As part of Latin American Affirmation Month, “The Talk Series: What does it mean to be a Latinx Student?” was held in Woodhead Lounge on Thursday, Nov. 19. The talk was hosted by Kimberly Heras ’17, and consisted of a panel of students and professors from the University.
The two professors in attendance at the talk were Assistant Professor of Spanish Paula Park and Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Carlos Dimas.
“I’d say the main purpose of the meeting on Thursday was to discuss what it means to be a Latinx student at Wes,” Park said. “[It was] also to reflect about how Ajùa Campos is responding to the recent events on campus.”
Ajùa Campos is the principal communicative instrument for the Latinx community at the University. It strives to educate both Latinos as well as the greater University community on Latinx cultural values and political issues.
Park is a new faculty member at the University, and her interest in Thursday’s meeting was to learn more about the Latinx community while also commending them for their efforts.
“I wanted to start saying that sometimes you have to pat yourselves on the back,” Park said. “For me, coming here and seeing the beginning of this whole month, I was truly surprised, and I was pleasantly surprised that there was all this going on. There’s a lot of organization that’s behind this.”
The panel at the meeting covered much ground, talking about a wide variety of topics that covered both current events on campus and the Latinx community itself. Aidan Martinez ’17, a student on the panel, spoke in depth about this.
“I think I’ve received a lot of hate over the last two months because of The Argus [scandal] and now, [though] not so much, the Is This Why campaign,” Martinez said. “I think we are a part of it because we are [students of color]. There shouldn’t be any differentiation between SOCs on campus, because we’re all at a privileged white institution where all of our voices are at stake and all of our voices have been silenced historically. I just think it’s a time for unity in our community and between our communities.”
That being said, Dimas and Park pointed out that the Latinx community has made progress at the University.
“Coming here and hearing the conversations going on, it’s exactly [because] you guys are a minority here,” Dimas said. “Just the ability to create this room is a huge step. It’s significantly massive, especially within the historical background of this institution. [But] a movement has to continually move forward, [so] where is the next station?”
Martinez responded to that question by sharing his hopes for an increased sense of accountability at the University.
“I think the biggest thing, at least in my mind, that did not come to fruition in this recent protest at least, is that I want people to be accountable for their words,” Martinez said. “I think that as the student body we very easily blame the administration or North College, and that’s just a building. So when you blame a building, there’s finger pointing going on within the building, and nobody’s really owning up to their actions.”
Another issue that came up during the discussion was one of exhaustion: Often students of color face constant hardship by just attending the University as a member of a minority.
“An even more concrete goal that I’ve been trying to articulate is the fact that I want students of color to come here and not leave exhausted from just being in this place,” Martinez said. “I personally don’t know what institutional structure could be set up to make sure that [students of color] have an equitable experience to white students on this campus, because what I need from this campus and what I need to feel like I’m learning and not having to deal with racism on campus or being harassed on campus, etc., might look very different from what a lot of other people in this room need.”
While it is still working towards goals such as these, Park believes the Latinx community is perhaps more diverse than people tend to think. She also mentioned the importance of the community continually asking themselves what it means to be part of this community.
“Sometimes it’s good to also acknowledge what has been done by you, by the people before you, and upperclassmen, because a lot has been done,” Park said. “It’s very interesting to hear all these different stories because at the end of the day our stories are [becoming] more powerful.”