On October 15, the Editorial Board released an article evaluating Mi Gente’s Hispanic Heritage Month events. The assertion that these events were poorly attended and unrepresentative of Duke is simply inaccurate. Employees from the Loop reported sales of $13,000 during Mi Gente’s Latin Night, one of the most successful nights of the semester. Additionally, attendance at our Gender Roles in the Latino Community event at the Women’s Center outnumbered the available seating accommodations. Along with the erroneous information provided, the article makes troublesome recommendations, suggesting that cultural organizations tailor events to attract students that would otherwise be repelled by their preconceived notions of cultural groups. It is not the responsibility of Mi Gente, or any other cultural group for that matter, to cater to those unwilling to enter spaces beyond their comfort zone. We welcome those that recognize the value of going beyond their predominating cultural norms.
According to the article, Hispanic Heritage Month "Attracted a particular crowd of students that were not representative of Duke’s general population." The article fails to mention the fact that throughout the month, Mi Gente collaborated with Blue Devils United, the Women’s Collective, Club Pura Vida, Duke Students for Humane Borders and the Gates Scholars. These various groups encompass an array of student populations that make up the Duke community. If the Editorial Board determines Latinos, LGBTQ students, Gates scholarship recipients and women to not be representative of Duke’s general population, then we are left with a narrow Duke community sadly deprived of a wide range of ideas and experiences.
Moreover, evaluations of student groups should be done in a way that doesn’t set misguided standards or expectations for these groups. Mi Gente is about more than “advocating issues” and “raising awareness.” In fact, the primary objective of Mi Gente is to empower and support the Latino community at Duke, not to customize events for those who are uncomfortable exploring different spaces. Latino students are often the “only ones” in their classrooms, Greek houses, selective living groups and other social places. White culture is pervasive throughout these spaces and those who do not identify with it live with the daily expectation of fitting into this culture or otherwise facing alienation. This reality is often unacknowledged on campus by those who do not recognize the existence of white privilege and its implications for non-white identifying students.
Mi Gente and other cultural groups are all too often expected to prove to members of the university why students would benefit from particular measures like the increased recruitment of diverse faculty and staff across academic departments. While we strongly believe in these initiatives, we are students and should serve as reminders, not as the primary forces catalyzing institutional changes that would benefit the entire Duke community. We call upon the Duke community to recognize the importance of these issues and see that it is not merely a “minority” concern, but rather an issue that all of us need to address. Duke students travel the world to find immersive experiences, not realizing their ability to become a voice and act for change here on our own campus— regardless of background.
For many Mi Gente members, Mi Gente has meant a home and a family. Transitioning to Duke and being surrounded by a new culture is difficult, and Mi Gente serves as a platform for a community with members of various backgrounds and Latino experiences. The struggle of obtaining visibility and being recognized on this campus has proven to be one that will continue to be arduous and challenging. It is crucial to remember that Mi Gente consists of a spirit that has been questioned and discouraged more than once. Nevertheless, Mi Gente and supporters of the Latino community will push forward to make it known that we stand united and strong.