Wellesley’s Latin@ Month events, poster campaign stress tolerance and inclusion

By KRISTEN GREEN ’14 

Features Editor

On April 8, Wellesley hosted Rick Najera, author of  “Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood,” and an actor and screenwriter for shows like “MADtv” and “Living in Color.” Najera was recently named one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics in America” by Hispanic Business Magazine, and as Wellesley’s Latin@ Month keynote speaker, Najera touched on the experience of being Latino in Hollywood. His speech, “Cultural Pride: the Latinos You Don’t See,” marked a major event of Wellesley’s Latin@ Month, and the 2014 theme, “Latin@ Month is for Everyone,” welcomes a variety of speakers and events, from theatrical performances to social commentary and poetry readings.

“We tried this year, instead of focusing just on the arts or politics … to have a little bit of everything so everyone can say, ‘This one is for me,’ or ‘I’d like to do this,” Mared Alicea-Westort, advisor to Latina students, explained.

Planning for Latin@ Month began in the fall, when Alicea-Westort began organizing and meeting with the Latin@ Month committee, a group composed of representatives from Mezcla, Alianza, Cielito Lindo and Familia, a subgroup of Mezcla for students who identify as BGQLT or questioning Latin@s.

Each year during Latin@ Month, student organizations plan and organize many events, including the Latin@ Cultural Show and the Mezcla poster campaign. This year’s campaign features photos of various Mezcla  members, all Latin@ Wellesley students, along with a message of the student’s choosing.

“This [poster campaign is] really special because I think it really identifies people within the Latin@ community,”  said Nancy Negrete ’14, a member of Mezcla’s Political Action Committee.

Yesenia Trujillo ’14, also a member of Mezcla’s  Political Action Committee, designed this year’s poster campaign. She explained that the campaign ties into an independent study she’s conducting through the women’s and gender studies department. Her research centers on how Wellesley markets itself as a white and female-bodied institution, and Trujillo said that the poster campaign pushes back against that notion.

“I wanted to provide an alternative media where Latin@s are being seen, but this isn’t the kind of thing you’re going to want to put in a brochure,” Trujillo said.

For Trujillo and other members of Mezcla, the poster campaign serves as a cathartic experience.

“After four years of being at Wellesley, I’m so fed up with … all the ignorant comments, all the racist comments. I’m just done,” Trujillo said. “So, I wanted to put a face to the people who are being told these things. Obviously, I’m not the only one who goes through these things on campus.”

Many of the posters feature quotes of comments the students in the posters have received, such as “You’re Mexican and you don’t speak Spanish?” and “You like to study? That’s so white.”

Kimberly Gill ’16, head of Mezcla’s Political Action Committee, said that she thinks having a Latin@ studies minor at Wellesley, a proposal that has gained momentum on campus in recent months, could help dispel some of the ignorance she and other Mezcla members say has been a defining  part of their Wellesley experience. However, she hopes that in the immediate future, the poster campaign can draw attention to what she perceives as ignorant and stereotyping tendencies among members of the College community.

“These posters kind of made people, especially people who say these things to us, realize what they’re saying and see it on paper,” Gill said.

Alicea-Westort said she thinks this year’s poster campaign is especially powerful because it highlights the individual experiences of Latin@ students, as well as the diversity of Wellesley’s Latin@ community.

“It’s very brave that they’re willing to share with everyone and to be there present and vulnerable,” she said. “I think that takes a lot of courage, so I admire that.”

Members of the Wellesley College community will have an opportunity to learn more about the poster campaign during the Poster Campaign Talkback, which will be held on May 1 in Slater International Center.

In addition to the talk given by Najera, Wellesley has  hosted a variety of other events in honor of Latin@ Month. Yesterday, Dr. Rafael Campo, a poet, physician and professor at Harvard Medical School, gave a talk on the poetry of medicine.

“He’s devoted his practice to treating gay, lesbian and transgender Latinos and those also suffering from HIV,” Alicea-Westort said. Campo read some of his own poetry and discussed the connections between poetry and medicine.

One of the final events of Latin@ Month will be a presentation by Teatro Luna, a Pan-Latina theater troupe based in Chicago. An all-female cast will present a series of skits and poetry readings on socially and culturally relevant topics in Tishman Commons on April 29.

Alicea-Westort hopes that Latin@ Month can be an educational and enjoyable experience for the entire College community.

“I think that, through the events, we try to help people gain an understanding of the Latin@ culture and the Latin@ heritage and history,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to share who we are here. It’s a great opportunity to share our pride.”

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