Highlighting Hispanic Heritage Month

As Hispanic Heritage Month begins on the 15th, we wanted to take a look at language, experiences, and allyship for Hispanic, Latina, and Chicana people in higher education. La Casa’s website has more information about things happening on campus related to this Month!

Reflect: What are the implications of the language we use?

The delineation between the terms Hispanic and Latino is a complex conversation about culture and heritage. Yara Simón defined “Hispanic” as a federal category for people with language and culture descending from Spain; “Latino/a” recognizes heritage from Latin America and parts of the Caribbean, beyond the history of Spanish colonization. Others, such as Leo Guerra Tezcatlipoca, use terms like Chicano/a to resist the homogenization of the cultural diversity in Latin America. An important variation one might see is when an –x, -e, or -@ replaces the end letter, a move to be more inclusive of genders beyond the linguistic binary (e.g., Latinx, Latine, or Latin@). Allies must always respect how one identifies, so listen to the language someone uses (especially to others like you) and follow their lead.

Learn: Latina Experiences in Higher Education

Latina faculty and staff contribute to their institutions in a variety of ways, such as supporting Latinx students by serving as examples of success; however, they are not always given the resources to be successful. Tenure can be like a “moving target” for Latina faculty, where they feel pressured to be twice as productive as white faculty. Latina faculty supervivencia (survivance) buffers isolating environments to promote thriving, including collaborative relationships that keep them culturally connected. Latina faculty and staff are often also tokenized by their institution, externally promoting diversity without receiving support for institutional exclusion. Cultural capital, personal motivation, and the presence of supportive people (like family) are integral Latina undergraduate students’ success, yet campus environments are significant barriers to success and thriving. Latinas face persistent bias, including expectations of “fiery” personality, fetishization, rampant cultural appropriation, care-taker stereotypes, and more. This is particularly true in STEM, where Latina students struggle to feel like they belong, despite excelling academically and creating their own community.

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