On Friday, more than 150 students, faculty, and professors from the Latinx community gathered in Greats Lakes Hall in Palmer Commons for the annual LatinXcellence event hosted by La Casa, a University of Michigan student organization founded to support and empower Latinx. community on campus. The event – the last of La Casa’s academic year – welcomed American culture professor William Calvo-Quirós as keynote speaker and celebrated the achievements of the Latinx community through various awards.
First-year LSA student Christian Loredo-Duran, Senior LatinXcellence Coordinator, spoke about LatinXcellence and what it means for the Latinx community on campus.
“(LatinXcellence) is an event in which we can celebrate, defend and support each other… and (celebrate) all the achievements that we have had,” said Loredo-Duran. “On a personal level (), but also as a community, like recognizing how we’ve been able to stand up for and support each other over the years.”
This year’s LatinXcellence theme was “Si puedes soñarlo, puedes hacerlo”, which translates to “if you can dream it, you can achieve it”. Loredo-Duran said it was important to the LatinXcellence planning committee that the theme of the event inspire the community and convey that dreams are possible, especially for those experiencing anxiety about returning to campus. after the pandemic.
“Just bringing this theme together and being able to get together one last time before we all leave for the summer was something that’s really what LatinXcellence is all about,” Loredo-Duran said. “By empowering students and making them realize that in the past year they have been able to overcome so many obstacles and truly be part of history here at the University of Michigan.”
LSA Junior Brandon De Martinez, member of the LatinXcellence Committee, described LatinXcellence as a multicultural event where attendees can sample food from different Latin American countries, such as Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, and Colombia. He also emphasized the importance of celebrating the Latinx community and Latinx cultures on campus as one of the goals of the event.
“We’re all going to come together as a Latinx community and celebrate our belonging to the Latinx community alongside food, people, community and celebrations,” De Martinez said.
“Si puedes soñarlo, puedes hacerlo” was also the title of Calvo-Quirós’ opening speech. Citing several civil rights movements throughout history, Calvo-Quirós discussed the role the dream plays in the progress of society.
“Dreaming of a world free from slavery and racism had been a practice of social change within many…civil rights movements,” Calvo-Quirós said. “Think, for example, of the women’s suffrage movement. Someone dreamed for a moment that it was possible, and it happened. The same with the LGBTQ community and gay marriage. So dreaming is an important way to imagine how the world can be.
In his speech, Calvo-Quirós spoke of “freedom gerrymandering”, which argues that freedom is not equally distributed among communities, as some groups have easier access to freedom than others. He said the recent anti-mask movement is an example of how the meaning of freedom is being reinterpreted to put members of minority communities, especially essential workers, at greater risk during the pandemic.
“Freedom is not free,” said Calvo-Quirós. “It takes constant effort to secure it. The violent struggle for the freedom (not to wear) masks, despite overwhelming medical evidence that it is necessary for the safety of society, is an example of how the concept of freedom has been redefined.
Calvo-Quirós said dreaming is more important than ever and encouraged his listeners to dream about what they envision for the world in order to change it for the better.
“Dreams are like the address we put in a GPS,” Calvo-Quirós said. “But remember, there will always be unforeseen obstacles, changes in the world. So the smartest thing we can do is to log in forever recalculate.
Freshman LSA student, LatinXcellence participant and La Casa member Andrea Gonzalez said she could relate her personal experiences to Calvo-Quirós’ speech.
“I feel like I can relate to him so much,” Gonzalez said. “Personally, I’m a student looking for the American dream…Being here at the University of Michigan was actually one of my dreams that I was able to achieve, and the (Calvo-Quirós) speech was been able to highlight how you can have a goal and a dream and you can achieve it.
This year’s LatinXcellence also recognized the achievements and contributions of members of the UM Latinx community. Laura Saavedra, director of the GEAR UP program at the university, received the Mildred Tirado “Lucha” award, which recognizes members of the Latinx community whose work has strengthened community on campus. Cesar Vargas-Leon, program manager for the intergroup relations program at the university, received the Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa “El Primero” award, which recognizes Latinx scholars who focus on Latinx narratives in their work. Finally, Esau Delgado, senior in social work, and Julianna Collado, senior in public policy, received the Yvonne Guadalupe Navarrete “Legacy” award, named after the first director of La Casa, which recognizes the contributions of leaders of the Latinx community on the campus.
Vargas-Leon encouraged LatinXcellence attendees to listen to their hearts as they decide where their future will take them.
“I want you to keep dreaming,” Vargas said. “Continue to take care of yourself, continue to invest in your mental well-being, and above all, continue to create your own life. Use your inner voice to continue to guide you because that is your voice from your heart. that will guide you in a direction you will go.
Daily staff reporter Tina Yu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org