~ By Lisa Maria Boyles, communications specialist for the College of Arts and Humanities

Club Austral, a student organization at Fresno State, will celebrate its 10th anniversary in the coming academic year.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that you can continue where someone else left room to grow,” said Francisco J. De León Alonso, one of this year’s club officers. “I am sure that previous members of Club Austral had a similar mindset to share the Latin American culture with anybody wanting to know more about it while offering a warm welcome. A decade of student involvement is an incredible milestone.”

Several students worked together to establish the club in 2008 – Ismael Guzman, Viridiana Márquez, Hipólito Ortiz Tello, Julio Puente Garcia, Ana Luz Torres, Liliana Trejo and Nicolás Gonzalez.

“More than a club, our goal was to create a project that could link the Spanish section of the modern languages department with the communities in the San Joaquin Valley,” Puente Garcia said. “Although most of the Austral’s founders were not originally from the Fresno area, we all felt a strong socio-cultural connection with the Spanish speaking communities, especially with the Mexican population.”

Puente Garcia said Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, now dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, made a huge impact on the founding club members when he was a professor.

“In his engaging classes, Saúl always encouraged his students to make connections between the literature studied and the local contexts. Certainly, he had a vision that students should use the intellectual material acquired in class not only to improve their lives, but also to build a stronger community.”

Liliana Trejo, who earned her bachelor’s degree in 2009 and her master’s degree in 2011, explains what the club meant to her:

“My involvement with Club Austral helped me better to connect with my major and department by making me happy to have a space where I could collaborate with other students like me,” Trejo said. “It helped me feel more connected my major and department because, through events and reunions with students and staff from the  department, it helps us create a community. That was the most important goal for us – to create a community to share our passion and goals.”

Gonzalez, who now works as a Spanish teacher at Buchanan High School, was the first president and helped come up with the club’s name, while he was an undergraduate student in the MCLL department. (He is back at Fresno State, finalizing his master’s thesis.) He and the other founding members agreed on the name, which means club “of the south.”

Club Austral has several objectives:

  • To promote cultural awareness at Fresno State  about the Hispanic Culture.
  • To strengthen the character and academic skills of all club members.
  • To promote academic and artistic projects.
  • To foster academic alliances with Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures to provide students with professional guidance and academic support.

Gonzalez described how Club Austral helped students connect more deeply with Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures:

“Club Austral became a bridge between us, the students, and the professors. The many activities which we created, whether literary or cultural, allowed for us to immerse in a larger academic endeavor and to have a greater learning experience. In essence, these magical episodes also helped us in fine-tuning our academic goals and professional aspirations, and it gave us more than anything, a real learning experience.”

De León Alonso and Jorge Ceballos Madrigal, another club officer, are proud to have carried on the tradition of Revista Literaria Austral, a literary magazine. The magazine focuses on four areas:

  • Literature
  • Art
  • Culture
  • Education
“Some of the social poems published in the magazine criticize the Mexican government for the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa,” De León Alonso said. “These poems also do portrait a reflection of the author’s personal experiences.”

De León Alonso transferred to Fresno State from the College of the Sequoias, where he had been active in M.E.Ch.A. and Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society. He wanted to become involved here at Fresno State too, and Club Austral offered the perfect opportunity.

“Club Austral encouraged me to become involved around Fresno State,” De León Alonso said. “Soon after I joined Club Austral, I began to write for La Voz de Aztlán, an ethnic supplement to The Collegian.”

The faculty advisor for the club is Dr. Gloria Medina-Sancho, a Spanish professor who teaches courses in Latin American literature and culture.

De León Alonso said Club Austral members hope to celebrate the milestone anniversary with an event next year, highlighting achievements for the first decade and looking ahead to future goals.

If you were a member of Club Austral while at Fresno State and would like to be part of the celebration, contact De León Alonso at franciscojda@mail.fresnostate.edu.

A special anniversary edition of Revista Literaria Austral is also planned, and De León Alonso is looking for submissions for that edition.

Call for submissions

If you are a writer or artist who would like to submit something for the 10-year anniversary edition of the magazine, please send your submission to clubaustralsubmissions@gmail.com. Submission can be in English or Spanish, in one of the following four areas:

  • Literature (poetry, short stories, abstracts, etc.
  • Education
  • Art
  • Culture

Fresno State art students (currently enrolled or graduates) can submit one piece of artwork that will be considered for the magazine’s front and back cover.

“We are looking for artwork that best represents the club, taking into consideration past editions, Latin American culture and the four areas previously mentioned – Literature, Education, Art, Culture,” said Francisco J. De León Alonso.

The individual whose work is chosen will also have a brief biography in the magazine. Artworks that are not chosen for the front and back cover page will still have the opportunity to be published in the Art section of the magazine. A priority deadline is set for Sept. 1, but artists can continue to send their work for consideration after then.

Submissions other than artwork are limited to two works

The theme of the magazine will commemorate the club’s 10-year anniversary, and will feature some works from previous editions, as well as new submissions from students. De León expects the magazine will be published in spring 2018.