Arts & Culture

Latinx photo series unpacks cultural identities

Exhibition celebrates diversity of Latinx individuals within Brown, Providence

By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The photo series was launched in the wake of Donald Trump’s generalizations of Latinx people. Trumps comments failed to reflect the diversity of Latinx individuals, said Lehidy Frias ’17, an organizer of the exhibition.

In celebration of Latino Heritage Month, a photo campaign of Latinx individuals is currently hanging in the downstairs lobby of the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center.

Latinx — a gender-neutral term referring to those of Latin American decent — was launched by the Latino Heritage Series and aims to celebrate different types of diversity. Lehidy Frias ’17 and Christina Tapiero ’17 spearheaded the photo series, working with two other photographers and an array of students, faculty members and Providence residents to create and compile the photos. Each portrait features a Latinx individual holding a white board with the phrase “I am Latinx, and …” on it, along with a phrase they felt best described them.

While Frias and Tapiero were planning the event, many Latinx students were angry with the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s generalizations about Latinx individuals, Frias said. The oft-used phrase, “all Latinos are,” fails to encompass the breadth of diversity within the community, she added.

This generalization made her feel “reduced,” Frias said, because the Latinx community is not a “monolith.”

“I wanted us to say, as a Latino community, ‘We are Latino,’ and list all of the things we also are,” she said.

The photo series was a “productive way to channel that anger,” Tapiero said.

Tapiero added that support for the exhibition came from the Brown University Latino Alumni Council and the Brown Center for Students of Color. Tapiero and Frias are programmers for the Latino Heritage Series at the BCSC, and their responsibilities include planning and hosting monthly events.

Though this photo series is a first for the Latino Heritage Series, the different Heritage Series for the Black, Multiracial, Asian-American and Pacific Islander and Native American students have shown interest in continuing the campaign. Tapiero said she is unsure if the campaign will be annual, but she added that it encompasses what the Latino Heritage Series wants to do overall: “bring the Latino community together and celebrate our identities, even though we’ve been put under one umbrella.”

For the campaign, Frias and Tapiero reached out to the Brown and Providence community for participants. They invited students in Faunce to participate, and Frias knocked on doors in her own South Side Providence neighborhood. Many individuals were keen on helping because they also believed in the idea of intersectionality, Frias said.

Tapiero said she was surprised at most students’ hesitation and doubt while writing a self-description on the white board.

Multiple students considered describing themselves as first-generation college students but were worried they were reclassifying themselves in yet another stereotype, Tapeiro said.

The range of statements on the wall is large — a testament to Frias and Tapiero’s goal. Many students and faculty members wrote about their multiracial identities, their first-generation identities and their interests, studies and personal goals.

Amalia Perez ’18 participated in the exhibition as a way of “personally vindicating” others’ impressions of her, she said. Her white board reads “I am Latinx and (pero) parezco gringa,” which translates to “but I look white.” Perez said she is frustrated that people do not recognize her Dominican identity, but the exhibition and range of responses represent the “microcosm” of diversity at Brown.

Natalie Zeif ’18 said the exhibition provided a good space to discuss the diversity within the Latinx community on Brown’s campus and beyond. Too often people “take people’s identities for granted,” and it is “cool to see how people choose to describe themselves,” she added.

The overwhelming sentiment in the portraits is one of pride, and the exhibit provides a lasting impression of the intersectionality of identity.

“It’s important to say, ‘Yes, I’m part of this community, but I’m also so much more than that,’” Tapiero said. “You do belong to these different groups, and that’s part of developing your identity.”

The photo exhibition opened Oct. 7 and will run until Nov. 7.