Mi Gente, Duke’s largest undergraduate Latinx organization, selected sophomores Sujeiry Jimenez​​ and Ana Ramirez as its co-presidents for the 2018-2019 academic year. The Chronicle spoke with Jimenez and Ramirez to discuss their plans to create a sense of community among Latinx students on campus, as well as their ongoing partnership with the student group Define American. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

The Chronicle: What types of events and activities does Mi Gente have planned for the start of next year?

Sujeiry Jimenez​​: We start in September because it’s Latinx heritage month, [which] starts September 15 and goes until October 15. Throughout [the month], we host a series of events that are based on building our own Mi Gente community, including bringing in speakers and having fun things to do to appreciate our own cultures. [We] try to reach out and let the Duke community know that we are here on campus, and that we want them to be a part of it.

TC: Have you met any of the Latinx incoming first-years? What will Mi Gente do to engage with the new class once they arrive on campus?

SJ: I was involved with [Latino Student Recruitment Weekend] planning this year. I’ve noticed that you can never really predict what the incoming Latinx class will be like because it changes every year. My class of Latinx people was very different from the [current first-year] class. You never really know what you’re going to get, so we’re just excited about having Latinx people on campus.

Ana Ramirez: I think one of the most important things to get first-years involved is showing them that we are an organization that they can work with. I know that our year, there wasn’t much of a Latino community within our class, and to this day, there are very few sophomores who are involved. Whereas with the [current first-year] class, we did a good job of showing them that they have so many opportunities to grow and to give back to the community, and now there are so many first-years who are involved with Mi Gente. We want to continue that [next year].

TC: What issues do you anticipate Mi Gente facing next year?

AR: One of the issues that comes to mind is working with the undocumented and documented community. For that, we will probably partner with Define American, which is the undocumented community ally group…We will definitely be strong supporters of [Define American]. We try to be as supportive as we possibly can. 

SJ: I feel that it’s always really important for Mi Gente to create safe space[s] for the Latinx community on campus. We can’t predict what the political sphere is going to be like next year. For example, this past year with the hurricane in Puerto Rico, we really wanted to create a space for Puerto Rican students on campus to be able to feel [comfortable] in their own space…[We] want to create a safe space on campus for Latinx students for whatever may be happening in their home countries. We want them to know that they have a space with us.

AR: [We are also] a platform. Mi Gente is an established organization on campus, and we have the resources if students want to create an event to help something that is happening…If you want to plan an event, host a rally or have a fundraiser, we have the connections to make that happen.

TC: Could you explain what exactly is Mi Gente’s relationship with Define American?

AR: This past year, I was co-president and founder of Define American…When [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] was rescinded, there was no support group. The administration reached out to us for the logistics, but within the students, there was no community…We wanted to provide a safe space and a platform for [undocumented students], so we created Define American.

We’ve worked so closely with Mi Gente. When we weren’t an official organization, Mi Gente helped us logistically establish it. They helped us fundraise to travel to Washington D.C.

TC: Duke Dining recently held a taste-test for the new Latin American venue in the Brodhead Center, and some members of Mi Gente were invited. Could you comment on that? 

SJ: I attended the tasting…We were asked what kinds of foods should be represented. We said that we wanted a lot of Latin America to be represented—whether it be the Caribbean, South America, Central America and Mexico. When we went to the food tasting, I was surprised. [The food] was better than I expected. They had arepas, empanadas, ceviche and Peruvian chicken. It was very representative of a lot of cultures.

AR: That's difficult to do. You don’t see a Latin American restaurant, you see an Argentinean restaurant and a Mexican restaurant. So it’s a challenge, but it’s important.

SJ: I’m excited to see how it's going to work.