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Latino Center to celebrate 20th anniversary

Published: Monday, October 7, 2013

Updated: Monday, October 7, 2013 01:10

The Latino Center will this Saturday commemorate its 20th anniversary in the Aidekman Art Gallery and the 51 Winthrop Street Function Hall. 

The anniversary will emphasize the importance of having a Latino presence on campus, according to Latino Center Director Rub謠Salinas Stern. 

“I think that it shows that the Latinos are here to stay,” he said. “There was a time when I felt that Latino students were invisible on campus, and I think that we still deal with that, but that has changed a great deal.” 

Yareliz Diaz, secretary of the Association of Latin American Students (ALAS), explained that the celebration will also give students a chance to learn more about the Latino Center.

“[Stern] is going to speak for a little bit to talk about the last 20 years and what the art exhibit is supposed to show ... so people can mingle and get a sense of what the Center has done in the last 20 years,” Diaz, a junior, said.

Festivities will begin at noon with a brunch in the Aidekman Art Gallery, which will feature a picture timeline exhibit of the history of the Center, Stern said. The celebration will continue that evening with a gala at the 51 Winthrop Street Function Hall, where students and alumni can enjoy dinner, dance to a live band and view student group performances and speeches from alumni. 

“It’s going to be a big event; I’m very excited to see old and new faces,” senior Astrid Fuentes, president of ALAS, said. 

According to Stern, one of the speakers will be Carlos Cedeño (LA ’95), who played a critical role in creating the Center and La Casa and served as president of the Hispanic American Society during his time at Tufts. Also speaking are Director of Latin American Studies Nina Gerassi-Navarro and leaders of the Latino Alumni Association, Valerie Avila and Shioban Torres. There will also be performances from Center alumni, S-Factor and La Salsa. 

The Latino community on campus has evolved since the Center was founded, according to Stern. 

“We started in the late 1980s getting Latino students [at Tufts],” he said. “There were no resources for them ... The only student organization we had was called the Latin American Society, but they really catered to international Latin American students. Students who grew up in the States tried to be part of it, but they never felt that they were accepted in the group.”

Stern said that at first, the Center consisted of only one office on Talbot Street, where he worked part time. Three years after the Center’s formation, the community pressured the upper administration to expand the Center, which was eventually established at its current location on College Avenue.

Although Stern said that Tufts’ Latino community has grown stronger over the years, he believes that there is room for improvement in the way Latinos are perceived.

“On one hand, you have this international-ism of Tufts, but I think it neglects the domestic,” Stern said. “People will more likely go to El Salvador than the El Salvadoran community in Somerville.” 

He said that students of all colors should become more involved with race relations on campus. 

“All these centers aren’t just for the constituents,” Stern said. “It is often white students that are the most isolated or segregated. The myth is that it is students of color who self-segregate, but it is actually the opposite. There is no requirement or accountability or necessity for [white students] to engage.”

Both Fuentes and Diaz echoed Stern’s desire to see more non-Latino students at the various ethnic centers around campus, especially in the Latino Center. 

“I think I’d just like to say that the centers are not only for Latino students,” Diaz said. “We really like to have all different kinds of people in here, we like to hang out, we like to learn from each other.” 

Fuentes noted that exploring the Center should be an important component of all students’ lives on campus.

“I think that is the spirit of being a Jumbo and being a Tufts student ... venturing into a new space and going outside your comfort zone and starting friendships and community,” she said.

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