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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Tufts celebrates 30 years of LatinXcellence with upcoming reception and showcase

Latinx community reflects on anniversary, values and performance groups.

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The Tufts Latinx Center is pictured on Oct. 5.

The fall semester is officially in full swing, and with it comes an exciting month for the Tufts Latinx community. Not only is this October Latinx Heritage Month, a nationwide celebration of the culture, but it also marks the Tufts Latinx Center’s monumental 30th anniversary.

Located on the corner of Talbot and College Ave, the Tufts Latinx Center  or, as students affectionately call it, the “LC  is celebrating “30 years of LatinXcellence.”

However, while the LC was officially founded in 1993, the center was truly born an entire decade before, according to Marvin Casasola, the director of the Latinx Center.

“10 years prior to the establishment of the center itself, a group of Latinx, Hispanic [and] Latin American identifying students, they all came together and just started wanting some sort of representation,” Casasola said.

Now, the center functions as a safe space for students to come together as a community and celebrate their identity. With events like the Welcome Back Kickback and the annual Commencement Ceremony, the Latinx Center’s programming helps cultivate an environment of acceptance and appreciation, something Casasola deeply values.

“I love every event, whether it’s a huge event, or if it’s an event where only two people show up. As long as it’s making an impact, that’s what matters,” Casasola said.

For students like Victoria Lopez, the co-president of the Association of Latin American Students, the LC functions like a home away from home.

“I’m from Houston, Texas, [where there are] a lot of Latinx people … So coming here to Boston, it was a culture shock,” Lopez said. “The Latinx Center is kind of like back home … it just brings me more of a sense of familiarity … and people I can talk to about any of the struggles that I have.”

The Latinx Center’s mission of fostering “F.A.M.I.L.I.A Friendship, Advocacy, Mentorship, Integrity, Leadership, Inclusivity, and Achievement  also manifests in their intellectual discussions, especially in regard to amplifying POC voices.

The term “Latinx” is pan-ethnic in nature, including many different nationalities and religions. For members of the Tufts Latinx Center, ensuring that each identity is included in the conversation is essential to their mission.

“One of the things that we’ve been doing and working on is … uplifting the voices of our Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latinx brothers and sisters,” Casasola said. “These are a lot of times the forgotten voices … we’re checking ourselves on whatever biases we bring to the table … [and] we’re holding each other accountable.”

Leah Nohemí, a member of the Latinx community and intern at the Indigenous Center, further emphasized this sentiment and the importance of solidarity between the Division of Student Diversity and Inclusion centers.

“[An] important aspect of the community is … [continuing] to empower Black and brown voices, which is also why I’m part of the Indigenous Center,” Nohemí said. “The Indigenous Center and the Latinx Center have collaborated on some events, which has been really fun.”

In honor of the Latinx Center’s 30th anniversary, a reception is currently scheduled for Nov. 3 from 57 p.m. at the Remis Sculpture Court in the Aidekman Arts Center.

Preparations for the event are already underway, with the Tufts University Art Galleries assisting by hanging a multitude of Latin American and Caribbean flags outside of their current exhibition, “Véxoa: We Know (Nós sabemos).”

“I think it’s going to come together very beautifully, and we’re working on really transforming that space,” Casasola said. “Right now, you’re able to see all of the Latin American and Caribbean flags that are currently installed, so for anyone who wants to come in and see it, they’ll be able to … [and] everything is going to be up for the entire academic year.”

Another highly anticipated event is the Latinx Heritage Showcase, which is set to occur on Oct. 20. During this showcase, Latinx organizations will have the opportunity to perform on stage and celebrate their culture.

In addition to interning at the Indigenous Center, Noehmí is also the co-captain of Encendido, one of Tufts’ many Latinx dance groups. For her, dance is a means to express pride in her and her peers’ culture.

“We all come from very different backgrounds, different countries, but we can all join together through dance and appreciate our cultures,” Nohemí said. “We do a lot of different styles from all over Latin America. In the past, we’ve done salsa, bachata, cumbia, huapango [and] norteña.”

Encendido will perform at the Latinx Heritage Showcase alongside Tufts Ballet Folklórico, a student group dedicated to the Mexican folk dance of the same name. Itzel Martinez-Merlos, the choreographer and co-founder of Tufts Ballet Folklórico, spoke about the cultural  and personal  importance of the dance.

“I’ve been doing [ballet folklórico] since I was five years old, so it’s really important to me,” Martinez-Merlos said. “It has a lot of cultural and historical significance. … The costume and the type of step and movement all depends on where the dance originates from.”

Not only does the Latinx Heritage Showcase allow groups like Tufts Ballet Folklórico have fun and express themselves, but it also serves as a valuable experience to audience members who may want to learn more about the Latinx culture.

“A lot of people here at Tufts have never even heard of folklórico. … Performances, like the Latinx Heritage showcase [are] a great way to teach people about [it],” Martinez-Merlos said.

However, unlike Encendido, Tufts Ballet Folklórico is not a TCU-recognized organization, making it difficult to raise funds for members’ attire and to book rehearsal spaces on campus.

“We’ve been struggling to get recognition from TCU. We applied for recognition last year, and we got rejected. And then we appealed that, and our appeal also got rejected,” Martinez-Merlos said. “I personally feel like the reasoning wasn’t very clear. … We were a pretty big club, even when we first started. And we had a good amount of performances too, even as an unrecognized club.

Despite the roadblocks, the group plans to repeat this process and remains hopeful that TCU will reconsider. In the meantime, the best way to support Ballet Folklórico, Encendido and other Latinx student organizations is by attending the Latinx Heritage Showcase.

Lopez hopes that Tufts students, whether they are members of the Latinx community or allies, will join in on the festivities.

“We are students here [and] we deserve that recognition and that support,” Lopez said. “It’s important to open up all these spaces to make sure we can use them … and show all of Tufts  not just the Latinx community  all of our culture. We’d like to celebrate with everyone, not just us. We would love for other people to also support us and come join the fun.”