I’ve loved writing since I was a child, but I’ve always preferred the kind of writing that no one would ever see. The kind of childish fictional stories that I’d write in journals late at night — diary entries and unfinished manuscripts. My writing at the time reflected my innermost thoughts and dreams, things I’ve never intended to share. So you can imagine, I came to the University with no real intention of joining a student newspaper.
It wasn’t until we were all sent home in the spring of 2020 and I was scrolling through The Cavalier Daily website that I noticed some familiar names. I started to wonder if perhaps I was holding myself back by keeping all my musings to myself.
I was a soon-to-be second-year student with only one real semester of making friends and joining clubs under my belt, so I decided to apply to the Cavalier Daily with two pieces. The first piece was a more personal piece about first love which I felt reflected my creative side. The other was a rage fest chronicling my frustrations with Housing & Residence Life for deciding at the last minute which spaces they wanted to use for quarantine housing, leaving me to make a quick last-minute search for a new place to live. It was with these two pieces that I applied to the Cavalier Daily under the Life and Opinion sections in the fall of 2020.
I was unsure which section I wanted to write for, because I did feel I had a plethora of life advice to give as a low-income, out-of-state, Latinx woman on a scholarship. On the other hand, I’ve always been something of an opinionated person and I wanted to try my hand at putting my opinions on paper. To my delight and horror as a sometimes indecisive person, I was accepted to both sections. It was a difficult decision to make as someone who at the time, didn’t like to ruffle feathers and felt more comfortable in creative writing.
However, I’m also a natural debater with Latin fire, so I decided to write for the Opinion section with my first article entitled, “U.Va. needs to increase Native American representation on Grounds.” I struggled initially with feeling like I was performing a balancing act between wanting to call out injustice and being afraid of criticizing the University. After my first article I grew bolder with every successive article, and the balancing act disappeared as I realized I could not stay silent in the face of injustice.
However, the truth is, I’m more grateful than I am critical about this institution. I believe that while the University can never erase its past, it can create a brighter future for the descendants of the groups it has harmed.
My four years at the University have been the best years of my life thus far. Writing for The Cavalier Daily was one of the reasons why — it provided me with a platform to advocate for access to health and healthcare as well as a place to share my passion for Native American and Latinx affairs. Additionally, The Cavalier Daily helped me, as an introvert, to gain a voice and feel comfortable using it as a force for positive change.
I am forever grateful to have been given the opportunity to share my thoughts so publicly, and I hope future columnists are inspired by the articles I have written and continue to advocate for the issues that continue to be so near and dear to my heart.
In conclusion, in the infinite wisdom of Boricua icon Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio, “If I have a platform and a voice, I should use it for my people.”
Hasta la próxima,
Yssis Cano-Santiago was an Opinion Columnist for the 132nd, 133rd and 134th terms of the Cavalier Daily.