More than 100 students shook their hips to merengue tunes at La Casa Cultural on Friday night at the inaugural event of the Dominican Students Association.
The DSA is one of three new Latino student groups formed this fall by students dissatisfied with a previous lack of Dominican and Cuban representation on campus, said Rosalinda Garcia, assistant dean and director of the Latino Cultural Center. The Cuban-American Undergraduate Students Association and a new Dominican service organization called “Yspaniola” were also created this fall, although the latter is not yet registered with the Yale College Dean’s Office.
Some Latin American minority populations feel invisible at times, Garcia said, because the Latino community at Yale is composed primarily of Puerto Ricans and Mexican-Americans. She said these new organizations will provide opportunities for visibility and support on campus.
“For so many years when people have thought of Latinos on campus they think of Puerto Ricans or Mexicans, [but] the Latino community is so diverse,” she said. “Just knowing that there are others like you who understand your culture … is very comforting.”
CAUSA Vice President Hector Sueiro ’08 said a certain amount of national pride goes along with the formation of these new groups, but not to the detriment of the Latino community, because the groups will work together and support each other.
DSA President Jamil Abreu ’07 said the group, which is currently composed of about 15 undergraduates, aims to promote Dominican culture at Yale and recruit Dominican students to the University. Organization members plan to visit high schools in New Haven and New York City to speak to Dominican students about applying to Yale and other universities.
“There are definitely a lot of Dominican students who don’t necessarily have the resources and information … to apply to Ivy League schools,” Abreu said. “We want to get the word out there … in order to get more culturally in-touch Dominicans in higher education.”
Abreu said the group will draw on the resources provided by established Dominican student groups on other college campuses, including Cornell’s 10-year-old Dominican organization, called “Quisqueya.”
Quisqueya co-President Sasha Mercedes said she is excited about the new group at Yale because it marks another tangible achievement for Dominican students.
“There are not a lot of [Dominicans] in higher education,” she said. “Each club is formed for the betterment of our people and the community that we are part of.”
The newly formed CAUSA plans to promote Cuban culture and history, but the creators want to distance themselves from the complicated political situation surrounding the country, Sueiro said. The group also hopes to attract Cubans and Cuban-Americans to Yale, which Sueiro said can be an isolating place for new Cuban students.
“The Cuban students get here and say, ‘Wow, I’m the only Cuban here,'” Sueiro said. “We want to provide some place were Cuban students can feel at home.”
Sueiro said Yale will now be more competitive for prospective Cuban students with other Ivy League schools, such as Harvard and Princeton, that have Cuban student groups.
“[CAUSA] is a group that is present in a lot of universities,” he said. “We felt like Yale was behind in not having a Cuban students organization.”
The other new Dominican group, Yspaniola, is a community-service group focused on organizing trips to the Dominican Republic over winter and spring breaks, President Luis Vasquez ’07 said. Currently the group is organizing a service trip to the country for 10 Yale students in December. The group also plans to disseminate information to students about Dominican social issues, especially concerning Haitian migrant workers in the Dominican Republic, Vasquez said.
Yspaniola was inspired by a service trip last spring break to the Dominican Republic during which group founders worked in an area inhabited largely by Haitian immigrants, he said.
“We began to forge a relationship with the community, [and] we’ve been in frequent contact with not just the elders, but the youth,” Vasquez said.