Monday, November 22, 2010

Working within our own communities

In class, we’ve discussed how generally outsiders create “imagined communities” of Latin@s sharing identical experiences around the world. In my work, I have the opportunity to assist and watch Chican@ and Latin@ students subvert the idea of creating an “imagined” community with “identical” experiences. Instead, these mostly first and second year students, who are led by a team of advisors, go on to create a collective community that fosters a safe and respectful environment through a sense of connectedness. As a program assistant for the Casa Magadalena Mora Theme Program, a familia of students exploring Mexica@/Chican@ and Latin@ culture, it is one of my responsibilities to not only promote community building within this network, but also find ways to connect the broader Unit 3 student population to this group of residents.

The Casistas all enroll in an academic seminar that has an interdisciplinary focus that integrates language, history, politics, economics, art, music, and literature. During these weekly seminars, students take a more critical look at the multi-dimensions of their identities and how they are represented on campus. They are also able to understand their place in history, society, and the world. Based on my observations and interactions, I’ve found that these students who come from different backgrounds and ethnicities, still form the closest bond as a community than any other formal living group that I work with. Why is that? Is it because of this “imagined” community that ties them to a set of shared collective ideas, attitudes, and dreams? I believe it is much more. I believe that since Casistas are willing to engage in an open, critical dialogue, they gain a shared intellectual foundation that facilitates a greater understanding of Chican@/Latin@ experience, which creates stronger ties to their own community.

Yet, while we have this strong sense of familia going on for people who live on this floor community, it creates different reactions and sentiments to people who are outside of this community – the students who live on different floors. These past few weeks, we experienced a string of hate incidents where racist remarks were written in our common areas. In the past, Casa Mora has been the target of racists language. Most of the vandalism views the Casa community as a singular group (i.e. Mexicans) – which creates nothing more than an “imagined” identity. So I am constantly working on ways to integrate the Casa community with the broader Unit 3 community, without putting Casa on an ethnic pedestal or dismissing the unique diversity that every floor brings to the residence hall community. It’s a teetering balance, but one that I believe we can strengthen and solidify if we all participated in more open, critical dialogue on understanding our place in history, society, and the world.

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