Since its founding in 1969, El Centro de la Raza has helped Latino and underrepresented students at the University of New Mexico. This year El Centro is celebrating their 50th anniversary, titled 50 Años de Excelencia y Justicia Social. 

The celebration acts as more of a family reunion, said El Centro's Director, Rosa Isela Cervantes. 

"We have students coming, (as well as) alumni that haven't seen each other in years," Cervantes said. 

As El Centro comes up on 50 years at UNM, they wanted to celebrate the milestone in a way that would allow them to continue to support students the way El Centro always has. El Centro provides resources to students, helping them to reach their fullest potential during their years at UNM.

"Our theme is Años de Excelencia y Justicia Social, 50 years of excellence and social justice, what a better way, not to celebrate, but in action, to do something," Cervantes said. 

During the 2017-18 academic year, Cervantes said that El Centro gave out 199 scholarships to UNM students. These scholarships ranged anywhere from $100 to $2,500. The scholarships awarded funds to students for a variety of reasons including, employment at El Centro, attendance to events facilitating professional development, El Centro's El Puente research fellowship program and emergency scholarships for students in finical need.

Cervantes said that one of El Centro's students attended an athletic training conference, with the help of funds allocated by El Centro, that landed him an internship with the Chicago Cubs. Something she said is super important for students. 

"That's beyond getting the degree, you need to do all of these other kind of professional opportunities to expand your network, to open other doors," Cervantes said. 

Tomorrow El Centro's community and supporters will enjoy a live mariachi band at the Embassy Suites, starting at 5:30 p.m. Dr. Felipe Gonzales, an El Centro alumni that originally helped to create the center, will speak at the fundraiser as well as a few others.

Third year student, El Centro employee and previous El Puente Research Fellow, Sonia Ramirez, is preparing to present her honors thesis come May. She is also preparing for her trip to Mexico, with El Centro, where she said she will be able to experience more of the culture and heritage of where she is from. 

"Scholarships like this offer opportunities for students to achieve academically and also see whats outside in the world (and) to share knowledge with other scholars," Ramirez said.

Ramirez said that her favorite part of El Centro is the family and support that the center has given her.

"Knowing that when I come into work that everyone would say good morning, that everybody would be welcoming, everybody just makes the environment positive," Ramirez said. 

Both Cervantes and Ramirez said they are excited for the event, and invite everyone to come and celebrate.

"It's celebrating those who came before us, those who are here now and also looking forward to the years to come," Ramirez said.

Ramirez said El Centro is excited to celebrate their 50th year, by celebrating diversity, supporting each other and motivating scholars.

"I didn't think I would need a space like this until I found it," Ramirez said.

Shayla Cunico is the culture and music editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @ShaylaCunico.