Mi Gente, the University's largest undergraduate Latinx organization, recently selected sophomore Alejandra Aguilar and junior Norma De Jesus as its co-presidents for next year. The Chronicle sat down with Aguilar and De Jesus to discuss activism and outreach as well as the issues facing Latinx students at Duke.
The Chronicle: What types of events and activities will Mi Gente be looking forward to next year?
Norma De Jesus: Hispanic Heritage Month! We have begun working on our future events. We are just very excited to share our culture to the Duke community at large. We just want to make sure that this year is very successful with lots of good events that people can attend and increase exposure to Latinx culture.
Alejandra Aguilar: We are reaching out to different Latinx countries.
Norma De Jesus: This is where we are going to address the issue of representation and be more representative of other Latin American cultures.
Alejandra Aguilar: We really want to start collaborating with a lot of Latinx groups on campus and off campus.
TC: How is Mi Gente working with non-Mexican Latinx students?
NDJ: We are very receptive to feedback. With regards to issues such as those, we want to make sure that identities that don't necessarily feel like they fit the stereotypical Latinx identity feel more included, because at the end of the day there is no actual one homogenous Latinx person. We are all different, and we all have our different cultural groups. So what we have done in the past is made sure that whenever we had different events, food is represented, because food is also something that is very specific to these Latin American countries.
AA: At least in our executive board this year, we do have more of a mix. We do have Mexican, Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian, Cuban, people that grew up with those cultures. I think that having them gives us a lot of input in what they want. And then reaching out to the general body members because this year I feel we are trying to push for a broader reach of the Latinx community.
TC: What issues do you anticipate Mi Gente facing in the future?
AA: The biggest one that I anticipate is that there will be a larger Latinx first-year community as well as undocumented students. We want to make sure that they have the resources that they need to be successful here at Duke.
TC: In the past, Mi Gente has been politically active on campus. A couple of years ago, the group withdrew support from Latino Student Recruitment Weekend until a list of demands were met. How political will your leadership be?
AA: I think we will be as political as we need to be for the justice of the Latinx community and also non-Latinx communities who go through injustices on campus and in the Durham community.
NDJ: As a cultural community, we must advocate for the underrepresented, and we need to make sure that all ethnic students feel comfortable at Duke. And if it means taking a political stance on specific issues on campus, then it's definitely something that we 100 percent support.
TC: Are there any particular events or causes that you are thinking of?
NDJ: To be honest, we can't really anticipate what will happen in the future. But we have shown our solidarity with major movements that have to do with issues that affect marginalized identities. So I think that should the need arise, we would definitely be there to show our support and to express solidarity.
TC: What about current movements like the Asian American Studies Working Group?
AA: For some of those issues, the current co-presidents and vice presidents have been reaching out and letting them know that if they do need us, we can help with solidarity.
TC: What kinds of relationships will you have with the administration?
NDJ: We want to continue to foster more transparency. We definitely want to make sure that we're on the same page when it comes to important issues.
AA: We want to keep that openness and honesty with each other, as well as keeping each other up to date. When something does happen, there's an update and that we continue communication with each other.