In the midst of Hispanic Heritage Month, Carlos Tejada ’22 and the Afro-Latinx Alliance have been reflecting on what it means to be an Afro-Latinx student at Brown University and the month’s significance for the community.
National Hispanic Heritage Month falls between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15 and celebrates the achievements, contributions and various cultures of Hispanic Americans in the United States.
Additionally, there are numerous independence days of Latin American countries during the month. Countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate it on Sept. 15, Mexico on the 16th and Chile on the 18th.
ALA was founded by two Afro-Puerto Rican graduates of the class of 2020 who “noticed on campus that there wasn’t a space for both Black and Latinx students to be in one space,” said Tejada, who is co-president of the Afro-Latinx Alliance.
The club was intended honor and celebrate Latin American students with African descendent roots who do not solely fit into either demographic, according to Tejada.
ALA aims to assist Afro-Latinx students by connecting them with resources on campus while also fostering a community of peers, Tejada said. It is a place for students to “to debrief and decompress outside of academics,” he added.
As part of their effort to build community, ALA runs events during Hispanic Heritage Month that celebrate the wide range of backgrounds and nationalities present in the club, explained Tejada.
Potlucks and celebrations for the different Latin American independence days are among the events planned for Hispanic Heritage Month, he added. ALA also plans to collaborate with other organizations at Brown, such as Latinas at Brown, and plan activities that engage with the local Providence community.
One of their current outreach initiatives focuses on getting hispanophones, or Spanish speaking students, out into the Providence community, said Nellely Lopez ’24, secretary of the Afro-Latinx Alliance.
Hispanophones within the club serve as translators and volunteer in nearby organizations for the local Latinx diaspora, Lopez added.
One of the differentiating factors between ALA and other student organizations on campus is ALA’s emphasis on celebrating “the diversity within the Latinx community,” Lopez said.
Tejada attested to ALA’s commitment to cultivating a sense of community, adding that the club’s primary focus is to ensure they “create a solid foundation of community for our students, especially first-year students” who may be anxious about entering a new environment.
“The people in the club are probably some of my closest friends and truly my support system here at Brown,” Lopez added. “It is like a little piece of home with me.”
Tierra Peguero ’24, a club member, said that she hopes first-years find a welcoming and validating environment in ALA.
“We want them to know that when they are stepping foot on this campus, our club is the space for them to immediately be a part of,” she added.
To her, ALA is a “family” that shares language and culture, somewhere she can “walk in and just know that you have a connection with the people there,” she said. “The energy there is just so unmatched.”
ALA has grown significantly since its inception, starting with five people compared to its current 20 to 25 members. Peguero hopes to see even more growth in the future as the club sustains its efforts to attract as many students from Afro-Latinx backgrounds as possible.
With his sights set on the future, Tejada told The Herald that he would love to see ALA get more funding and a promotion to a Category III organization status from its current standing at Category I. “Afro-Latinx students come from so many different countries, so if we had the funding, we would be able to celebrate those specific countries’ independence days or holidays or specific events … that is where I would see it in the future.”
Whether through potluck events or professional workshops, the core of ALA is ultimately family, Tejada said. “The students, they have a lot of enthusiasm,” he said. “It really warms my heart to see that they seem comfortable within this space.”