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El Centro Latinx for Latino and Latin American Studies

College of Arts & Humanities
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LLAS Alumnus: Omar Manzo

Omar Manzo

Journey to CWU and Latino & Latin American Studies


My journey at CWU began in 2015 as a transfer student from YVC. I was usually a year or two older than the rest of my peers and had a difficult time finding my sense of community—I felt like I didn’t belong, like many first-generation students in higher education.

However, by the end of my first year, I switched to a Spanish Major, added LLAS and Political Science as my double minors, went to two national conferences, began to form my community, and began working as a student staff in what was then, the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement.

One of the first professors who took me under their wing was Dr. Alejandro Lee. Dr. Lee encouraged me to get involved on campus by introducing me to, todo el mundo. By the end of the first quarter, I got to meet many amazing staff and faculty thanks to him. Dr. Lee’s classes provided a safe haven for me, and through the content of the class and my peers, I learned a lot about my cultural identity that I used to struggle with—ni de aquí, ni de allá. I still remember reading “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Gloria Anzaldúa for the first time and feeling validated and proud to speak my preferred language, Spanglish. Or reading Richard Blanco’s poem, “Cooking with Mamá in Maine,” where the poet’s mom describes there is no measurements needed in cooking, or in life, “Taste it, mi’jo, there’s no recipe, just taste.”

Having LLAS as my minor gave me the opportunity to learn and engage from CWU’s best.

I never thought I would ever study Political Science, but after taking the Latin American Political Systems class from Dr. García my first quarter, I was hooked. He constantly challenged me to critically think and ask the important questions in life, like who owns the means of production? Jokes aside, Dr. G, as many of us called him, mentored me along the way, and thanks to him, I was given many opportunities during my time at CWU like starting a student organization, Scholars in Action, or building the courage to present my research paper about Liberation Theology at a National Social Science conference in Las Vegas.

It’s not the destination, but the people that travel with you along the way that make it special, o algo así.

Since the LLAS minor is multidisciplinary, I was also able to take classes like the History of Modern México from Dr. Dormady. El profe had the passion for teaching about Mexican history, and that joy was passed on to his students. You know it’s going to be an amazing class when we learned about the Mexican Revolution through a game by role playing as different historical key figures during that era. We learned firsthand how one key moment can change the course of history so quickly (my character died before his time). Also, he played us a clip of Kid Frost’s “La Raza” music video, a pioneer Chicano rapper—talk about great class!

LLAS is a community.

Not only did I have amazing professors, but also staff that have helped shape who I am today. One of my greatest role models continues to be my former supervisor from CWU, Manuel Rodríguez. I remember I walked into his office to give him a thank you card and came out with a job offer to help start a new after school program—never underestimate the importance of showing gratitude, you may get your next job offer that way! Manuel gave me an opportunity and became my mentor. He taught me what it means to be a working professional—learning how to write professional emails and facilitate meetings was a skill I gracefully less succeeded in, but he guided me along the way, and I eventually learned.  

I’m grateful for LLAS and CWU. Coming in not knowing how to navigate higher academia was a daunting endeavor, but it was the people I met along the way that made my experience, both in the classroom and outside of the classroom, a memorable and impactful one. I have too many others to thank and too many great memories to share but know that if you’re a student thinking about LLAS, it’ll teach a lot of great skills you can use for any academic or career path you may choose.

After CWU, I embarked in a new journey teaching English in southern Spain for two years, moved to different parts of the USA, and now recently moved back to the Yakima Valley. I continue to work in education in hopes to pay it forward as others have done for me.

Gracias CWU familia,


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