On May 12, affiliates of the Stanford Latinx Law Association (SLLSA) came together to celebrate the organization’s successes and 50+ years of dedicated advocacy. More than 200 SLS students, faculty, alumni and staff gathered to listen to speakers at a special alumni dinner and celebrate in style with Mariachi Estelar, Ballet Folklórico México Vivo and delicious churros. The event also marked the end of Semana Latina, a week-long celebration of the Stanford Latinx community.
“Tonight we celebrate Latinx excellence, the Latinx community at SLS, over 50 years of SLLSA’s presence here, and our representation in the profession. Our identities and experiences as Latinx students here matter,” said Vanessa Young Viniegra, ‘23, SLLSA co-president, who, along with co-president Leanna Lupin Inserni, ‘23, opened the event with a call out to the SLS Latinx community and allies. “We invite you all to join us in reflecting on how we can work together, in solidarity, to advocate alongside those most marginalized—within the Latinx community and beyond,” said Lupin Inserni.
Thursday’s event also celebrated Día de Méndez, the concluding ceremony of Semana Latina that honors Stanford Law School’s first Latinx professor, Miguel A. Méndez. The life of late Stanford Law alumnus, Eugene Jesús Martinez, was also honored at this event for his contributions to SLLSA and the greater Stanford community.
Remembering Professor Mendez and 50+ years of SLLSA support
After the opening remarks from Young Viniegra and Lupin Inserni at the SLLSA alumni dinner, Associate Professor of Law Diego A. Zambrano spoke, also emphasizing the valuable role SLLSA plays in encouraging Latinx student success and celebrating their identities.
“SLLSA is a promise,” Zambrano remarked. “A promise to every Latino student who walks in here, a promise that they have a home.”
Zambrano also paid tribute to Mendez. “Miguel Méndez will forever be the model that every Latino professor like me looks up to…Professor Méndez spent more than three decades teaching our students here and was beloved for his warmth, kindness, wit and humor.”
“He was an advocate for all students, and a particular source of support and confidence for our Latino students,” said Zambrano, the first faculty recipient of the Barbara Allen Babcock Award for Excellence in Teaching. “I only hope that I can honor him with my teaching here.”
“You can write the next chapter of our progress.”
After Zambrano, keynote speaker Julián Castro, AB ‘96, then took the stage. Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama, imparted critical advice on how to leverage professional opportunities while staying true to one’s values.
“I hope you all find professional fulfillment and new ways to apply all of the lessons you’ve learned here,” said Castro. “Think of the possibilities and how you can write the next chapter of our progress.”
Castro centered much of his remarks on the unique opportunities SLLSA alumni and students have due to their time at SLS, and how they should use their knowledge, power, and Latinx heritage to fuel their achievements. “I think of my grandmother and other ancestors…they had the talent and the potential, but never the opportunity. You have both, make us proud.”
The importance of staying connected, mentoring and networking
Following Castro’s remarks, an alumni speaker panel launched into a robust discussion about the importance of leveraging opportunities, connections and the critical role of mentoring. The panel consisted of four distinguished SLLSA alumni: Araceli Campos, JD ‘04, Fred Alvarez, JD ‘75,, Marina Torres, JD ‘08, and Justice Carlos Moreno, JD’ 75, who served as the panel moderator.
Panel members talked about their experiences at SLS and emphasized the importance of maintaining lifelong connections and taking advantage of everything that an education at Stanford offers. That Stanford was the right place to meet people, to develop confidence in networking that will impact every stage of a career, was the consensus. And, to pay it forward, to be available and present for the next group of Latinx lawyers, was the responsibility of everyone with a Stanford Law degree, declared every panel member.
Celebrating as a community
At the conclusion of the alumni dinner, guests were escorted by a lively mariachi band (funded by generous donations from alumni in honor of Eugene Jesús Martinez who was a member of the 1970s Stanford mariachi group, La Rondalla) to SLS’s Crocker Garden, decorated with colorful paper flowers and papel picado, twinkling lights and other festive decorations. Dinner attendees joined SLS students, staff and faculty to enjoy churros and watch the Ballet Folklórico México Vivo troupe perform traditional folk dances. The lively celebration represented SLLSA’s commitment to supporting their members and honoring Latinx identities.
SLLSA is committed to creating and maintaining a community for Latinx students at Stanford Law School and sending highly qualified, dedicated and responsible Latinx lawyers into every legal arena.
SLLSA provides personal and academic support for its membership including seminars on briefing cases, studying for exams, writing résumés and interviewing with potential employers. SLLSA also sponsors a variety of social and cultural events, including an annual celebration of Latinx culture for Law School faculty, staff, and students.
“El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido.”