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‘La Vida’ To Be First Latino Student Guide

By Elizabeth S. Widdicombe, Contributing Writer

Students seeking that special spice for a down-home Mexican dish or searching for a Boston club pulsing with a good Latin beat will soon have a new book full of insights into La Vida at Harvard.

Organizers hope that the first-ever guide for Latino students and others interested in Latin American culture will hit the shelves next October.

The guide will include listings of Harvard organizations and resources, Boston-area institutions and cultural events, a history of Latinos at Harvard, statistics on faculty of Hispanic background and even essays and poems.

A subcommittee of Fuerza Latina, working with other Latino student groups and other interested volunteers, will be producing the guide.

“Our main goal is to make people aware of the diversity of Latin American culture here at Harvard and in general,” said Leyla R. Bravo ’05, who is heading up the project.

Bravo added that researchers for the guide would try to find “little things that make people feel more at home,” such as authentic Cuban restaurants and hair salons that cater to Latino clients.

“When I came to Harvard, there was no one place I could turn for all of the information that would be relevant,” said Wendy Caceres ’03, president of Fuerza Latina.

Caceres said that while the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies provides academic resources such as lists of classes, “no single, comprehensive review” exists covering the non-academic parts of Harvard life.

“For example, if you look in the Unoffical Guide, there’s no reference to restaurants that play Spanish music,” Caceres said. “Or if you want to cook Latin American food, you need to know where to go for certain ingredients.”

Bravo said she got the idea for the guide at a Harvard Foundation grant meeting, when a student proposed The Black Guide to Life at Harvard, which came out earlier this month.

“I thought, wow, why don’t we have something like that?” Bravo said.

When the board of Fuerza Latina showed support for the guide, Bravo volunteered to head the project.

Fuerza Latina has enlisted the support of other Latino groups at Harvard, such as Concilio Latino, an umbrella organization of Latin-American groups.

Many Latinos at Harvard grew up in areas that have large Latino populations, such as New York City and California, and find the transition to Cambridge life difficult, according to RAZA President Priscilla J. Orta ’05.

And, Orta said, the Unofficial Guide doesn’t cover many of the places where she and others go to buy clothes, music and food.

“I think the Guide is something that would make life easier for Latino students right away,” Orta said.

While funding for the project has not yet been finalized, Bravo said they hope to pursue grants from the Harvard Foundation or the David Rockefeller Center, in addition to making revenue through selling ads.

The guide’s planners will hold a meeting at 5:30 p.m. in Lowell Lecture Hall, room B-12, to recruit people interested in assisting with the guide.

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