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Montana State University president reflects on Hispanic Heritage Month

Posted at 12:19 PM, Sep 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-16 14:22:04-04

BOZEMAN - Montana State University (MSU) President Waded Cruzado who is arguably one of Montana’s most prominent Hispanic figures has been at the helm of MSU for more than 10 years.

During her tenure, she has seen a lot of change not only in the university but in her community as well.

“Ay me encanta, I love Montana, I love the people of Montana because they gave me an opportunity — they said okay let’s see what she has to bring,” says Cruzado.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Cruzado worked in New Mexico Before moving to Montana, a place she had never been to before and one where she was unsure of how she would be received for being Hispanic and a Spanish speaker.

“Yo empecé aquí el cuatro de enero del 2010. Mis temores más grandes también era pensar que si yo no hacía un buen trabajo, entonces las personas de este estado iban a tener una mal impresión de lo que iba a ser una mujer presidenta o de lo pudiera hacer una mujer hispana. Así que para mi era el peso del universo en los hombros,” dice Cruzado.
“ I started here on January 4, 2010. My biggest fear was thinking that if I didn’t do a good job then the people of Montana would have a bad impression of me. What would a woman president do, or what would a Hispanic woman do? For me, it felt like the weight of the universe on my shoulders,” says Cruzado

“I don’t look like — I don’t sound like anybody in Montana but in reality, once I have been here I have nothing but very positive experiences,” said Cruzado.

Being Hispanic and a woman, Cruzado ranks among less than 5% of women of color at the head of a university.

She says she never focused on the discrimination she might receive as she works in education.

“I’m sure that there were some of those episodes but quite honestly I never focused on that I always tried to build bridges,” said Cruzado.

Cruzado says working at MSU, the American Dream and the land grant mission go hand in hand.

“They are two sides of the same coin right? The American dream, the opportunity to come out irrespective of your background and to make it right and particularly to be able to provide for your family. To have a productive life,” said Cruzado.

“Me encuentro unos estudiantes de México, particularmente de México pero hemos tenido estudiantes de Colombia, de Venezuela, de Argentina, de Chile y de Puerto Rico,” dice Cruzado. 
“I find a lot of students from Mexico- particularly from Mexico but we've had students from Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, and Puerto Rico,” says Cruzado.

In the 12 years that she’s been in Bozeman, she has seen change, "only 2% of the Montana population was Hispanic but take a look at how the Hispanic population has been growing."

She has noticed a lot of similarities between Montanans and Latinos, "people in Montana share many of the same values of the Hispanic traditions."

Cruzado says food plays a large part of her heritage and sees an increase in town for everyone to enjoy.

“It has been a wonderful experience to see how the community has and particularly with how the Latino influence has brought Just in the area of food trucks,” says Cruzado.

Being able to celebrate her heritage every day — and especially this month — is even greater because of those who can celebrate with her.

However, Cruzado says she embraces her heritage daily.

“Todos los días hablo español. Con mi familia, con amigos- La cocina, la comida que preparo en mi cocina pos si es mayormente Puertorriqueña pero sí que aprendió mucho, cocino muy bien comida Mexicana, algunos platillos,” dice Cruzado.
“I speak Spanish every day, with my family, with my friends. In the Kitchen, the food that I make in my kitchen, mostly Puerto Rican food, but I’ve learned a lot more, I cook pretty good Mexican food,” says Cruzado.

“We all win when we have this vibrant culture come here to Montana and be welcomed by the hospitality of Montanans,” says Cruzado.

Feliz Mes De la Herencia Hispania. Below you can watch a Spanish version.

MSU President reflects on Hispanic Heritage Month; similarities between Montanans and Hispanics, Spanish