In the hopes of further unifying Yale’s Latinx community, six freshmen have founded a Latino Men’s Union.
Students held a launch event in La Casa Cultural last month to generate interest in the fledgling organization. The union, whose mission is to create a stronger bond both among male Latinos and in the greater Latinx campus community, was the brainchild of Alfredo Calvo ’20, Cristobal Gonzalez ’20, Ivan Lima-Bravo ’20, Gabriel Perez ’20, Brandon Tejada ’20 and Jonathan Trujillo ’. Less than a month after its founding, the group already has 29 members, evenly spread throughout all four class years.
Trujillo told the News said that in the last 10 to 15 years, Yale’s Latinx population grew by leaps and bounds, as more Latinx students were admitted to the College. Trujillo said he was inspired to create the union after noticing that the Latinx community lacked many of the affiliated groups, like the Black Men’s Union, that other Yale cultural centers possess.
“I come from the South Bronx, which is highly populated with minority races,” Tejada said. “Personally, coming to Yale, I thought there would be stronger connections within the Latinx community.”
Tejada added that the lack of cohesion and unity among Latino students inspired him to co-found the Latino Men’s Union.
Because the founders of the Union are all freshmen, Tejada said their aim over the next three years is to establish a strong foundation and base that will outlast the member’s careers as undergraduate students at Yale.
According to the launch event’s Facebook page, “every member will uphold the values of unity, acceptance, community and leadership.” During its weekly Sunday brunch meetings, the union discusses issues ranging from food and haircuts, to resisting the “macho-masculinity” prevalent in Hispanic culture.
“I just think that solidarity is a beautiful thing,” Lima-Bravo said. “I didn’t know many Hispanic people who identified as Hispanic growing up, and to go to brunches and see three to four different faces who identify as Hispanic every time is a really cool feeling. It’s something I really look forward to.”
Throughout the spring semester, the group of six freshmen met weekly over brunch to discuss the union while holding professional development workshops and community outreach events. Through outreach, the group seeks to establish a reputation on campus and in the New Haven community. The union’s broader mission, in addition to uniting Latinos on campus, is to give Latino students an emotional and academic support structure. The union has also reached out to Yale alumni with the goal of advertising the new group and finding a guest speaker before the end of the semester.
“We felt that the Latinos in the United States have a very unique perspective and set of experiences,” Trujillo added. “We wanted to bring the Latinos on campus close to one another and discuss the issues that impact the community.”
Trujillo said that in general, while the situation for Latinos has improved, American Latinos have a very low high school graduation rate, with Latino men dropping out in higher numbers. And when it comes to the New Haven, the union views itself in a community-service role as well.
“It would be really powerful to go into Hispanic neighborhoods like Fair Haven,” Trujillo said. “We’d go with a group of Latino men to inner-city schools and talk to high schoolers and middle schoolers, do volunteer service and tutoring, so the students have a group of Latino men that they see taking education seriously.”
The founding members plan to make the union an official, funded student organization by the fall semester, which would give incoming freshmen a path into Yale’s Latinx community. La Casa is able to provide small amounts of funding to the group, but since the Latino Men’s Union was formed after the new organization deadline, the union will have to wait until next semester for more substantial aid from La Casa.
The union, which is looking for anyone, regardless of how strongly they identify as Latinx, will serve as a segue for students who would like to learn more about their culture.
“From my personal experience growing up in Houston, there is a strong push for especially Latino boys to focus on being providers for their families,” Trujillo said. “I’ve had friends pushed out of focusing on school, and instead, placing attention on getting a job.”
He noted that while these trends stem from both poverty and culture, it is important for Latino boys to have a role model and to realize that “someone like me can make it to a place like Yale.”
Roughly 10 percent of the undergraduate body in 2015 identified as Hispanic, according to Yale’s Office of Institutional Research.