La Raza, a multicultural initiative that serves as Gordon College’s Latino voice has embarked on their second year as an official student organization. President Naomi Vargas ‘21 and Vice President Joanna Echtenkamp ‘21 filled three roles for their committee and gained underclassmen perspectives on the team.
These new committee members include Sofia Camejo, a sophomore Cuban-Puerto Rican, Nadya Roberts, a sophomore Puerto Rican, and finally, Jason Lopez, a freshman Salvadoran-Honduran.
The job of the veteran members is to train new committee members so that with the graduation of La Raza members, the leadership roles will be filled when the time comes. It is to maintain the mission of La Raza, so that future Latino students don’t feel alone or lost on campus.
La Raza’s mission began in 2018, after Vargas joined La Familia, the Spanish language based learning club at Gordon. Even so, she felt that there was still a cultural absence on campus. Vargas decided to create a space where Latino culture and heritage could be celebrated on campus.
La Raza, translated “The Roots,” became the outlet for Vargas and Echtenkamp to empower Latino students’ voices, including their own. They also found the opportunity to learn from other Latinos and share in the broad diversity found within the Latin-American community.
In the 2019-2020 academic year, the vision of La Raza is to make Latinos on campus feel like they belong and feel at home. The committee also hopes to educate and represent Latinos well within the larger Gordon community.
“I love the people and community here. I wanted to be in La Raza to help educate others, and influence the culture at Gordon,” said Jason Lopez ‘23, La Raza treasurer.
It begins with “Bienvenidos,” a banquet for all Latinos on campus. With handwritten invitations personally delivered by La Raza committee members, Latinos are welcomed into a community that wishes to make them feel at home.
La Raza uses “Bienvenidos” as an opportunity to welcome students to Gordon College, to recognize the struggle of living in an environment outside of their culture, and to make Latinos feel special and loved.
Sofia Camejo ‘22, Discussion Leader, says that she joined because “La Raza embodies a part of campus that I’m proud to represent. It’s a good way for everyone on campus to celebrate the Latino heritage alongside us.”
In fulfilling their vision to educate and celebrate together, the after-party is an open invitation to all cultures and ethnicities on campus to enjoy Hispanic refreshments, music, and dance.
“I wanted a community who would understand the way that I grew up, and would process things similarly to the way I process things” says Nadya Roberts ‘23, Event Coordinator. We can see this common experience of Latino kids in the coming month at “Puertas Abiertas,” translated as “Open Doors.”
In Puertas Abiertas, a designated Discussion Leader on the La Raza committee brings the Latino community together once a month to discuss issues and shared experiences. It provides a safe space for reconciliation and relation, with the added factor of Hispanic food.
La Raza has even more plans for the academic year to not only empower Gordon’s Latino students but to share in their diverse community with food, dance, and discussion.
As Echtenkamp says: “We are here!” Latinos have arrived and are ready to make their voices known at Gordon.