In response to the need to better recognize and celebrate the diversity of the Latino community, a conference designed to help Catholic colleges and universities better serve Latinx students has made targeted efforts to do just that.
Keynote speakers, campus ministers, and students shared their various Latino backgrounds, including citizenship, countries of origin, colors, language skills, class status, and educational level, during Grade 3-5. August “El Futuro Is Here !: Cuentos y Recuerdos” for the Journey “, hosted by Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois.
In her opening address, Jeanette Rodríguez, Professor of Theology, Religious Studies and Couple and Family Therapy at Seattle University, commented on the role of “mestizaje“(Mixed race) when it comes to race and culture.
“As a people, we are made up of any combination of these [mestizaje]that means you are American, African, Indigenous, Asian, etc., “said Rodriguez.” It’s such a beautiful contribution to humanity. “
Overlaps of ethnicity, migration and race were also woven through some of the artwork shared during the conference.
Rev. Robert Chao Romero, Professor of Chicana / o Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, who identifies as Asian-Latin, read his poem “I Am the Brown Church”.
The Dominican University alumni, Jaqueline Romo, shared her series of paintings “Monarca Migrante“Which expresses the crossroads of the Way of the Cross, migration and the American dream.
The speakers also explained the different Latin American countries their families came from and how this affected their current Latino identities.
In a report on her childhood in Havana, Cecilia González-Andrieu, professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, stated that during night power outages, her grandmother “would turn an otherwise frightening event into an opportunity for creativity.”
To emphasize acculturation over assimilation, Rodríguez showed her own family tree to the mestizaje in their own life. Ecuador, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Germany, Vietnam, and Cuba were all countries that were reflected in their parents, siblings, and partners.
Community and comunión de los santos (Communion of Saints) were two themes listed as a focus for the event – the second conference after an opening conference in 2018.
To foster a sense of community, each participant received an online gift card on the second evening of the conference and encouraged them to order from a Latinx restaurant near them. At the “Closing the Distance” dinner, the participants could virtually break bread together.
During these shared sections, the participants reflected on the presentations and information they had heard that day.
In response to Rodríguez’s keynote “Cuentos y Recuerdos: stories, memories and dichos that teach, heal and preserve“, The participants then thought about the power of memory and the role of storytelling in the healing process and even shared dichos (Proverbs) from their own families.
Special prayer and attention was paid to visual artist John August Swanson, who was originally intended to be the final speaker for “From Our Abuelas to Us: Fe y Justicia in the Life of John August Swanson”. Health problems prevented him from participating.
“La vida is fragile, “explained González-Andrieu as she told the story of Swanson’s life. She encouraged students to look out for the beauty and kinship around them and on their campus.
The conference focused on spirituality and belief.
The opening and closing masses were given by Claretian Fr. Eddie De Leon. The bilingual masses were broadcast live from the Holy Rosary Church in Chicago.
During the closing mass, De León preached on the subject of hope and God lifts up the weak. He asked participants to think about two questions how they describe not only themselves but also God:Quien eres do? “(” Who are you? “) And” Who do you say I am? “