Excitement and Pride, Family Dreams and Journeys
Latinx Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15. It officially became a federal celebration in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and was expanded to a month in 1988. The time was chosen because it is the anniversary of independence for countries such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile.
At the UO, and elsewhere, the month is celebrated with cultural events and programs. Although this year looks different because of the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, economic crisis, and the wildfires, supporting Latinx students is a priority.
My name is Karla Perez-Young, and I am a Multicultural Academic Counselor and Retention Specialist for Latinx students. I work for the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence (CMAE). My role as an academic counselor is to focus on retention of Latinx students. I have been in this role since fall of 2015.
Latinx Heritage Month gives me time to reflect on my work with our UO Latinx students. One of the ways we build community is through our Tarea Time (cultural study hall). Our office partners with the Latinx Strategy Group (LSG) to provide a time and space for Latinx students, community, and allies to study and connect. Our LSG community was also instrumental in building a vibrant academic residential community known as the Latinx Scholars. In its second year, this program promotes a positive and supportive space that eases transition for first-year students at the university. These two exciting student center spaces have been created in just the last five years and this year there is a Latinx Studies minor now offered, which you can read about below. You can also read about recent Latinx graduates who have started Patos Para Prosperidad to help connect Latinx undergrads with UO Latinx alumni and Latinx professionals.
I love welcoming our students every fall, especially when our school year starts during Latinx Heritage Month. It’s a wonderful combination of excitement and pride, of family dreams and journeys. While this fall is radically different than it has been in the past, it also allows us to reflect on our beautiful heritage.
Kat Sincuir Alvarez, class of 2023, writes in her essay that “Latinos are people of power, work, and dreams. From a very young age I was taught the value of work and excellence; my parents knew that one day I could achieve my dreams if I was brave and worked toward my future.” She speaks of history and the power of her community , “The same power that ran through the veins of the Mayans, who believed in the power of the jaguar, and the beauty within the heavens.” She is grateful for the critical support of her family and the support she has found on campus from individuals and places like the CMAE, Mills International Center, and the Holden Center. Read all of Kat Sincuir’s Latinx Heritage Month reflections:
Double major: Spanish and Applied Mathematics in Robert D Clark Honors College
Hometown: Salem, Oregon
Where do you find community at the UO—in person and virtually?
“The Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence (CMAE) is one of the most influential programs in my life. I was able to find a community that I have grown close with. I found friendships, mentors, academic help, and connections that made it possible for me to get a job on campus.”
Is there a class, program, faculty member, or staff person at the UO that has been particularly helpful in connecting you with Latinx community, experience, or history? How were they/it helpful?
“I have been exposed to different experiences and opportunities to learn about Latinx history at the university. Different individuals have been part of my journey, but most reside within CMAE. The events offered by CMAE provide the chance for students like me to find a community who are also seeking a connection to their Latinx roots within the university.”
Major: Global Studies, Minor: Legal Studies
Hometown: Klamath Falls, Oregon
How has the Latinx community helped you get through this year of multiple challenges?
“As we continue to stand up against racial injustice and systems of oppression throughout the US, I have found comfort in the Latinx community as we also begin to talk about the issue of colorism within our community. It is not just a fight against racial oppression, but also one against gender violence, LGBTQ+ violence, and a constant fight against the machista ideology many of us face within the walls of our own homes. There is continuous unity and uplifting support despite the act of divisiveness which many grew up learning, but in our generation, we are creating a voice to change this narrative to one where we are all equal.”
How have you celebrated/participated in Latinx Heritage month in the past and how do you plan to celebrate/participate this year?
“I have celebrated Latinx Heritage Month in the past by joining events where we share our identity with one another, whether it is through food, music, or dance. Mostly, I celebrate by reading Latinx poetry and novels during my free time, and I am happy this is not something I have to change with regard to the current global health pandemic.
Double Major: International Studies and Spanish
Hometown: Oswego, Illinois
Is there a class, program, faculty member, or staff person at the UO that's been particularly helpful in connecting you with Latinx community, experience or history? How were they/it helpful?
“I had the opportunity to be part of the Latinx Academic Residential Community my freshman year, and it gave me family. I’m an out-of-state student, and being so far away from home was a difficult adjustment for me to make. The Latinx ARC gave me familiar faces that I would run into all over campus because of all of our different majors and interests. The ARC connected me with staff and faculty of color, and emphasized the importance of having representation in your role models.
The Latinx ARC helped me develop my relationship with my own Latinidad. I’m adopted from Colombia and I’ve never lived in a Hispanic or Latinx household before. Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit into the standard ‘Latinx’ frame. The ARC and its people taught me about the many ways to belong to a culture so close to my heart.”
Professor Hames-Garcia taught the class we all took together as an ARC. For that class, I was assigned readings about people who looked like me and talked like me, came from the same places that I did, understood how to style hair like mine. I never saw myself in assignments prior to these kinds of classes. The academic validation of my cultural existence began once I became a Pato here at Oregon, and it feels amazing.
I also had the privilege of studying under Professor Ernesto Martinez about Latinidad and the LGBTQ community. Again, I didn’t realize what it would feel like to learn more about myself through the embrace of qualities that used to make me feel like the ‘other’ option on surveys. Professor Martinez teaches with such warmth toward his students and interest in who they are.”
Announcing the Latinx Studies Minor
A new home for comunidad within our curriculum
Just launched in the fall of 2020, our new interdisciplinary minor in Latinx Studies marks the latest, most significant step forward in an amazing journey of recognition and scholarship.
UO undergrads can now apply to enroll in this minor in order to supplement any degree or major course of study with unique knowledge about the history, culture, diversity, and perspectives of Latinx peoples in the U.S. and Latin America.
“Our program was designed to be especially attentive to the historically-grounded and fast-growing Latinx community of the Pacific Northwest,” says Audrey Lucero, associate professor of education studies and director of the new minor.
Spanning the humanities, social sciences, and professional schools, courses within the minor will be taught by nearly 40 faculty members across 14 academic departments. Housed in the Department of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, the program aims both to prepare and empower students with knowledge, and to support its application in internships and other real-world experiences.
“Our aim is to make the UO a leading destination for all undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing courses, research, and careers related to Latinx communities,” says Lucero.
|Intro to Chicanx and Latinx Studies|
|Fall 2020||Alaí Reyes-Santos||Race, Motherhood and Citizenship|
|Intro to Chicanx and Latinx Studies|
Patos para Prosperidad
Spirit of community inspires new Latinx alumni group
A quality college education can be key to a lifetime of success—but it’s only the first step.
A new group formed by young Latinx alumni, Patos Para Prosperidad (PxP) aims to empower future graduates with tools, networks, and mentorship for professional development—helping them to transition the skills they learn in classrooms to rewarding careers.
“Our main goal is to be a resource hub for current and recent undergraduates,” says Carina Garcia, who graduated in 2018 with a double major in sociology and international studies and now serves on the PxP outreach and engagement leadership team.
Romario Bautista, a communications and marketing team member, believes that “prosperidad” or “prosperity” was a natural choice of name for the organization.
“When it comes to why we chose prosperity... Honestly, why not? We started as a group of alumni who understood the importance of community in the work we do, and prosperity seemed like a great fit.”
“When it comes to why we chose prosperity . . . Honestly, why not? We started as a group of alumni who understood the importance of community in the work we do, and prosperity seemed like a great fit.”
To help Latinx scholars transition from university to the professional world, PxP offers help with résumés and cover letters, job hunting, employment and scholarship applications, interview preparation, software skills, advice on personal finances, and more. They also maintain a database of available jobs and internships, and sponsor programs and special events throughout the year.
The group’s founding dates to winter term 2020, when the student organization MEChA de UO invited a diverse group of recent Latinx graduates back to campus. Impressed by the engagement and overwhelming positive response they received from students, the alumni—who are now employed in a variety of fields ranging from health services to marketing to public policy—recognized the need to build a permanent network connecting Latinx students with Latinx professionals.
“We all had similar experiences going through undergrad,” Garcia explains. “We came together because we realized we wanted to give back to students and offer more resources that we wish existed for us.”
Alumna Andrea Vanessa Castillo, BA ’19 (general social science, anthropology), also an outreach coordinator with the group, invites all Latinx alumni, current students, and community to get involved.
“In pursuit of prosperidad para nuestrxs comunidades, we have this saying: Letʻs fly together.”
— Jason Stone, University Communications