La Casa, ASHA, and QueerWes hosted a series of panels every Wednesday night throughout the month of November as part of Latin@ Affirmation Month. The weekly talks aimed to unite the Latin@ community and open doors to discourse on many different topics.
The first panel discussion focused on the intersectionality of queerness and Latinidad. The conversation emphasized the experience of students who shared these two lenses of difference and how they feel that dealing with dual identities has affected them. Assistant Professor of American Studies Laura Grappo, whose academic work falls in this intersection, urged students to think critically about the interlocking issues this intersectionality presents. Through both anecdotal examples from her own life experiences and her encouragement of larger philosophical conversations, she aimed to help students better understand these matters.
Panelist Evelysse Vargas ’17 shared personal anecdotes about her own coming-out experience. She stated that the panel helped her start a discussion about her identity with people in the community.
“It was great to have a platform to speak from and to see that [students] were interested in coming, and interested in my experience,” Vargas said. “I remember afterward I had a lot of friends who came up to me and said ‘wow’ and ‘thanks’ and ‘I didn’t know.’ So I guess it’s just a great platform to start that discussion within my own friendships.”
The second week’s topic was “Beauty and Body Image.” This panel was facilitated by Assistant Professor of English Rachel Ellis Neyra, and co-hosted by Ajúa Campos, ASHA, QueerWes, and Ujamaa. Topics discussed in the panel ranged from 19th century philosophy to modern pop culture. The panel began with a discussion of Kant and evolved into a conversation on contemporary pressures to perform certain standards of beauty. Panelists also shared their own experiences. Following this was a discussion of pop culture and cultural appropriation, which touched on examples set by Beyoncé, Iggy Azalea, and Miley Cyrus.
For a new member of Ajúa Campos, Brenda Quintana ’18, the talks struck a chord with what she believes are poignant contemporary topics.
“I think all these issues are something that I think are very connected with the community and really relevant to the Latino students here at Wesleyan,” Quintana said. “Issues of sexuality, class, and beauty image—those are all things that we encounter currently and aren’t necessarily talked-on subjects in Latinidad.”
The last panel focused on class and citizenship and on the intersection between students’ personal lives and political issues. It was facilitated by Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Title IX Officer Antonio Farias.
Last year’s Latin@ Affirmation Month was the inspiration for this lecture series. According to La Casa resident Kimberly Heras ’17, this year’s panels were originally intended to focus on the topic of queerness in Latin society, but based on the wide range of interests people presented, Ajúa Campos decided to expand the focus to a larger variety of topics.
Vargas stated that she was glad to have a space to talk about the intersectionality of these important issues.
“It was a very cool, specific kind of conversation about being Latino and being queer,” Vargas said. “And that’s a conversation I don’t get to have a lot.”
Quintana asserted that discussing these issues brought many members of the University together in a unique, diverse, communal conversation.
“To see these people and to see the community—that was one of my favorite parts about the series,” Quintana said. “Having these firsthand experiences [with] these issues makes it real, and it makes it pressing and current.”