause I wanted to go to law school.

I was, and I started taking all these theater classes I thought, oh this is really exciting. I know about this, because I kinda grew up with something that has a very similar structure, right? And, and then I started reading the Anglo plays, and then I started getting more exposure to the very formalized theater productions. And then I, I kinda felt like, you know, the shoe fits. This is, this is I'm comfortable in this space, and I'm comfortable coming out in space, and I'm comfortable presenting myself in the knowledge that I have. And it wasn't until I, when I got my degree, I, uh, got a certification in speech and debate, English, and theater arts. And I thought, okay, all of this education and nobody ever mentions anything about the kinda performance that I'm used to seeing in New Mexico, (laughs) right?

And it wasn't until I went and got my PhD at Arizona State University that I started to really document a lot of, a lot of the, the indigenous performances, and to really dig deeper into a lot of the Chicano theater arts, and the Mexican-American theater arts. Then the LatinX theater arts. That world just opened up for me, and that is really what I was looking for in terms of my career and advancement, in my knowledge of theater and then also my career in academia. So.

Emy diGrappa: 21:50 How are you imparting that experience? Your, your growing up experience, your cultural heritage. How are you imparting that to students at the University of Wyoming?

Cecilia Aragon: 22:03 Well that, that's a really great question. I teach a theater diversity course in the theater program. And I cover a lot of that, you know, La- LatinX, Mexican-American, indigenous. I also cover African American theater, I cover religious theater, political theater. So in that theater diversity class, I'm able to cover all of, you know, my organic knowledge of what I know about performance and what I know about theater, as well as, you know, what the students are also faced with today, a lot of, like, you know, political theater and performances of Black Lives Matter, and queer theater, sexuality theater, religious minority theater, disabilities theater. All of this is incorporated into that class.

I also incorporate that in the, some of the classes that I teach for Latino studies program. I take a group of students every year to Puerto Rico, and of course this last year, we didn't go because of the COVID-19 pandemic crises that we had ar- around the world. But I take a group of students to Puerto Rico, and we travel for a week. And it, up to two weeks, in Puerto Rico. And students are exposed to the cultural arts in Puerto Rico, but they also have to do research in their area of a special topics, in, either in education, economics, business, medicine, health/wellness. Whatever the, the student topics are that they get to do that in a, in a Latino community. But they also get exposed to a lot of the cultural arts of the Latino community in Puerto Rico.

In addition to that, every three years I also have developed a program, a partnership program, with the University of Hawaii Manoa, and I take a group of theater students and we also go there, and explore a lot of the cultural arts, and especially with the indigenous groups in, in, uh, Hawaii. And Polynesian groups. But also, and with Asian communities. So it's very interesting how all of that kind of performance, ritual, celebration, pageantry, um, has aw- accumulated in my career, and how I then give the students the opportunities to also explore the, those cultural arts through, through performance.

Emy diGrappa: 24:38 You know, w- as you were talking, I'm thinking that, yeah, I mean it's great that you've opened your students up to a diversity of different cultural theater and dance. But I'm also wondering, because you were born Mexican-American, and so your, were born in this country. But a lot of students that you probably work with were born in Mexico.

Cecilia Aragon: 25:08 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa: 25:09 I mean, what do you think are the challenges for those students, in terms of understanding their identity and hanging on to their cultural heritage themselves?

Cecilia Aragon: 25:19 Well, you know, I, I think that's very difficult in the state of Wyoming, as part of being the executive director of the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference. This is, I'm going on my sixth year serving as the executive director and I see a lot of issues throughout the whole, entire state of Wyoming, that a lot of young, first generation, Mexican-American students are facing. But then also, the newcomers, Mexican, the students that are also facing a lot of challenges in the educational school system. A lot of them feel very marginalized and disenfranchised from, from the communities, and from their educational experiences. And so, I'm gonna say that just Wyoming has turned a blind eye to the certain Mexican La- LatinX population in the state of Wyoming.

I think that Wyoming has really missed an opportunity to, to really engage with the growing Latino population in the state of Wyoming. The Wyoming state economists sent out a memorandum several years ago, and in that memorandum, it stated that Latinos are growing in population, the state of Wyoming. So the state of Wyoming was very stagnant in terms of its population and its growth, but because of Latinos coming to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to work in the tourist industry and tourism, and especially Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has grown in population in, in the Latin- Latino and Latina population.

I think now, you know, when I first came here 16 years ago, I think that the Latino population was something like 15% in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. And now, I've heard just recently that it's now growing up to 30 to 33% Latino population, that's counting the undocumented and documented Mexican population. And I, I just think that the state of Wyoming is missing an opportunity to engage with these communities. And then also, there's a big, you know, strong Latino population in Rock Springs and Green River, because of the mining. There's a big, strong Latino population in Gillette, Wyoming, because of the oil industry, the oil companies, and a big, of, uh, because of the farming and agricultural, uh, communities around the state of Wyoming, like Lovell, Wyoming, and Sheridan, and Douglas, Wyoming, and Torrington, you have, uh, more pockets of Latino population there, as well as in Cheyenne and Rawlings and Laramie.

So all around the state of Wyoming, really the, the Latino population is growing. And I just feel very sad that a lot of policy makers and a lot of government, uh, high officials are not reaching out to these Latino populations. And I've always said that, in the governor's office, that there needs to be a diversity council. And until, until we get a diversity council under the office of the, of the governor, then we remain invisible. And it's always been that way, we have a strong narrative. Latinos have a very strong heritage and narrative here, in the state of Wyoming. But we remain invisible in terms of government representation and in terms of government recognition.

Emy diGrappa: 29:29 So the, the conference, the Latina conference that you work with ...

Cecilia Aragon: 29:29 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa: 29:33 ... or that you were director of, what, what are you doing in that conference? How are you helping young Latinas recognize and grow as young women?

Cecilia Aragon: 29:45 Well the Wyoming Latina youth conference started off 20 years ago, with Anne Redman and a committee that she had put together. Anne Redman has worked for five, six governors now, and so, 20 years ago, there was a very morbid, uh, state for young Latinas. We had one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy. We have one of the highest rates of high school dropouts among young Latinas. And then we have the highest rates of suicide among young Latinas. So 20 years ago, the story on young Latinas is that they got pregnant, they dropped out of high school, they had their chances of their babies being born dead or dying, was increased. And then, of course, their increased chance of, of committing suicide. So that, that seemed to be a really stark reality and future for these, uh, for young Latinas 20 years ago.

And, and Anne Redman and of course the Department of Health brought it to the attention of the governor at that time. And so, the governor had appointed Anne Redman to start a committee, and to, to ameliorate these challenges that the state was facing. And so, Anne started the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference, and it had always been based in Cheyenne. And it was an or- it is an organization that helps young Latinas to recognize their dreams, to recognize their, that they can attain an education. But it also helps them with the mental health and wellness of life, and how to f- face challenges, and how to face, especially the challenges of these cultural, cultural divides between, you know, it being Mexican-American, and also being American and dealing with the challenges of the dominant Anglo society.

And especially with some of the things that they face in the educational system. In 2016, Anne Redman came to me and at the time I was the director of the Latino/Latina studies program, here at UW. And Anne Redman came to me and said, "Hey, Ceci, you've been participating with the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference, and I feel very confident that you can, you can take on this organization. And it would be great if you could transfer it to the University of Wyoming." And at that time, I knew what the Wy- uh, Wyoming Latina Youth Conference was about, and I really strongly believed in it, and I, I've seen the amazing power of the conference of the, and what it does to the young Latinas. And even witnessing a lot of young Latinas coming through to the University of Wyoming, so graduating from the WLYZ and streamlining it into the University of Wyoming.

So I, I immediately saw the dream and vision of it being an educational pipeline program. So I brought the deans of the colleges to the table, and I presented the proposal of the University of Wyoming, and asked who among the deans would like to have them, have this program in their college? At the time, college of education wasn't represented. But that was, at the time when the college of arts and sciences dean stood up and, you know, raised her hand and said, "Hey, we'll, we'll take it on, and we'll try to provide some resources for it." And so, the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference has been at the University of Wyoming. It's been very, very successful, as an educational pipeline program.

And I don't wanna inundate you with any statistics or numbers, but I do feel that, you know, the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference started off with about 120 participants. We now have about 300 participants, young ladies that attend every year in October. And we also have five pillars that we, that we focus on, and that is education, leadership, creativity, and wellness and being, and, uh, STEM initiative. And that STEM initiative came as part of Matt Mead, at the time when Wyoming Latina Youth Conference was still under the purview of the governor's office. And making that transition, I was appointed as the executive director for the WYLC, with a directive stating that WLYC should have a STEM initiative. And so that's where we brought in that fifth pillar.

Emy diGrappa: 34:39 That is so exciting.

Cecilia Aragon: 34:42 Yeah.

Emy diGrappa: 34:42 Wow.

Cecilia Aragon: 34:43 Yeah.

Emy diGrappa: 34:43 What a tremendous accomplishment that you've made.

Cecilia Aragon: 34:46 Well and in addition, in addition to that, I also wanna say that every fall semester, we have anywhere from 13 to 15 young Latinas that we welcomed to the University of Wyoming that have graduated from the WLYC program, from the conference. And I pair them up with mentors, and we see them through their four years of college, and every year at graduation, we have 15 to 25 young girls who graduate with their degrees. Half of those young girls go on to graduate degrees. Right now, we have five young girls who are in graduate programs at UW in social work, in counseling, and education, in engineering, and one is in law school. So we have a really great success rate of graduation and going on to achieve higher education with the WLYC participants.

Emy diGrappa: 35:44 Wow, that must make your heart soar.

Cecilia Aragon: 35:47 Yeah (laughing), it's been, it's been wonderful. It's been very challenging. I- there are challenges to being an executive director with very little resources. But we have such a wonderful foundation of patrons, and, and fundraising, and scholarships that we give out every year. And then we have college participants, mentors, that we also employ. We have two graduate internships and two undergraduate internships that we have every year.

Emy diGrappa: 36:20 That is amazing, Ceci. And I, and I think what a great contribution you've made to Wyoming, just in doing that. And I think about what you were saying earlier, about Wyoming can't miss this opportunity to embrace the Latinas that live here and work here, and who really make a, you know, a strong working class and all these different communities.

Cecilia Aragon: 36:46 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa: 36:46 And, you know, to get those young people to college, get them through college, and, and how, I guess my last question is, how can you give them a voice in, let's say, the legislature?

Cecilia Aragon: 37:04 Yeah. That's, you know, you know, there is a disconnect there. And, it feels that that is unchartered territory. And because I am currently involved with the leadership Wyoming, I am beginning to see a connection, and I'm beginning to see how I can give voice to Latinos in the state of Wyoming on a governmental level, on a state-wide level. And I'm beginning to build the dream. I'm beginning to build a vision of how that's possible, and how that's feasible. I know that we need a lot of allies, Anglo allies, to help this vision come to fruition, and right now, we just don't have that representative on the state level. We do have Floyd Esquibel, and that, of course, is, you know, Anne Redman's brother. And, and we do have very minimal representation. But for young Latinas, it becomes, it becomes a concerning issue, I think, and it, just throughout the whole state of Wyoming, and also in representation, political representation.

Emy diGrappa: 38:25 Right. It's that political representation that I think would make a huge difference.

Cecilia Aragon: 38:30 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa: 38:30 Not just for your program, but just for the future of Wyoming and the future of our Latino communities, really.

Cecilia Aragon: 38:38 Right. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa: 38:40 Well it has been so great talking to you today. Do you have any parting words for the audience?

Cecilia Aragon: 38:47 Well I just, I do. I have a couple of parting words. That I'd like, first of all, I just wanna say that the state of Wyoming has this really wonderful opportunity to diversify its economy, but also to diversify its population. And it already is diversified. We just have not tapped into this rich resource of listening to our Native American population, listening to our LatinX population, listening to the African American population, listening to the Asian Pacific Islander population, and listening to, you know, the other types of populations that we have, sexual minorities and religious minorities, and, and other special populations. And I think we, we really need to, you know, the state of Wyoming really needs to, to start investing some resources into these populations, and really maximizing, I think, their, their resources, in making Wyoming a more diverse community, and more diverse state.

So I know that, I always talk about dreams, and I always talk about visions, and I always talk about, you know, the future, and making the future better for the state of Wyoming, because I believe in, you grow where you're planted, right? And I wanna just leave with a prayer that I have learned over time, and that prayer is divine creator, bring to our dreams all the necessary support. Divine spirit, we surrender our dreams into your sacred hands. Divine universe, guide us into a better future. Thank you, Emy.

Emy diGrappa: 40:55 Thank you, Ceci. That was beautiful. Thank you so much.

Thank you for listening to First, but Last? Brought to you by the Wyoming Humanities. Please join us again next week, as we continue our conversations with women from around the state. You can also find us at ThinkWY.org, where we continue the conversation on our blog about the history, journey, and the challenges of Wyoming's intrepid women living in the equality state. And if you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to the show and leave us a review on iTunes. Thank you for listening.


"Latinos have a very strong narrative here in the state of Wyoming but we remain invisible in terms of government representation and recognition." - Dr. Cecelia Aragon

Links Mentioned: