Usos y costumbres

Latinidad: opinions from a student panel

Por Miles Rodríguez
June 2013
 What does it mean to be Latino at Bard? This question was answered by a panel of Latino students at Bard College: Katherine Del Salto Calderón (senior), Rosemary Ferreira (junior), María Hoz (junior), Julieth Núñez (junior), Melanie Mignucci (freshman), and Adolfo Coyotl (freshman). In the panel, two perspectives were explored: that of students born in a Latin-American country and that of students born in the United States but with Latin-American Heritage. Despite their differences, they had things in common like the feeling of not completely belonging anywhere.

 They also answered this question in terms of feeling at home at Bard or not. Their answers about Latino identity mean that Bard must become more of a home for Latino students. The Bard community, Latino students included, must make a more concerted effort to understand and care about Latino issues to both enrich the community and ensure the success of its Latino students.

The panel, called “Latinidad: Latin@ Student Identity @ Bard,” was part of Semana Latina or Latin Week at the college during which a wide range of events were organized to celebrate Latino culture in the United States and at Bard.

It was organized by students, faculty and staff involved with groups like the International Student Organization (ISO), the Latin-American Student Organization (LASO), the Spanish-language community project and publication, La Voz, the Difference and Media Project (DMP), and the Justice for Farmworkers Campaign, as well as the Spanish and Latin American & Iberian Studies (LAIS) programs.

The six panelists who participated are in different academic years at Bard, some were born in the United States and other in various Latin-American countries (such as Colombia, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Mexico). During the panel, their ethnical and racial differences became very visible, providing an idea of the diverse combinations that form a part of the Latin community in the US. Their words were surprising and sometimes even poignant in their expression of multicultural hybrid-ness and the differences among them, all this while they spoke about the moments in their lives which had transformed them.

By speaking of the complex moments and experiences which played an important role in their lives at Bard, they were able to identify two Latino prototypes.

The first prototype is of those born in the United States of Latin-American heritage. The second one is of those who were born in a Latin-American country and immigrated to the US when they were infants or came directly to Bard as international students. Somehow, these two groups with such different lifestyles don’t feel any kinship between each other and tended to gravitate toward two camps, US-born and Latin American-born, with greater or lesser connection to the specific Latin American nation providing their family background.

Despite their different backgrounds and the variety of different ways they engage Latino-related issues, the students on the panel agreed on certain possible solutions to minimizing the differences at Bard. In what some of the panelists considered a very homogenous and a sometimes unwelcoming environment, they started to develop something of a common identity which they revealed as a result of their experiences at Bard and at home.

One student explained that at times she felt like she didn’t belong at Bard or at home. She also found extraordinary but conflicting demands for success in both environments. Many of the students discovered unexpected problems at home, which sometimes made them feel a rejection or distancing by their families and communities. Being at Bard turned others to revalorize and learn more about their home, family and cultural background and to get involved in different organizations supporting these goals. Their time at Bard brought them closer to their home and their families.

There is no one way of being Latino, at Bard or anywhere. Because of Latin American roots and multiple ways of negotiating US and Latin American identities in the US, being Latino is always hybrid, heterogeneous, and complex. Latino students at Bard gave witness to this heterogeneity in their discussion about differences between US and Latin American-born Latinos but also found certain commonalities through their responses to the problem of home and belonging.

Bard had become a home for them, but not fully, because they didn’t feel completely welcome. Although this is not the only kind of Latino experience at Bard, the panelists agreed that this aspect of their identity was important for the college to understand. The students thought the verbal expression of these ideas at a forum was of great importance to prepare them for a future transformation of identity and an improving of their experience.

This is still not enough. More and different kinds of discussions and events like this must take place. Latino and other Bard students, faculty, staff, administration, and community members must work harder to understand and care about Latino issues and to make Bard more of a home and a place of belonging for its Latino students. The strength and well-being of the Bard community and of its Latino students depends on it.

*Miles Rodríguez is an Assistant Professor of Latin American and Iberian Studies at Bard College.

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La Voz, Cultura y noticias hispanas del Valle de Hudson

 

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