In spite of the many cultural organizations at Yale, Luis Vasquez ’07 said he felt left out when he arrived on campus last fall. Vasquez, who is Dominican, said he did not feel represented by La Casa Cultural, whose two largest student-run organizations — MEChA and Despierta Boricua — represent primarily Mexican and Puerto Rican students.
“Notoriously at Yale, if you’re not Mexican or Puerto Rican, there’s nothing for you,” Vasquez said. “You’re in ethnic limbo.”
Now, with the formation of a new pan-Latino organization called Alianza — which means “Alliance” in Spanish — La Casa is about to open its doors to Latinos on campus who had previously felt bereft of a “niche” in the Latino community, Irma Mejia ’06 said.
“Many Latinos on campus have wanted to get involved with La Casa Cultural but haven’t for several different reasons: they don’t know how; their Spanish isn’t perfect; they don’t think they can if they weren’t involved as freshmen; the existing Latino groups may not fill their needs; the list goes on,” she said in an e-mail.
Alianza organizers, who hosted an inaugural study break last Thursday, hope to provide a platform to accommodate those students, as well as students who are simply “interested in Latin American food and culture,” Alianza organizer Beatrice Amaya ’06 said.
Organizers said they formed the group in response to a growing demand for a pan-Latino organization on campus. They said the interest intensified after La Casa’s celebration of Dominican independence last month — its first non-Mexican, non-Puerto Rican event.
Shelly Rivas ’06, a Dominican who recently became a student coordinator at La Casa, said the celebration had a profound effect on her. She said the attendance of all the active Latinos on campus motivated her to write an e-mail to Rosalinda Garcia, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Latino and Native American cultural houses, “expressing all my insecurities because I didn’t belong to a group.”
Rivas said Garcia encouraged her to be proactive, and Rivas and a group of students who shared her sentiments held several meetings in which they discussed the creation of Alianza, including its mission, structure, and name, which has evolved from La Alianza to simply Alianza because organizers thought a completely Spanish name might alienate non-Spanish speaking students, Amaya said.
Amaya and Rivas worked with Derek Morales ’05 and Ricardo Sandoval ’06 to advertise and organize Alianza’s study break, which was catered by El Caribe Restaurant. Amaya said the event was a success, attracting a diverse crowd of almost 30 students.
“I saw a whole new crowd [at the study break],” she said. “People I never would have imagined to go to La Casa were there.”
Amaya said the group hopes to be very active next year at La Casa, where she said it will host conventional meetings, study groups, weekly or bi-weekly dinners, and trips to cities such as New York. But for now, the group is concentrating its efforts on building a strong foundation for the future — Alianza plans to advertise itself at the Bulldog Days activities bazaar next week, where it will try to recruit freshmen, Amaya said.
With reading week rapidly approaching, Amaya said Alianza’s activities for the remainder of the semester will be modest, consisting of study breaks and a dance to be held sometime during reading week.
While Alianza is primarily a social club, Rivas said its mission will expand and develop as the group establishes itself as part of Yale’s cultural community.
In the meantime, Vasquez said he is glad the group provides “something for the rest of us.”
“Hopefully [Alianza] will become a tradition, as strong as MEChA and Despierta Boricua,” he said.