Now on Campus: the Latinx/Hispanic Student Union
A campus student organization was formed in fall 2020 to support Mercersburg students who identify as members of the Hispanic or Latinx community. The Latinx/Hispanic Student Union is modeled after the school’s Black Student Union (which has been a fixture on campus since its founding in 1989). Like with the BSU, membership is open to any interested students; approximately 25 students have already taken part in meetings and activities during this unusual school year.
“We have two goals: to celebrate Latinx and Hispanic culture, and to raise awareness of what people in the Latinx and Hispanic communities have done for this country and the world,” says Matthew Tavarez ’22, who is a member of the organization’s cabinet and hatched the idea for the organization with faculty member John David Bennett when the two were discussing a possible commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Bennett, who has a Mexican mother and a Caucasian father, says he was honored to be asked to serve as the group’s faculty adviser. “In many ways, the students and employees we have on campus here represent a huge swath of the Latin American community in the U.S.,” he says. “For example, I don’t speak Spanish well because my mother [Rosa] really emphasized assimilation. But I carry a lot of small cultural slivers inside me; maybe I talk so fast because people typically speak Spanish so fast.
“Representation is important in our community. I hope I can help the students not just express themselves and promote their own cultures, but also help them feel the pride in and joy of their heritage. Hopefully if we do this well, we’ll create a sort of micro-immersion for people in the Mercersburg community to experience the beauty and intensity and pride of the Latin American culture.”
The group hopes to mark Hispanic Heritage Month with a campus celebration in September 2021, and to hold other events to showcase the broad range of cultural traditions that fall under the umbrella of the country’s Latinx and Hispanic communities.
“We want everyone to feel included,” says Tavarez, who is one of the students serving on the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee [for more, read Tavarez’s essay in the Spring 2021 issue]. “We should support each other, and getting more people to join in is an important next step. We’re also excited about bringing in Latinx and Hispanic alumni to talk to our community about their life experiences.”