'I've learned about and connected to my culture in ways I had never imagined'

Claudia León

American Studies
San Juan, Puerto Rico

What was your favorite class and why?

My first fall at Cornell I took AMST/HIST 1802: Introduction to Latinos in U.S. History. I don’t think I can overstate the impact this class had on me — it introduced me to an entire history,

people looking at artwork

partially my own, that I had never learned in either the U.S. or Puerto Rican education systems. Learning histories that are deliberately suppressed also helped me reframe and re-evaluate the histories I had been taught, which piqued my interest in historiography while igniting a desire to further explore my Puerto Rican history. This course also introduced me to Dr. María Cristina García, who has become my advisor and mentor. Dr. García was the first person at Cornell to recognize my potential in the field of history, and has been supporting my academic and personal growth ever since.

What are the most valuable skills you gained from your Arts & Sciences education?

Randomly enough, I was able to gain experience in exhibit curation through a fellowship with the Public History Initiative. As someone interested in museum work, I am grateful to have received the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of curation through hands-on work with Marcie Farwell, Kheel Center Curator. I co-curated "Social Fabric: Land, Labor, and the World the Textile Industry Created," which is at Kroch Library through September 2023.

person in front of museum exhibit

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?

I would say I'm most proud of my honors thesis, which I wrote about Puerto Rican anti-colonial movements and colonial state violence in Puerto Rico. Coming in, I thought "research" referred exclusively to laboratory settings and science experiments. It was my advisor, Dr. García, who showed me that I could conduct research that was guided by my passion for and interest in Puerto Rican history. The project changed a lot after I initially thought of it, which I see as reflective of my personal and academic growth. It has also been supported by the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and the Humanities Scholars Program. Through this work, I have been able to learn about and connect to my culture in ways I had never imagined.

person standing near ocean

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?

Don't be afraid to go out of your comfort zone! I try to live without regret, but if there's anything I could change about the last four years it's the amount of events or experiences I missed out on because I didn't know anyone else who was going. As a senior, I've felt more comfortable going out of my comfort zone (ha), and it's never not been worth it.


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		Claudia Leon