By Ariana Gonzalez-Bonillas
Content warning: binary language to honor how Luisa and Azucena experienced Wellesley
Circa 1984. Border town of Nogales, Arizona.
Azucena is at her younger sister’s English class parent-teacher conference to translate for her parents, who immigrated here soon after their marriage in Sonora, Mexico, in 1966. Lindley Silverman—Ms. Silverman to the family—recognized a spark in Azucena. It was a spark she recognizes from her time at Wells College (a women’s college in New York). She continues to talk to Azucena after the meeting, and finds out that she is on a business track at Nogales High School. Ms. Silverman advises Azucena to take honors classes instead, because there is an amazing women’s college on the east coast, 3000 miles away, called Wellesley College. Ms. Silverman could see Azucena there, a first-generation ambitious Chicana. Azucena, after researching the school, could also see herself there, and changes her courses in high school, even taking extra classes to make up for not taking honors’ classes before her junior year. She sends in her application and waits in anticipation for an answer from a school she didn’t even know existed two years ago.
She gets in, but then comes the part of convincing her (misogynistic) father to sign a paper saying that he approves of her going. He refuses. Not because he doesn’t want her to go to college, but because he wants her close to home at the University of Arizona. Her mother, her namesake, witnesses this. She remembers her own acceptance to a college in Mexico, being all packed up, and her father asking her if she was sure she was okay with going and How could she abandon her family? She decides that she is not going to watch history repeat itself, and she signs the slip. Azucena goes to Wellesley College, a sight unseen.
August 1985 to May 1989.
Azucena participates in Ethos as a non-voting member. Mezcla is defunct, and she works to revive it. She gets arrested for participating in a “die-in,” blocking the trustees to protest Wellesley College’s investments in apartheid South Africa. Wellesley eventually divested. She graduates Green Class of 1989, while her middle sister is at another women’s college near L.A. and her youngest sister is dreaming of coming to Wellesley. Azucena, traumatized from her experience at a predominantly white institution, asks her youngest sister Luisa to think about the University of Arizona or Scripps instead. Luisa stands her ground and runs headfirst down the path that Azucena had paved with her extra classes, applications for financial aid, imposter syndrome, and protests.
Luisa arrives at Wellesley, Purple Class of 1994. The Latinas that Azucena had adopted and helped to grow in turn adopt and care for Luisa. Luisa majors in Latin American Studies, becomes a Mellon Mays Scholar, and struggles to learn how to be at a predominantly white institution. Soon, she will find a companion in her struggle who knows what she is going through, too.
Mezcla gets handed a poster to a party, printed in black and white and hand-colored in marker, by LUChA, the Chicano org at MIT. The poster is of a white-passing Latino man and woman. The man is fully clothed in a suit. The woman is in a skimpy dress, her leg up on the man, and his huge hand on her thigh. Mezcla wants to protest the misogynistic manhandling so prominent on the poster. After a few debates, Mezcla decides to still go to the party, since Latino communities need to support one another at predominantly white institutions. So they go, and Luisa dances the night away. Everyone wonders about an after-party, so Luisa asks her MIT friend Kathy. Next to Kathy stands Luis, a junior in Course 16 (Aero-astro). Damn, he thinks. Luisa sees Luis but doesn’t look at him—he is probably Kathy’s boyfriend or something. Instead, she meets David, a senior from Brown. Luisa continues dancing with David, ends up dating him, ends up breaking up with him three months later.
Luisa’s friend, also named Luisa (known as tocaya—namesake or “same name”—for the purposes of this story), tells Luisa about this guy, Luis, from that party last semester, who had asked for Luisa’s phone number soon after the party. Luisa asks her tocaya why she didn’t give it to him. “You were dating someone,” tocaya states. So Luisa gets Luis’s phone number from tocaya instead and calls him that night. They talk for hours. They talk for hours the next nine days. On the tenth day, Luisa tells her friends that if Luis doesn’t ask her on a date that night, it’s over. Luis, being a lucky man, asks Luisa on a date that night to go to Hoolihan’s near Faneuil Hall. They go out that weekend. Luis asks Luisa to steal the alcohol menu for him in her purse for his collection of alcohol menus. She thinks it’s weird, yet two months later, she knows she is going to marry him. She knew when he missed the bus and he walked in the rain to Bates from the train station.
Luisa’s senior year, Luis starts working at Wellesley College Admissions a year after graduating MIT. He’s the only admissions counselor who is a man. That December, Luisa has to get her wisdom teeth removed, but has no dental insurance. Luis has dental insurance at Admissions so they get legally married at the Town of Wellesley’s Town Hall during his lunch hour, and Luisa’s reading period study break. The rumor goes around the Admissions office that Luis and Luisa got married. Luis arrives back at the office, where he is confronted with “So, what’d you do during lunch?”
“I…got married.” A student assistant is sent to find Luisa at Clapp Library so she and Luis can pop a bottle of champagne together. Another study break for Luisa.
The day after Luisa graduates college, Luis and Luisa are married at the Wellesley College Chapel by the Dean of Religious Life. They take their photos around campus, and have a large Wellesley table at the reception. Their first dance as a married couple is to A Whole New World from the recent movie Aladdin.
Circa March 1995.
Azucena’s second child is born. Luis and Luisa meet the baby for the first time. Luisa falls in love, and decides to convince Luis to derail from their original plan to wait ten years to have children. Luisa develops a plan to convince Luis over the course of their next six-hour drive. Ten minutes into the drive, she says, “I want to have a baby.” Luis responds, “Okay.”
Circa September 1995.
On top of working at admissions, Luis is a guest-in-residence at Tower, where he plans snack breaks and watches ER with Luisa and the students on Thursday nights. Their first child is conceived in Tower.
Luisa walks around, surrounded by two feet of snow, with her winter jacket open to compensate for the heat her pregnant belly brings her.
Luis and Luisa put up a “name the baby contest” submission on the spam boards that stand in the entrance to Tower dining hall. Two rules: the name can be pronounced in both English and Spanish, and it has to be something you would name your own child. The winning names are Ariana if the baby is a girl, Nicolas if the baby is a boy. Ariana was a student’s best friend’s name from Hawai’i. Luis and Luisa move to Stone-Davis at the beginning of the summer to the room next to the living room on the first floor.
June 20, 1996.
Luisa’s contractions begin.
June 21, 1996.
First day of summer, 3:15 AM, the baby that was 75% likely to be a girl, is born: Ariana Cristina Gonzalez-Bonillas. That afternoon, she is brought home to Stone-Davis. Luis’s coworkers at the admissions office are some of the first to hold her.
August 1996 to April 2003.
Luis, Luisa, and Ariana move to Northern California, then Arizona. Luis and Luisa’s second child, Andrés, is born in Arizona. Near the end of Ariana’s first-grade year, Luis and Luisa decide to move back to Massachusetts out of nostalgia—plus it will help Luisa’s research for her dissertation on Women of Color at Wellesley College. Andrés goes to the WCCC—Wellesley Community Children’s Center, next to the Child Study Center—in the purple room with a few professors’ kids. Ariana and Andrés get to be on the Wellesley College campus after school every day because Luis works in IT, and Luisa uses Clapp Library’s archives for her research. Ariana helps Luisa turn the pages of the giant bound books containing old copies of the Wellesley News while Luisa takes pictures. All the while, Ariana falls in love with the campus, with a particular Japanese flowering willow tree in the atrium, with Lake Waban, and with the Mezcla members who are her babysitters. Luisa assists Mared, the new Latina Student Advisor, while Ariana and Andrés play with the children of Mared and the children of Karen, the new Asian Student Advisor.
Luisa suffers a fractured rib because she coughs too hard that winter. It was a record-breaking winter, not to be broken again until the winter of 2014-2015. The family decides to move back to Arizona.
September 2004 to October 2013.
Ariana pines for a return to Wellesley and does not return until Discover Wellesley Weekend her senior year, traveling with other travel grant recipients from Arizona. She is nervous, thinking that girls at a girl’s school are catty and mean. She has been thinking about Wellesley since third grade, and Luisa has tried to go easy on praising Wellesley because she does not want Ariana to hate her for not making her look at other colleges. Ariana is nervous until she gets to the Latina Cafe, where Mezcla, Cielito Lindo, Familia, and Fusion all offer a supportive and loving community to prospective Latina students. Ariana goes back home and writes her “Wellesley 100” essay about the campus’s beauty and the Latina community she fell in love with. She realizes she visited a women’s college, where women, femmes, and many intersecting identities want to support and be supported by one another.
December 13, 2013.
Ariana gets accepted Early Decision to Wellesley College, surrounded by Luisa, Luis, Andrés, and her baby cousin. She is Wellesley College Purple Class of 2018, and her parents get her a Wellesley sweatshirt to match. Ariana graduates high school exactly 20 years after Luis and Luisa got married. (Andrés will graduate exactly 25 years after they get married.)
Ariana moves into Caz, where Luisa lived one of her semesters here. Ariana is starting 29 years after Azucena first stepped onto campus, and 24 years after Luisa.
Academic Year 1976-1977.
Yolette García is the first Latina House President of Wellesley College: House President of Beebe Hall.
Academic Year 2017-2018.
Forty years later, Ariana is House President of Beebe Hall, honored to be in the building where the first Latina House President once was. She has worked at Admissions as a student assistant since her first year, with a counselor that held her at three days old. She has not lived in Stone-Davis since she was two months old. She still attends Mezcla events, where the Executive Board alone is the size of the entire group that Luisa participated in and Azucena cultivated. She works under Mared like Luisa did. She goes out to parties at MIT and Harvard like Azucena and Luisa did.
On June 1, 2018, Azucena the elder, who signed Azucena the younger’s college papers, will attend Ariana’s graduation, con el favor de Dios. Her husband, Gilberto, cannot attend for health reasons, but is extremely proud to be Wellesley Dad and Tata. Azucena the younger, the first to go to college in her family, will attend. Connie, the middle sister who followed Azucena’s path and was the first Dr. Bonillas in the family, will attend. Dr. Luisa Bonillas, with her matching class color, will attend, of course with Luis (who still thinks MIT’s building numbers make sense), and Andrés. Ariana plans to wear a purple dress to graduation, to match her mother, and a Mezcla stole to honor her Tía’s work. On June 1, 2018, Ariana will join her mother and Tía in Wellesley siblinghood, all having survived and thrived at an institution that was not originally meant for them. Wellesley Chicanas who did.
Ariana Gonzalez-Bonillas ’18 has started to identify as Xicana since getting to Wellesley, which recognizes the indigeneity in her background. She is trying to write everyday, and likes to tell this story in person.
From October 2017 issue