Underrepresentation Within a Thriving Community
Daniela Fragale, Contributor
There is more to the Latinx community than being Mexican or Central American. Lots of Latinx representation on campus excludes other nations that are in the Latinx family, such as members of the Caribbean and South America. This may not seem like that big of a deal, but to put it into perspective, the population of Mexico and Central America combined is around 170 million, while the population of the Caribbean and South America is over 460 million.
As a Venezuelan-American, I do not see my nation represented on campus besides the times that I have made an effort to do so. I would like to know: how are we going to turn a blind eye to the culture of an entire continent and more while people on campus represent these underrepresented countries?
Many aspects of Latinx culture in media is often very specific to Mexico, building a warped perception of Latinx culture here in the U.S.. These ideals have translated into the Latinx community at Augsburg as well, making some of us non-Mexican Latinxs seem like outsiders. On campus, there are events held to celebrate Latinx culture, which is amazing, and I feel so privileged to go to a school where we have these opportunities. But it is usually only aspects of Mexican culture that are being celebrated. When conchas are being given out or Dia de Los Muertos is being celebrated, I am really just being taught about someone else’s culture rather than celebrating my own. Do not get me wrong, I love learning about other cultures, but anticipating going into a space where I can expect to connect with others about our culture, I often end up having to explain myself as to why I am not familiar with these Mexican norms such as the food, slang, dance and music.
Barbara Sabino is a first-year here at Augsburg who moved here from Venezuela just over a year ago. I am also of Venezuelan descent, so of course, I went straight to her to talk about our experiences. I also talked to Juan Velesaca, a junior here at Augsburg who is of Ecuadorian descent. South American culture definitely varies from country to country, but overall, it is not an aspect that other Latinxs are familiar with within the Latinx community in Minnesota. Our perspectives are all from a South American point of view, so we cannot speak on behalf of other underrepresented Latinxs such as Caribbean or Brazilian Latinxs.
Any sort of recognition of your culture can go a long way. ”I don’t see a lot of representation of my home country on campus. The only thing I see from my home country, Venezuela, is a flag and myself,” stated Sabino. Velesaca shared that meeting other Ecuadorians at Augsburg is helping him feel more at home. “Something as small as seeing the Ecuadorian flag during events made me feel welcome.” Both Sabino and Velesaca have shared that their native Spanish is not always accepted as valid Spanish here in Minnesota, since it is so different from Mexican Spanish. On campus, however, Velesaca has shared that his friends have learned his dialect of Spanish, since there is an understanding of these differences. Sabino has learned more Mexican phrases here in Minnesota, but we both struggle to understand when communicating sometimes. Overall, the representation of where you come from is not necessarily the responsibility of others, but making an effort to understand and validate your culture is.
This article was originally published in the October 4, 2019 issue.