The rising Latino community at Chapman

Chapman places high value in diversity and inclusion, constantly taking strides to create an environment in which students from various backgrounds and cultures feel welcome, according to its mission statement. However, some Latino Chapman students want more opportunities to collaborate, communicate and connect.

Franco Machado Pesce, a freshman screenwriting major from Venezuela, wants a more immersive environment for Latin American students.

“I feel underrepresented and that’s usually because there’s not many of us around, but even with the low number of people that we consist of, there are really no events that really bring us together,” Machado Pesce said. “We’re not really connected or formally introduced by the school.”

Machado Pesce said that this feeling of disconnection is a common sentiment among his Latino friends at Chapman. However, Machado Pesce and others were determined to solve this issue by bringing awareness to the organizations that already exist and starting new ones.

Latin American students can find community and support within organizations like the Latin American Filmmakers Association (LAFA) or campus services at the new Cross-Cultural Center. Natalia Hermida, a junior film production major and the co-president of LAFA, said that within her organization, she and fellow members feel stronger in community, working together on areas of passion and culture.

“LAFA is a collective of Latin American artists who help in each other’s projects. There are people from Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, Perú and Colombia, so far,” Hermida said.

Along with LAFA, Latin American students can visit the Cross-Cultural Center for a quick snack and study session, or to speak with counselors for support. Leti Romo, the assistant director of student engagement at the Cross-Cultural Center, said that the center is a safe place for all students to hang out, study, find cultural resources and speak to counselors. The special programs  are put on each month and focus on a new identity each month, she said.

However, when speaking about the programs and organizations, Romo expressed one issue.

“The Latinx (a gender-neutral identifier) community is encompassing of so many different cultures, so to do a one-size-fits-all doesn’t work. The issues that Mexican students have are very different than the issues of Caribbean students who also identify as Latinx,” Romo said.

Latinx” is a term used to describe all genders of Latino, other than simply male and female. It is used to be all inclusive.

Even with this dilemma, Latin American students are excited to create more ways to connect with each other, whether that be through creating a cultural club or putting on salsa dance events.

Romo suggested the creation of a Latina sorority in which women could share a common culture in sisterhood, a Latin American music club or any type of mixer that would generate a community within the Latin American students.

Machado Pesce is passionate about this matter and he wants to revive the Latin American Student Association (LASA), a former club that focused on Latin American culture.

LASA was the Latin American student association which is not active any longer,” Hermida said.

Machado Pesce explained that LASA was a club that disbanded at the beginning of this school year due to a lack of attendance. Machado Pesce said that some students felt the club focused too much on quizzes and tests on Latin culture rather than community. Members began to pull back from the club until it diminished before Machado Pesce ever had the chance to attend.

One suggestion that Machado Pesce, Romo and Hermida all had in common was the creation of a Latin American dance club or salsa club, as music and dance are very important aspects in their culture.

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