Latinx Series

With the presence of Latinx students growing on campus, two new clubs are working to spark fresh conversations

Daily Orange File Illustration

When Latinx students at Syracuse University didn’t see themselves represented in student organizations, they took matters into their own hands.

Now, the newly formed Dominican Student Association and Xicanxs Empowering Xicanxs are working to promote all-inclusive student activism, cultural awareness and civic engagement.

During his freshman year, Angel Guerrero was unable to find a student organization he identified with. And as he got to know the Syracuse University community, he started to recognize its need for a Dominican group.

During the summer of 2016, Guerrero put together a constitution for the Dominican Student Association. He spent last year getting the organization off the ground. Once it became an official student organization, Guerrero increased its popularity with DSA plantain raffles.

Guerrero, now a senior aerospace engineering major, emphasizes Latinx history in DSA.

“Anyone interested can learn from our culture and find some resemblance in their culture as well,” he said.

Silvio Torres-Saillant, an English professor who is also Dominican, serves as the DSA’s faculty advisor. He supports the organization doing things that “increase the knowledge of the Dominican experience.”

Guerrero and Torres-Saillant said students of all ethnic backgrounds can find parallels with Dominican culture in their own lives. DSA promotes civic engagement, cultural awareness and volunteerism because they are universal values, Guerrero said.

“Advocating for Dominicans is like advocating for human beings, period,” Torres-Saillant said. “So whatever other people want and deserve, we just make sure that Dominicans get it too.”

This Saturday, the DSA will host a guided civic engagement workshop from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Schine Student Center 304ABC.

Connie Flores’ path to creating Xicanxs Empowering Xicanxs was similar to Guerroro’s. During the 2013-14 academic year, Flores said a ten-person Mexican student organization existed, but was inactive between spring 2014 and fall 2016.

Flores, a senior communications design major, reached out to some friends to rekindle these efforts.

“We wanted to put our abilities together to see what we could create,” Flores said.

Flores views being Mexican as a political consciousness, and emphasizes that this vision can help make group discussions inclusive of all students, especially other Latinx cultures. It allows Mexican-Americans to embrace their heritage while working to dismantle oppressive institutions.

“We celebrate our culture a lot, but we also criticize our nationalism and what that has done to certain groups within our community,” said Luz Perez, current XEX president and sophomore in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management.

Flores helped create the visual identity that XEX currently uses, which contrasts indigenous with American symbols. The words “Xicanxs Empowering Xicanxs” are displayed in a typeface made to resemble the American flag, with a face from the center of the Aztec calendar.

This identity reflects the original intentions of XEX, which became official last spring. The first X in Xicanx is modeled after Malcolm X’s symbolic usage — it represented the activist’s true heritage being a mystery, and Xicanx students also cannot trace their roots.

Both groups encourage students of all identities to participate in their efforts. At XEX’s general body meeting on Thursday, group members expressed solidarity with those affected by President Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. A vote was taken on upcoming XEX initiatives to show community support.

“We are cautious of how we go about tackling issues because we don’t want to force people to speak about something that may be hard to speak about,” Perez said. “Some actions will be taking place within the next few months, through collaboration with other organizations and initiatives that we take ourselves.”

Perez encourages others to listen to the group’s messages.

“We don’t come here to change the world,” Torres-Saillant said. “You form a student organization to change that piece of the world which is changeable in your particular environment.”

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