Blotches of paint filled an empty canvas on Wednesday afternoon in honor of Latin Heritage Month, with each stroke illustrating how the Ramapo College community defines what it means to be LatinX in America.
“No one has to speak on what they think this is. It’s a drawing and everyone can perceive it in their own way,” said Niocelys Guzman, a junior nursing major and president of Chi Upsilon Sigma.
Committed to educating, elevating and empowering Latinas, Chi Upsilon Sigma’s Ramapo chapter was founded in 2014 and continues to uphold the values of its founders. Representing all genders and identities at its renamed LatinXpression event, the sorority encouraged students, faculty and staff to push past prevalent stereotypes and contemplate the true meaning behind being LatinX through an artistic form of expression.
“There are different ways to define us. Because of our culture, we are rich with our music and food so we are very prideful about that,” said Lenin Veras, senior. “I’m from the Dominican Republic and thinking back to my culture, we are always living through the culture and representing. Whether it’s in the way we talk, in the way we walk, in the way we sing or even in the music we listen to. I would define Latino through our way of living.”
While the event revolved around defining the identity of a LatinX, it also pushed for the Ramapo College community to become more accepting of different cultures.
“The American culture is a melting pot and we need to embrace every culture, whether it’s Spanish, Japanese or Italian,” said freshman Andraya Annucci. “Everyone should have the right to love who they are and love their roots without being discriminated against.”
By empowering both Latinos and non-Latinos to share their point of views, Chi Upsilon Sigma, like most other multicultural groups on campus, set the stage for a dialogue against stereotypes.
“There are a lot of stereotypes that go around, especially on campuses. This is a predominantly white school and since there is not enough of us, they really don’t know what we do or who we are,” said Guzman. “That’s what Chi Upsilon Sigma and other sororities and fraternities are trying to expand upon. We’re trying to educate people on what we are, what we do and our culture.”
Drawings on the canvas, including musical notes and flags of various countries, highlighted the diversity and reality of the LatinX culture, heavily contrasting with the conventional image perpetuated by lack of awareness. Participating students seemed confident in Ramapo’s ability to defy these stereotypes that depict Latinos as loud, uneducated drug dealers by continuing programming such as LatinXpression.
“Looking at the times we are in now, some people would say that racism is dead. But it is pretty evident in the news that we see it isn’t. You have to battle this little by little, winning every little battle,” said Veras. “One way is to start by educating people so that they know better and know going into the future what is instead of what they thought or were told through media or the internet.”
As an open forum for students to express their thoughts, this artistic approach to answering the essential question of what it means to be LatinX in the United States calls for more programming tailored to educating and making people aware of the diversity not just within this culture but within all cultures around the world.
“I painted a flower because this is budding. This spreading of awareness is a bud and I hope that one day we will get enough people aware that the flower will bloom beautifully,” said Annucci.