Club of the Week: Latinos Unidos

From left to right: Maria Morales-Kent, Valerie Mendez ’16, Miguel Sierra ’16, and Santiago Vargas-Garcia (Photo Credit: Olivia de Polo ’18)

Latinos Unidos is an active group of students led by Valerie, Miguel and Santi that hopes to bring Latino culture to Thacher and offer a sanctuary for its Latino students.

What do you want to do with the club this year?

Valerie: “Latinos unidos wants to take a different direction this year. We want to celebrate our culture obviously and share that with the campus, but we also want to be a space where other people that identify as Latino in this community come together and support each other. At times sharing experiences can be difficult when you are just a fraction of this campus. You don’t really share these common backgrounds with people around you because you were raised in a totally different environment with different traditions and ideals.”

Miguel: “In this role I aim to promote the Latin culture in community and to provide a foundation for other Latinos to fully integrate and thrive.​”

What are your own reasons for being personally involved in the club?

Valerie: “For me, sometimes being Latina on this campus can be difficult. It especially was so freshman year when I first came here. I found myself confused because I wasn’t in the same environment that I was used to, because I was used to being in an environment with people that talked like me, looked like me, that shared the same experiences as me. Being a part of Latinos Unidos, I want to help those that might be going through the same thing. I want to help them by telling them, ‘Hey you’re not alone, there’s a bunch of Latinos here.’ We talk about our experiences, about the times our abuelas used to make tacos for us and things like that. Coming together and being able to talk about that is really important to me.”

Miguel: “ I have always attended schools with predominantly white student and staff populations. As I’ve matured, I’ve had an increased interest and urge to connect with my cultural roots. Also, coming from San Pedro Sula (Honduras), currently the murder capital of the world, I want to start working on making a change in my nation, and at Thacher, I can educate the community on the struggles of my country and hopefully increase the students’ interest in Latin America.”

Why did you decide to apply for this leadership position last year?

Valerie: “Last year I wanted to apply because I had been involved in Latinos Unidos a lot since its creation when I was a sophomore. Back then, I helped out a lot with snack bars and was very involved with the heads. This year, I wanted to take that role a step further this year, be with Miguel and Santi and collaborate together and share all of our ideas. This is one of the leadership positions I was most excited to be a part of.”

What events do you have planned so far?

Valerie: “We did a snack bar for Latino heritage month and ordered tacos from La Fuente.We ordered the money to go to this organization in L.A. called Centro Latino for Literacy,  an organization that helps Latino families who are learning English as a second language with programs on site and different locations and online. Recently, Mrs. Kent took Miguel, Santi and I to this event at Occidental College called I am Latino in America, which had a bunch of Latino and Latina guest speakers. They talked about different issues faced by the Latino community in America. Not just about immigration but also education, health care, economy, housing, and Latinos in media.

“Miguel, Santi and I are talking about holding an event soon to give a debrief of what went down and talk about our ideas on these different issues. For Family Weekend, we held a Latino Family dinner.”

Miguel: “We have mostly worked on deciding the future of the club so far. We have decided to shift the club’s focus to becoming more of an affinity group than an appreciation club. So we are planning to host dinners, celebrate events like Dia de los Muertos and even have breakfasts with the kitchen and maintenance staff.”

Is there anything you’d really want us to mention about Latinos Unidos?

Valerie: “Last year and the year before, people just thought “Oh, hey, they give us food”. I want people to know that Latinos Unidos wants to help people learn about our culture and not just celebrate it.”

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