Ajúa Campos’ 50th anniversary Latinx Affirmation Month (LAM) begins today, Nov. 1. While previous LAMs had one umbrella theme that all the events fell under, the organizers felt that this year, there was no one phrase or slogan that perfectly represented what they wanted to communicate.
“This year’s Latinx Affirmation Month is a month where we will celebrate the scope of Latinidad in various forms through celebrating it, but also speaking about things that we don’t usually speak about in our Latinx community that very much affect us,” Ajúa Campos co-chair Natasha Guandique ’20 said.
Ariella Reyes ’20, the other Ajúa Campos co-chair, hopes that these conversations on under-discussed topics will help Latinx students find common ground within their diverse community.
“I think when Latinx students come to higher education, or are away from their families, they get to explore these topics and talk about them in a place where it might be a little bit more accepting,” Reyes said. “I don’t want to generalize all of our experiences…but I think that it’s important to talk about them here because it’s not usually something that we can talk about with our parents or our older family members, like grandparents. It’s something that I think will really bring us together because they’re similar, some of these things that we experience not being able to talk to our parents about.”
Guandique and Reyes have focused on involving the whole Ajúa Campos community, rather than just board members, in planning LAM this year. The LAM calendar contains 15 events organized by board and non-board members, which is the most that the organizers have seen in recent years.
“There’s so many of us that are really committed because there are a lot of us that really want to make this the best LAM that we possibly can,” Guandique said. “That’s our drive right now, and people are very passionate, the board is very passionate, and we have a bunch of collective members that are very involved as well.”
This year’s LAM features some familiar events from past years, like the annual LAM convocation on Sunday, Nov. 3. Reyes explained that the organizers selected Yosimar Reyes, a queer, undocumented poet and activist based in Los Angeles, to deliver a speech at convocation, which will be followed by a Q&A and dinner.
“With picking the keynote speaker, it’s always a little challenging to represent the whole community of being Latinx, so we just went with someone who we thought that we hadn’t seen before, who hasn’t been like represented before, since our four years of being here,” Reyes said. “We thought that would attract more collective members who possibly identify with Yosimar to come.”
Some more annual events that will be held are Expresiones, the Latinx student talent showcase, on Saturday, Nov. 16 and Noche de Gala, the Latinx formal, on Friday, Nov. 22. The LAM career week, beginning Tuesday, Nov. 19, will also feature familiar events such as a resumé writing workshop and a mind map workshop.
With more students taking on organizing roles for LAM, new events have been created that tie into this year’s focus of facilitating discussions about topics often left unspoken. Guandique emphasized how important it is to have these more intimate conversations in addition to the annual events.
“They’re very important events to have because if we don’t give ourselves the space to do that, we are not going to have those difficult conversations,” Guandique said. “It has to come from us….That’s where that energy is coming from, and it was very much driven by the people that have been very involved in the process.”
One new event on Sunday, Nov. 10 is a Latinx femme brunch, which will also be a writing event to talk about femininity in the Latinx community. Another new event, in partnership with American Sexual Health Association (ASHA), will be a sex talk on Tuesday, Nov. 12, for students to talk about their sex education experiences and some taboos surrounding sex in the Latinx community.
In addition to ASHA, Ajúa Campos collaborated with other student collectives like Spectrum, the affinity group for LGBTQ students of color, to advertise events that Latinx students are involved in. “In the Heights” from Nov. 21-23 and Spectrum’s “Queer Brown Love” event on Friday, Nov. 15 both feature on the LAM calendar.
These events, Guandique said, are created by and for Latinx students, but other interested members of the community may attend. The only exception is that only Latinx students can perform in Expresiones.
“All of our events are designated areas for Latinx students because that’s what Latinx Affirmation Month is, but we also want to educate people so all of our events are open to the entire community,” Guandique said. “That’s how we build community, with sharing our stories….Anybody that appreciates and respects our culture and wants to learn more is welcome to come to most of our events.”
Reyes hopes that these events provide the Latinx community with the space to come together and learn, including those who typically don’t attend Ajúa Campos meetings.
“LAM is not for us to like tokenize ourselves and say that we’re Latinx at Wesleyan, but it’s mostly for us to get to know more about ourselves,” Reyes said. “I hope that these events really do bring people who haven’t been usually a part of Ajúa to come and see a little bit more about what we are about. It took a lot of work to plan them, so I hope that that really shows and it’s reciprocated with people coming and being a part of Ajúa.”
Jocelyn Maeyama can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.