Students in Action at ALAS

El Vaquero Staff Writer

This month as part of its Spring Film Festival, the Association of Latin American Students is presenting classic, foreign and domestic films dating from the early 1930s.

On Wednesday Vittorio De Sica’s, “Ladri Di Biciclette (The Bicycle Thief)” was screened in Student Union Room 212. The film is from a cinematic genre known as Italian Neo-Realism.

It received an honorary Oscar in 1949 before foreign films were considered for the prestigious award. The films of Neo-Realism are most often set in poverty-stricken, working-class environments.

Usually the message conveyed is that in a better society, wealth would be more evenly distributed. All the films are black-and-white, and according to Latin American Studies Professor and ALAS adviser Carlos Ugalde, that is intentional. According to Ugalde, this spring’s films have been chosen to “expose students to films from an era that they might not know about” and to “engage them in the hard-core reality of war and life.”

He hopes to “express the idea of raising the level of humanity.” The festival, which was started by Ugalde to mark the 10th anniversary of ALAS, was dormant until the 20th anniversary two years ago.

The turnout in 2001 was good, and there were requests for another festival. It is the only film festival on campus.

The ALAS literature concerning the festival states that “despite the criminal act that is now being waged by the administration, ALAS felt it was proper and necessary to continue our resistance with the rest of the world against the immoral and unjust war now being waged against the Iraqi people.

“Our thoughts are especially with the children. We are confident that the films will convey the message that there is still humanity, hope, and another world is possible.

Another spring event for ALAS are the Peñas, which are fund-raisers also held in the spring. The money raised has benefited victims of hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua, helped build a school in El Salvador and contributed to the East L.A. College Institute, a program established to help children get a head start on the path to higher education.

Funds were also used to buy books for the campus library. ALAS is also dedicated to serving the vast Latino community not only in Glendale, but also in Greater L.A.

Marisol Garcia, 20, a business and political science major and key member of the campus group, said, “I have relatives in Mexico. I’ve seen things there and I feel fortunate to have what I have, and I want to give something back.”

The association was founded on Cinco de Mayo in 1981 to commemorate the defense of Mexican sovereignty at the battle of Puebla in 1862. Its first public event was dedicated to the struggle of the Salvadorean people against a repressive military oligarchy backed by U.S foreign policy in the 1980s.

Garcia feels the work they do is good. “It’s honorable work.” ALAS also works with the United Womyns Council. Garcia says, “There are more women than men in ALAS, but men outnumber women in attendance at universities in the U.S”

The number of Latinos in higher education is disproportionate to the population of the state as a whole. This is also one of the reasons the association was founded.

In its attempt to raise social, political and cultural awareness, they have commemorated not only the traditional 16th of September and Cinco de Mayo but also the life of Comandante Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the tragic death of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero and International Workers Day.

Their participation in many demonstrations against U. S. foreign policy in Latin America and anti-affirmative action propositions have also been part of their quest to sway public opinion and influence public policy. Looking to change the more immediate landscape is also a part of their mission.

According to 21-year-old Armando Catalano, a Latin American studies major, ALAS wants to combine the old issues of the movement with the new. “We want to try and help Latinos living in America by working here to change the laws that affect them in the U.S.”

But not all members are in it for political reasons. Physics major Anna Rodriguez, 20, is not into “radical politics.” Her father is from Minnesota and her mother is from Mexico. They are “well-rounded,” and she is most interested in humanitarian efforts, “how politics affect humanity.”