Latino Unitos Hosts Heritage Symposium

Written by Giulia Giuffre

The members of Latinos Unidos are inviting the Southwestern and Georgetown communities to participate in their upcoming event, the Latino Heritage Symposium: Democracy of the Americas. The symposium will take place in the afternoon of Feb. 11 and 12 in the McCombs Campus Center ballrooms.

The theme of this year’s symposium is “Democracy in Latin America.” It will focus on the struggle and difficulties of developing democracy in Latin America.

“The topic was inspired by a class I took, Developing Democracy and Comparisons of South Africa and Mexico,” Linda Peña, a junior and the symposium coordinator, said. “While the United States was preparing for the recent election, I kept thinking about the struggle in Mexico. Here, elections are secure and we can trust the government. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, elections can be stolen, citizens fear the government and there are acts of public violence. We take for granted our democracy while other countries are still struggling for their developing democracy.”

Speakers for the Symposium include three Southwestern professors and public figures.

The Symposium will begin Feb. 11, at 3:00 p.m. with, assistant Professor of Modern Languages Angeles Rodriguez Cadena’s, presentation on “Sor Juana: Women without a voice.” Her discussion is about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana, a self-taught Novohispana scholar, nun, poet, writer and teacher who lived in central Mexico during the 1600s. She was an independent thinker and wrote and spoke out about women rights.

“During the time of Sor Juana, no one, especially women, could speak their mind or voice their opinions. But, she did just that and paid the price for it,” Peña said.

Eric Selbin, professor of political science, will be presenting on “Democracy in 21st Century Latin America and the Caribbean.” This discussion will explore what democracy means for Latin Americans today.

After a break for dinner, the night will conclude with a movie presentation in Olin 110 at 7:00 p.m. The movie, “In the Time of Butterfly,” is based on a novel by Julia Alvarez.

“The movie is about a group of sisters who stand up against a dictator in the Dominican Republic during the 20th century,” Peña said.

The Latino Heritage Symposium resumes the next day with Mark Everingham, a visiting associate professor of political science, presenting on “Developing Democracies” at 3:00 p.m. The discussion will be about the struggles of developing democracies in Latin America, particularly in Mexico.

Later that afternoon, at 5:00 p.m., Sean Sellers, a representative from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, will be discussing the “Campaign for Fair Food.” The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a community based worker organization that fights for farm workers’ rights.

“The Coalition of Immokalee Workers help ensure farm workers’ rights by going after big corporations that buy from farmers that do not respect and uphold workers’ rights,” Peña said. “Their first main victory was against Taco Bell, which bought tomatoes from a company with poor working conditions and low wages for farm workers.”

Also attending the Symposium is Kate Kelly, a representative from the Student Farmworkers Alliance, a national network of students and youth in close partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

“Both organizations fight cases for farm workers’ rights. These workers are not just immigrants and are not just Hispanic, they are all workers,” Peña said. “For example, they fought a case of slavery in which two farm workers were chained up during the night and forced to work. They fight for them because they don’t have the time or resources to fight for democracy.”

Latinos Unidos has held four sSymposiums in the last 10 years.

“The Symposium from 10 years ago had music and other activities for the community. Our more recent symposiums are starting small, but we are gaining experience and our goal is to reach the point of that original symposium,” Peña said.

This year’s Latino Heritage Symposium is sponsored by the Diversity Enrichment Committee, Community Chest and the McMichael Fund.

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