Mexican Folklórico dancers with Sugar Skull makeup

Guided By Culture & Experience

Collectivism is a value that Citlali Gonzalez Trujillo Rios says was important to practice in her family when she was growing up. She recalls family dinners where each family member drank from the same cup.

This was a symbol to represent that although we are each individual, as a family, we are one.

Citlali is a first-generation Mexican-American who was raised in a culturally Mexican household and was taught the importance of her Mexican and indigenous heritage. Her parents always ensured that she and her brother celebrated Mexican Independence Day and heard stories like that of her great-great-uncle Emiliano Zapata, a Mexican revolution hero. She also grew up speaking Spanish and learned how to dance Mexican folklórico.

As a result of her parents’ efforts, Citlali is deeply in touch with her cultural heritage.

“My indigenous background is Aztec and Tlaxcalteca, and it is important to me that I know and learn about my indigenous culture.”

Citlali’s parents gave her and her brother Aztec names, and Citlali is also learning Nahuatl, the language of the Uto-Aztecan family, which is spoken in central and western Mexico. For Citlali, it’s crucial for her to know what she considers her true mother tongue.

Citlali’s favorite family tradition that she carries on to this day is participating in Día de Los Muertos.

“Not only is it a week-long celebration of remembering our loved ones that have passed – including cooking their favorite traditional dishes – but it also taught me that death is not bad. Yes, you mourn for the ones you lost, but most importantly, you celebrate them by telling their stories.”

Citlali Gonzalez Trujillo Rios standing in traditional clothing on the beach

Citlali Gonzalez Trujillo Rios

Citlali Gonzalez Trujillo Rios as a child dressed in traditional clothing

Citlali as a young girl

Citlali is passionate about representing her people and advocating for and helping minorities. She says her interest in advocacy sparked from taking her own culture wherever she went.

“Growing up and learning about my Mexican and indigenous culture, I also learned about the injustices through my own experience and those of others. I was regularly told to speak English only and asked if I had a nickname. The understanding of how important my own culture was pushed me to learn about the cultures of others and the difficulties other minorities face.” 

Citlali is a Communication student in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and she has her sights set on law school after she graduates with her bachelor’s this coming fall. 

“Receiving a communication degree is a stepping stone to law school. I can use the skills I learn to help others use their voices and tell their stories. We have to actively listen to those around us before we can help to create change.”

Citlali’s husband is in the military, and the couple currently lives in Okinawa, Japan, where Citlali’s husband is stationed. Citlali says it has been an unforgettable experience interacting with Japanese and Okinawan cultures. 

“What helped me acclimate the most was that I quickly learned that Japan has respectful mannerisms similar to Mexican culture due to both being collective cultures, so it helped make me feel at home.”