Andover will celebrate its first official Latinx Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 with the help of Alianza Latina, Andover’s affinity club for Latinx students. Events range from an open house for Viva, Andover’s first Latinx dance group which is in its premier year, Salsa Night, an event that originated during Latin Arts Weekend, and a meeting for Alianza Latina that is open to the public.
Since her freshman year, Ashley Alvarez ’20, Co-President of Alianza Latina, has dreamed of having the chance to extend the traditional Latin Arts Weekend to a full month of celebrating Latinx heritage. She hopes to use the time to dive beyond the traditional stereotypes and instead share with the Andover community the multitude of nuanced complexities that her culture holds.
“I feel that at Andover a lot of my identify I have had to stifle in pursuit of academics or other extracurriculars versus in my month, which I can say is my month as a Latina, I want to celebrate myself and I want to celebrate all my other peers who are Latinos and I want to share that culture with my friends who don’t identify as Latinx and the general campus and the faculty [and] whoever wants to partake in that,” said Alvarez.
According to Daniel Dominguez ’21, Co-President of Alianza Latina, the club wanted to honor affinity values and continue to build and engage with the Andover Latinx community. The club also wanted to share the pride they hold with the rest of the school through all inclusive programming during the Latinx Heritage Month events.
“We want to have fun but also educational and attractive events that would garner the campus’s attention and also things that are new. For example, the regional [dance], which will include local high schools, isn’t really something that has been done before. We tend to reach out to the same boarding schools, and we figured, ‘why not try schools like Lawrence High and Methuen High?’ Bringing those schools in will definitely be something that will make Latinx Heritage Month stand out for us,” said Dominguez.
One of those new events includes a panel on October 4 of Latinx Andover alumni from a range of different professions and ethnicities that Alvarez will moderate. Alvarez explained how focusing on Latinx professionals was crucial in breaking down what she felt were perceptions of monolithic Latinx identity.
“Our goal on having a panel that’s so diverse professionally and culturally is to emphasize that Latinidad is not this one stereotypical thing. It’s so many cultures and so many countries and so many things we do with our lives and not just this idea that’s perpetrated by the media. It will be an inspiration for Latinx students on campus to go through Andover and follow in these footsteps and also for the general public to see how Andover alumni are successful,” said Alvarez.
According to Jineyda Tapia, Instructor in English and Faculty Advisor to Alianza Latina, providing a window into life after Andover can be beneficial for Latinx students both in the short and long term. Tapia also explained how the panel aims to empower the next generation of youth by providing them with examples of how to be successful as a representative of the Latinx demographic.
“It is critical to build these networks as there’s research that demonstrates when a youth see themselves reflected in a position (whether that’s occupational, in entertainment, or various academic fields) they have greater success in attaining their goals. The month allows us to explore the possibilities of our students’ futures both in [Andover] and consequently in the real world, and most importantly, how they come back to campus and help build the next generation. That’s the true spirit of Non Sibi,” Tapia wrote in an email to The Phillipian.
According to Dominguez, Latinx Heritage Month provides much needed representation of Latinx students at Andover. Dominguez believes that it helps Latinx students and faculty on campus unite in celebration, despite coming from varied backgrounds and holding different perspectives on their identity.
Dominguez said, “Personally, I think it’s a massive step for Latinx students on campus. We’re like what, eight percent of the entire student body, we’re not well-represented, not really much talked about in [All-School Meetings]. Obviously, race is a big topic that is discussed at this school but when we get to ethnicity, Latino and all that concerning that identity, it gets a bit ambiguous. Definitely having something for Latinx students to look forward and celebrate what will be and is great for all of us. It’s something for all of us to look forward to.”