Let’s Talk Latinidad!

Latinx students and faculty share their stories in an interactive seminar

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The “Let’s Talk Latinidad!” seminar was held last Thursday, Feb. 10, giving Latinx individuals on campus the opportunity to discuss their experiences and struggles regarding their cultural background. Six Latinx speakers sat at the front of the Great Room in Seegers Union to share a five minute snapshot of their life on and off of campus and how their backgrounds have shaped their life stories. Visiting Assistant Philosophy Professor Tiffany Montoya, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology Giancarlo Cuadra, Ph.D., Assistant Director for the Office of Multicultural Life Criss Braynen, Leslie Avecillas ‘23, president of Comunidad Latinx, Patricia Madrigal ‘25 and Kassandra Prado-Escalante ‘25 were the speakers at the panel. 

“I think [the event] went wonderfully. We had a great group of presenters from diverse Latinx backgrounds that shared many different experiences.”

Criss Braynen

The panelists covered a wide variety of topics, including their upbringing in Latinx communities, their experiences relating to their culture and struggles they have faced both in college and the workforce. Numerous speakers also shared their advice for how Muhlenberg and its community could continue to strive towards diversity and inclusivity pertaining to Latinx individuals.

“I think the administration is taking steps in the right direction,” shared Cuadra. “They hired Dr. Brooke Vick as the assistant provost for faculty and diversity initiatives and she supports many of the initiatives for inclusivity many of us have raised over the past year. The administration also hired many new faculty members that represent several minority groups, including Latinos. There are other examples, such as the statements of diversity, equity and inclusion that speaks to many groups, including Latinos. I would like the administration to give us more visibility and to hire more Latinx professors and staff members and to admit more Latinx students.”

“I personally have just joined the College about a year ago, so I don’t want to speak for the experiences of everyone,” explained Braynen. “I believe there has been growth, a willingness to listen and strides, but there is always more work to be done. These events are super helpful in allowing people from these backgrounds to speak up, share and find allies. I think it is important to listen to the concerns/setbacks Latinx students, faculty and staff have faced and actively work to mend the harms.”

After the panelists shared their stories, the attendees were split into smaller groups to have more personal discussions with one another. These smaller circles gave each person an opportunity to share any of their experiences or to become more educated about the Latinx community and their struggles and victories. 

“I would like to highlight what some of the students have mentioned,” said Braynen. “It is important as our community moves to be more inclusive, we do not burden our Latinx students or expect them to be the ones to continually teach others. Also, some students still don’t feel safe on this campus, and how can we remedy this? There are still a lot of microaggressions being felt in and out of the classroom and this is negatively impacting students.”

“From what I gathered during the event, listening to the students, is that people get excited when they find other people like themselves or who have similar life experiences. So when non-Latinx students see a group of whatever minority sticking together, it’s important to know that it’s not an attempt to isolate themselves, they’re simply enjoying temporary cultural familiarity before returning to the ‘normal’ white-culture of everyday life.”

Tiffany Montoya

The “Let’s Talk Latinidad!” seminar gave insight into what the future looks like for Latinx students and faculty both on and off campus and what could be done to increase their representation. This conversation was encouraged to continue outside of the event and to all of Muhlenberg and its students and faculty.

“Personally, I think putting more effort as a campus for amplifying the Latinx experience, and providing more funding, personnel and ideas towards building a community for all POC [People of Color] on this campus along with white students would go a long way,” explained Avecillas. “It has been my experience here that it is students who are left to solve the racial tensions on this campus and I believe that some of our faculty are becoming receptive, but just like this event was a collaboration between all levels of individuals on this campus, future talk of solutions has to be a collaboration as well.”

“As of yesterday, I had not met most of the Latinx students on campus and I am very glad we had that meeting and that moment to reflect a little bit on the concept of Latinidad and how we are perceived by the rest of the Muhlenberg community,” shared Cuadra. “I want to make sure the entire college is aware of us and that we keep meeting and promoting these events, maybe more than just talking—display the cultures including the foods, the music, the dances, the parties, etc.”

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