Casa Zapata is a four-class house focusing on the Chicanx and Latinx experience through educational and cultural programs. Zapata residents are engaged in a wide range of activities — staging plays for Zoot Suit week, planning film series, and sharing poetry and music at regular dorm gatherings. Zapata has been a source of inspiration, creativity and community for over three decades. Decorated with vibrant murals by renowned Latino artists throughout the common areas, Casa Zapata is also a hub for community events such as Floricanto, Posadas, and Chicanx/Latinx Reunion Homecoming, as well as host to performing groups such as El Mariachi Cardenal, Ballet Folklorico, a cappella groups, and service organizations. Zapata provides students with the opportunity to share a distinct cultural experience, form strong friendships across all undergraduate classes, and still experience the enthusiasm and spirit that is usually reserved for freshman dorms.
Zapata was established in 1972 when Stanford was home to only a handful of Chicanx/Latinx students who were the first in their families to attend college. Today, Zapata is home to students from many different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences, as well as Americans of Latino descent from a wide range of occupational and educational backgrounds—creating a rich diversity of people and perspectives in our dorm. Your dorm mates will be international students, musicians, athletes, people who went to public and private schools, city and country dwellers—we think you have something to learn from just about every one of them, and they from you.
Casa Zapata’s ethnic-focused theme creates a common bond for all residents—Latino and non-Latino alike—that fosters cross-cultural understanding and creates outstanding learning opportunities. Dorm life is full of many different activities and programs, some of which focus on Chicanx/Latinx history, art and culture, while others address issues that are defined by residents and the greater Stanford community. And it has been our experience that this environment creates unparalleled opportunities to pursue your passions and to explore new ones. We hope to foster an environment that encourages exploration, fosters honest and open dialogue about difficult issues, and values diversity.
I (Elvira Prieto) was born and raised in California’s Central San Joaquin Valley working alongside my parents and siblings in the grape fields and fruit packing sheds of Reedley, CA and surrounding communities in Fresno County. I am the first woman in my family to attend college. I received my B.A. in Psychology from Stanford University and an Ed.M. in Administration, Planning and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I have worked in higher education, student affairs, academic advising, policy analysis and implementation, and community-based education for over fifteen years.
I am also a writer and poet and I am recently published on a manuscript in poetry and prose about my life journey, "An (Im)possible Life: Poesia y Testimonio in the Borderlands". I began writing poetry and prose over 15 years ago, due in large part to the encouragement and mentorship of my dear friend and teacher, Renato I. Rosaldo, Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences, Emeritus at Stanford University. My writing is focused on the retelling of life recuerdos (memories) and testimonio with the intention of creating spaces of learning, light, love, and healing for individuals and community.
Having grown up in a very humble and economically disadvantaged, but extremely hard working immigrant family, I learned very early in my life the incredible value of an education as a means to the better life my parents wished for their children when they risked their own lives to come to the US. My work in education has always been informed by a desire to be of service in the field that allowed me to both honor my parent’s sacrifices and also to pursue my dreams.
My own education at Stanford and my personal and professional development and learning came from spaces like El Centro and the residences in which I lived, as much as from any of the classes I attended. Ujamaa, Adams, Yost, and Twain Houses were spaces that, via programming, shared meals, and all-night conversations not only helped me feel at home at Stanford, but they also afforded me the opportunity to learn about myself and the life path I could hope to follow.
Working in education is my passion, as is being an artist and writer, and contributing to the educational journey of others is a responsibility I take very seriously. I come to work every day with an open heart and a willingness to share of myself and learn as much from my colleagues and students as I can ever hope to teach them. I believe this same sense of love and respect for all members of the communities in which I participate is of value in service in our residences. I cannot imagine my own education without the rich life experiences, relationships and bonds I was able to create both as a resident and as an RA during my undergraduate journey at Stanford. I was able to live and learn with peers from backgrounds, beliefs, and perspectives about life that were often times very different from my own, and although navigating difference can sometimes be challenging it can also be deeply fulfilling if we engage in open dialogue with a willingness to build relationship, to find common ground, and too learn. My goal as an RF is to help my RAs and other residence staff create opportunities for learning and sharing that celebrate diversity and promote a sense of “familia” for our residents, where the members of our house community can feel supported, honored, and safe.
My family is an incredibly important part of my life both at Stanford and outside of it. My siblings and I are very close and we are all involved in education or community development as part of our professional and personal endeavors. We are a very open and loving group and I have found that my students often enjoy spending time with us during community building events or holidays, especially when my nieces and nephews are around because little kids can be light and lots of fun. They will likely visit the dorm and help us create a sense of extended family at Casa Zapata as well. My hobbies include writing poetry and prose, reading historical fiction especially with themes of fantasy and magic, watching movies, listening to live music, dancing, hiking and being in nature.
I love spending time by the ocean as it is a place of peace and renewal for me. I am a huge fan of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc., and more recently Game of Thrones. I love to cook and bake and eat, especially spicy food and/or most things chocolate. I am fascinated by alternative medicine and holistic healing practices, especially for promoting emotional and spiritual well being.
What’s the coolest thing about your house and community?
The coolest thing about our house and community is our cultural inclusivity. The Chican@/Latin@ community is made up of deeply rich and diverse cultures and backgrounds, and Zapata itself has residents from all walks of life including people that don’t directly identify with our cultural theme, but have
a great interest in learning more and experiencing our culture. In addition to race and ethnicity, many define their culture based on gender identification and socioeconomic status. Ultimately, Zapata is a house focused on inclusivity, and we celebrate the rich breadth of experiences that define the Chican@/Latin@ community on campus.
What qualities make a successful Casa Zapata staff team member?
The qualities that make a successful staff member at Zapata are patience, compassion and empathy for every member of the dorm community. Every resident at Zapata brings their own experience that is particularly unique and special. Our staff at Zapata do an amazing job of recognizing that everyone’s experience and path in life is legitimate and valid. There will always be differences of opinion, but a successful staff member is one that can patiently listen to and empathize with residents, and celebrate communication, friendship, and community connection with love and respect.
What’s your favorite event or tradition in your house?
Our favorite event at Zapata is our annual play. Students are so extremely dedicated to telling a story that represents their culture and their beliefs, and the process of production can push them to the limit in many different ways. From the acting and directing, to the set design, costumes and lighting, residents and non-residents alike work extremely hard to pull off a beautifully crafted and well executed production. Following the path to production, from preparation time, to dress rehearsal, to the performance itself, is a challenging learning experience for all involved, but the payoff of the story that is told and the emotions that are shared and deeply felt by the audience, make it a show, not to be missed and an experience that our residents never forget.
Requirements to Qualify for Pre-Assignment
Pre-assignment to Casa Zapata will REQUIRE the use of a TIER THREE housing choice.
Pre-assignment to Casa Zapata will be considered for students who fulfill the following conditions:
- Have an interest in Casa Zapata's theme and, through their application, demonstrate the ability to contribute to the dorm's learning environment, community-building, health and wellness.
Requirements for Pre-Assignees
Requirements if Assigned
If assigned to Casa Zapata and desire a single you must:
- Present at least one theme project - subject to approval by, and consultation with, the Resident Fellow and staff - for dorm residents.
- Attend at least 80% of the priority resident theme presentations.
- Attend one orientation session prior to presenting in the dorm.
- Fill volunteer roles in Zapata-Wide Educational and Cultural Programs and other Casa Zapata dorm traditions.