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Valeria Cerda ’13

Valeria Cerda ’13 increases community access to BIPOC and revolutionary literature through her bookstore La Revo Books

Valeria Cerda, ‘13 calls two places home: the south side of Milwaukee as well as her parents’ hometown of La Barca, Jalisco, México. She attended UW- Madison between 2009 and 2013, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies (LACIS) with a certificate in Chican@/Latin@ Studies. Her concentration within her LACIS degree was “Revolution and Conflict in Latin America”. As the proud small business owner of La Revo Books, she notes that her LACIS concentration has come full circle 10 years post graduation. La Revo Books, which Valeria owns and operates with her sister Barbara, intentionally and carefully selects new and used books for and by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), with a specialization in Latinx literature.

Valeria explains that she chose UW- Madison for her higher- education studies because of three specific communities that she was familiar with. The first community that brought her to campus was the Chican@/ Latin@ Studies certificate. She was pleased to know that she wouldn’t have to travel to the West Coast or Southwest to learn about Chican@ history and instead could do so from her own home state. Valeria says  “I was hungry to learn more about myself and my identity and to know that I could study it formally and actually get a degree in it was exciting and powerful.”

The second community that brought her to UW was the Multicultural Learning Community (MLC), which during her freshman year was housed in Witte Hall. She asserts that the MLC, composed mainly of other students of color, made her feel at home and surrounded her with peers who were also encountering the same experience of being a racially underrepresented student on a predominantly- white campus.

The third community that brought her to UW was the student organization Mecha. Mecha, historically known as Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, provides community engagement and political participation for the empowerment of all historically misrepresented people. Valeria was energized by the work Mecha was doing on campus and wanted to be a part of that. Valeria asserts that these three communities not only brought her to campus, but also were the reason she stayed on campus and finished her degree.

When asked how UW- Madison has contributed to her success, Valeria responds “It was the people who kept me in check. Yes, UW looks good on your résumé and that’s great, but it was my peers who I learned from the most and who helped me find my lane. To see the amazing things that other students of color were doing made me want to be better and create opportunities for myself, too. And had I not gone to UW, I would have never met them!” 

Valeria stresses that being a Latina Badger comes with an incredible sense of responsibility. She feels that she has a responsibility to be a resource to other people of color who want to pursue higher education. But she also upholds that individuals need not go into ivory towers to learn about their people’s history. “People should have access to the information I had, regardless of whether they go to UW or whether they attend a university at all!” This is exactly what prompted her to open La Revo Books. She notes that it is her responsibility to change people’s access to learning and she considered a bookstore focusing on BIPOC and revolutionary literature to be the perfect medium for her to do this. Valeria encourages you to imagine “how peoples’ lives would change if they had their hands on these books earlier.”

As for Valeria’s next moves? She is still a boss by working her full- time job at State Voices and helping to manage BIPOC- lead grassroots organization groups use data and tech to accelerate and refine their campaigns on top of running La Revo. Her main priority at this time is to mature and grow as a first- time business owner and build community. Valeria comments that her clients and community are the ones guiding La Revo Books’ growth and direction.