This is part two in a series of op-eds by members of Harvard student groups welcoming the Class of 2021 to campus.
It’s difficult to find the right words to explain what it’s like to be a Latinx student at Harvard. If we had to pick just one, “complicated” might be the word.
For many of you, coming to Harvard means leaving tight knit families held together by a combination of siblings, parents, tios, tias, grandparents, and cousins. It means it’ll be a few months before you can once again sit with them at your favorite restaurant. And you might miss a few birthdays, carne asadas, cook outs, Latinx music, and parties with pupusas, tamales, fresh tacos, and ceviche.
Some of us grew up in primarily Latinx communities, where classmates and friends looked like us. Some of us were one of a handful of Latinx students at our high school. At home, people might have spoken Spanish, English, Portuguese, or a sweet combination of these. Our politics lay scattered across a wide spectrum. Your citizenship statuses will be different and sometimes complex.
These mixed, seemingly contradictory pieces come together to form your Latinidad. You are Latinx, but that means different things for each of you.
When you get to campus, you’ll grapple with this identity. You’ll deal with what it means to be unlike so many of your peers, to come from a wildly different background, and to look at the world from different perspectives. It may be difficult. You might miss home; you might miss your communities. It will not always be easy, but you will thrive even if this institution was not built for you.
It may take you a while and there will be bumps in the road, but you will learn to navigate this place. There are walls to be broken down and bridges to be built, but you will eventually find your path. Luckily, if you take a panorama of the Latinx familia at Harvard, you will find the many colors, stories, and struggles that make us who we are. There are thousands of other Latinx Harvard students who have trekked ahead of you.
The hard work you’ve put into gaining admission will be your strength. It’s the same strength, or fuerza, your family members embodied as they worked countless hours, in the courtroom, the hospital, the restaurant, the supermarket, the classroom, the office, at home, and anywhere else, to provide for you. Though we come from different backgrounds, our strength and a desire to do better for ourselves is our strength—our Fuerza Latinx.
This Fuerza Latinx is noticeable among our community that has people helping out their families back home, fighting for social change, pursuing medical careers, doing original research, learning how to write music, and so much more. You might have heard the slogans “Si Se Puede” or “Adelante” before, and you will hear them again. You can inspire change and can open this institution to more Latinx students. Change is gradual, but it does come.
Fuerza Latina, Latinas Unidas, The Latino Men’s Collective, Concilio Latino, and other Latinx organizations are continuously working on paving a path forward, together. By promoting community within and amongst our groups, we hope a common purpose becomes self-evident—the creation of a community where our differences become secondary, if not our strength, as we seek a greater purpose of unity and the growth of our family.
Our family, like any family, is a tree—although we have many branches that grow in different directions, each branch shares the same root, and those roots are our heritage. We invite you to join us in making these branches grow together, to make our family bigger and stronger, so that our community can last and benefit ourselves and our posterity. Your mere presence at this university is revolutionary, and “la lucha sigue,” the fight continues.
We are so glad to welcome you into these gleaming iron gates.
Edgar Gonzalez Jr. ’19, president of the Latino Men’s Collective, is a Government concentrator in Cabot House. Anshi Moreno Jimenez, president of Latina Unidas, is a social studies concentrator in Currier House. Ruben E. Reyes Jr., a Crimson editorial chair and co-chair of Concilio Latino, is a History and Literature concentrator in Leverett House. They write on behalf of Latinas Unidas, Fuerza Latina, the Latino Men’s Collective, and Concilio Latino.
Latino Students Issue Demands to Administrators
The Forgotten OnesWe come up with answers for the problems we’ve diagnosed in the Latinx community. In our heads, we’re doing God’s work but, suddenly, the realization that we are the select few—the glowing brown chosen ones—comes crashing down on us. There’s no purpose in learning or scheming or brainstorming the best ways to help your community if you run so far away from them in order to do so.
Navigating Járvar UniversityI am tired of being overcome with emotion when, yet again, the administration refuses to acknowledge that my experiences are different because I come from an intersectionally marginalized background, and that no, we are not all homogenous privileged Harvard students.
Not Latinx EnoughThose that seek to police or undermine this must be ignored because a Latinx identity is not something that fits into a box or a neat list of descriptors.
Our Cultures Are Not at Your ServiceSupport us first. Then ask us to introduce you to our worlds.