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The rendition of “Tu, Solo, Tu” performed by Harvard’s own Mariachi Veritas that could be heard wafting out of Lowell Lecture Hall last weekend was not the only beautiful sound emanating from Presencia Latina. The sound of the campus’ diverse cultural groups coming together to showcase their diverse and rich cultural heritages resonated from both the presenters and the organizers. This culminating event was a fitting end to April’s successful Latino Awareness Month.
“Presencia Latina,” sponsored by RAZA, FUERZA and Concilio Latino, had landmark value not only because of its role in gathering the Harvard Latino community, but also because it was the result of a level of coordination and common purpose among the groups that is encouraging for more future success. This increased focus on unity and common vision for future action has the potential to increase the political efficacy and expand the Latino presence on campus.
Overcoming divisions that have hampered efforts at coordination in the past, the show was a testament to a strong group of leaders who are demonstrating a refreshing commitment to community-building among Latino groups at Harvard. Projects like “Presencia” and the upcoming Latino guide to life at Harvard have been made possible by this more concerted effort to pool the groups’s collective resources and talents for the benefit of the entire community. And in the process of working together, the various nationalities and cultures encapsulated by the label ‘Latino’ can get a better understanding of one another’s particular traditions and beliefs.
Now is the perfect time to expand on past efforts. Latinos have become the largest and fastest growing minority group in America, and Admissions Office reports show that the composition of students admitted to Harvard grew from 7.8 percent Latino last year to 8.8 percent this spring. While this increase is encouraging, these numbers still trail behind the representation of other minority groups on campus. Not only should groups like the University Minority Recruitment Program get the support they need to redouble their outreach effort to convince more top Latino students to apply to Harvard, the admissions office should continue to provide focused programming to ensure that as many admitted students as possible choose to matriculate here. When the final admissions data is released later this week, we hope these efforts will have result in a higher Latino yield for this coming year.
Today, Cinco de Mayo, signals the close of the joint effort at Latino Awareness Month programming; the level of commitment organization and proactive outreach of this past month is a sure sign that these groups will be able to maintain this momentum throughout the year. Initiatives like “Presencia” send a clear message that the strength and vibrance of Harvard’s Latino community is increasing, to the benefit of both the groups’ members and Harvard as a whole.
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