By James Fagan, Photojournalist
A few weeks ago a new organization was formed here at the USM. This new organization is the Latinx Student Alliance. According to the organizations president, Maria Escobar, the goal of the Latinx Student Alliance is “to bring together a community of students together who are interested in learning more about a different culture.” The Latinx Student Alliance meets on Thursdays at 6 p.m. in the Well on the Gorham Campus, however this meeting time is subject to change. The organization is still new, so they have yet to announce any events they’ll be hosting. But that doesn’t mean the organization isn’t making a difference for students or giving students a place of belonging.
Latinx is a term used to describe people of full or partial origin or ancestry of a country or countries where Spanish or Portuguese is the dominant language. It’s a gender neutral term that takes the place of ‘Latina’ or ‘Latino’ in order to be all inclusive of anyone of Latin American cultural or racial identity. It’s the goal of having a place of belonging for students of this identity that powers the Latinx Student Alliance.
The group invites everyone to learn about and become a member of the organization, where they talk about the various backgrounds of each member. The group wants to influence students to be proud of their roots and to feel included in everything that happens at USM. They feel that raising awareness about the cultural diversity here on campus is extremely important. Eventually the Latinx Student Alliance wants to be an organization where even people who are simply interested in learning Spanish can come and talk to the members of the organization to learn about their language and their culture.
The Latinx Student Alliance encourages everyone to come join the organization and they feel that the more people who join, the better the organization will be. Everyone, regardless of background who is interested in learning about and appreciating different cultures is invited to join. The group wants students to be the voice of the organization, so just by having students talk about their experiences surrounding their background, their goal of raising awareness about cultural diversity at USM will be met.
Escobar shared some of her story about moving to Maine as a Latinx student and how those experiences helped in the making of the organization. “As a transfer student from Miami, where everyone is practically Spanish, it was very hard for me to get used to the life in Maine. My first weeks of school were not the best, I felt very different coming to a different state where not a lot of Latinos lived.” Speaking Spanish in Maine was not something Escobar felt comfortable doing freely. “I felt very weird talking in Spanish because others would just look at me differently,” Escobar said. “Some were interested in my language, but others were not.” Having a community where she could share her experiences, find others with similar experiences and have a sense of belonging is something Escobar hoped for. “I hope there was more of a community of Latinos where I could feel like I belonged,” Escobar said. “These feelings influenced the creation of the [Latinx] organization and it’s actually incredible to see the number of students that have actually felt like that.” The Latinx Student Alliance wants to make sure that no student at USM feels like that, and that they have a place where they can talk about their roots and feel like they belong.
The Latinx Student Alliance hopes to be a great influence for the entirety of the school. They hope to bring the awareness of Latinx people and experiences that will enrich the community. The Latinx Student Alliance hopes to not only bring awareness to current students, but also to upcoming students as well. While the group hopes to enrich the community at USM as a whole, it also hopes to help Latinx people who have both lived in Maine for their whole lives, as well as students who are new to Maine. The group also hopes to bring in students who are not Latinx to have them talk about these issues as well.
Overall, the Latinx Student Alliance hopes to help Latinx students with issues they have and to introduce students who are not Latinx to these issues in order to make a more positive environment here at USM. This group takes the university one step closer to living up to its name: the university of everyone.