LASO Gathering a Critical One

Danielle Martin & Lauren Salzman  Co-Editors In Chief As usual, kids flooded into gathering, some talking, most dancing. Everyone enthralled with Ian’s music choice, oblivious that it was in celebration of Hispanic Heritage month. From September 15th through October 15th, Latin tried to open its doors to Hispanic culture and with the help of LASO (Latin American Student Organization), we did. In years past, there had never been flags displayed in the lobby nor music played at gathering in honor of Hispanic Heritage month. Alex Moreno, one of the affinity group’s heads, explained that in years past, “LASO [had always] wanted to have a gathering…but since Hispanic Heritage Month is [at the beginning of the school year], the group could never organize in time.” However this year, LASO got the ball rolling early and implemented a change in leadership that helped in organizing the assembly. Justin Pita, Josue Cordon, Michelle Perez, and Alex Moreno are all heads of LASO, as opposed to years prior where two seniors traditionally filled the available lead roles. As we go through the day, some rarely notice the makeup of their classes, but Alex is “acutely aware that [she is sometimes] the only student of color in a class, team, group, etc., and it takes a toll on [her].” For Latin to acknowledge and more importantly celebrate a diversity of cultures sheds lights on the unique community here at Latin. “It also makes me proud of my background,” Alex said, “instead of having to hide it to fit in at school.” At the Hispanic Heritage Month assembly, I looked around and saw no student on his/her phone (a rare sight in the theater), and as kids rushed to their next class, the slam poem shown was widely discussed in a positive and thought-provoking manner. Below is the link to the video for anyone who missed it, or would like to watch it once more. I asked Alex what LASO’s intentions were in showing the video to the student body and she said that, “we knew immediately we wanted to show a video that concisely portrayed our identities. We struggled for a while and couldn’t really find something that rang true for our members.” In the end, the slam poem was chosen instead of an educational short film on stereotypes. Personally, that is the best decision LASO could have made. In our generation, where attention spans are ever dwindling, a slam poem not only is engaging, but triggers an emotional response that a video simply could not evoke. The disclaimer that was given prior to the video being shown came from a place of desire to have empathy and understanding. Alex explained that, “I knew if we didn’t include the disclaimer, students would not see the importance of the poem and either not pay attention or pay attention to the wrong things.” With the warning, students knew that this was something they should pay attention to. This was something they needed to give the utmost respect towards. After the video was shown, members of LASO shared what it meant to be Latina/Latino to each of them specifically. In addition to the stories about food, culture, and family, each member used different terminology. In response to this, I asked Alex what the definition of Hispanic meant, and what would qualify someone to fall under the Hispanic umbrella. She said, “I personally do not like the word Hispanic because by definition it is someone of Spanish descent…There’s a derogatory slur for Spanish speakers from Central or South America and my mom raised me with the belief that the slur stemmed from the world Hispanic.” Not all people feel this way, but those who do might prefer to use the term, Latin-X, like Alex does. “Latin-X is more true to my identity and I would define it as someone with an ethnicity that can be drawn back to Latin America,” explained Alex. In order to be a member of LASO, you need to either identify as Latin-X or be an ally. Although the affinity group does hold closed meetings, some are open to anyone and everyone. In her interview, Alex said that, “Latin students overall understand people’s identities but don’t really understand how to respect cultures without appropriating them.” Part of being culturally aware stems from being socially active. Immersing yourself in the education of the Latin-X culture through LASO is just one of the ways we can strive to push the boundaries on the cultural appropriation that Alex noticed.]]>