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The “Hispanic” or “Latino” Question  May 15th, 2012

Hispanic. I hear this term a lot in the media to describe people that look and sound like me: brown skin, Spanish speaking, ancestry from Latin American countries, or, simply someone who has a Spanish-sounding last name.

However, I also hear the term Latina/o to describe the same people. So what is the “correct” way to refer to a person like me? I have asked myself the same question because a lot of people are now confused of the difference is between Latino and Hispanic. To even begin to understand this topic we need to ask the real question: Where do these terms originate and why?

Well according to an article entitled The Origin of the Term ‘Hispanic’ it all got started in the 1970’s when Grace Flores-Hughes worked as an assistant in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Flores-Hughes created the term “Hispanic” to categorize people for governmental data. The category was created for people that spoke Spanish as their first language. Ten years later in 1980, the term Hispanic was used in the U.S. census to define a group that was hard to determine by other factors such as race.  From my understanding, the term was only created to artificially categorize people.

As I did my research on the terms, I found in an article called Latinos or Hispanics? A Debate About Identity by Darryl Fears. This is what the article had to say on the matter:

“Hispanics derive from the mostly white Iberian peninsula that includes Spain and Portugal, while Latinos are descended from the brown indigenous Indians of the Americas south of the United States and in the Caribbean, conquered by Spain centuries ago.”

The source of each term has a very different root and is often interpreted in different ways. So, again I ask, who is Hispanic and/or Latino? Well it depends how each person identifies. For example, I see myself as a Latina. I always thought of the term Hispanic as something “bad”; probably because I associate the term “spic”, a derogatory racial slur for the Latino community.

What I have learned is that your identity as a Hispanic and/or Latino also depends on what region you live in the US. For example, in my personal experience, people that live on the east coast are more acceptable toward the term Hispanic, while people on the west coast see themselves as Latinos. I’m not sure why this occurs, but I imagine it has to do with cultural legacies and norms in that particular region. The use of either terminology is a hard topic to discuss due to the influence of the media and the stereotypes people create in their mind about the terms as well.

The question still comes up, who is Hispanic or Latino? I don’t really think there is a right or wrong answer to this question. No one individual or authority can really factually say who is or isn’t Hispanic and/or Latino; people see themselves differently and identify as such. The important thing to remember is to pay attention to how people identify. The best way to learn more about this subject is to bridge a conversation with individuals. You may ask, “I heard you describe yourself as “Latino”; what does that mean to you?” You may be surprised and learn much by their answer.

Thank you for reading,

Angelica Perez, Community Relations Facilitator

Remember the hungry; take action  February 1st, 2012

I started to notice my social class for the first time at the age of ten. This all happened after visiting my elementary school friend. Her house was twice, or maybe three times bigger than the little apartment I lived in. She had her own room, while I had to share rooms with my siblings. She had a yard, two dogs, and a cat. I longed to have a pet, but was not allowed to, due to the small space in our apartment.

That day when I went home, I started to notice how small our apartment was; for the very first time, I felt poor. I know I had everything I needed. I never went to sleep hungry like my parents did when they were little, but I knew that I was “different.” In my ten year-old way, I began learning about social class.

This experience brought to mind a time when my mother took my siblings and myself to Guatemala.

Some children there had no shoes and were begging for food. I remember there were children that worked cleaning car windows. According to the World Food Programme website, “There are more hungry people in the world than the combined population of U.S., Canada and the European Union.”

Visiting Guatemala opened my eyes. It was shocking to me to know there are so many people living in poverty and it made me more aware of the plight of the hungry in the U.S. as well.

Even though poverty in the US is not as visible in most communities as in other countries, this doesn’t mean we don’t have people living in poverty. The poor live in all countries, but there is one thing they share in common: the feeling of hunger.
Growing up, I never faced hunger, like my parents did when they first arrived to California from Mexico.

At the time they had difficulty finding a job and struggled to survive by only eating inexpensive ramen noodles. Like my parents once did, there are a lot of people here in the United States that struggle to put food on their table.

Poverty can even be found close to home in Benton County. Benton County reports that 18 percent of people are living below the poverty level according to a census taken in 2009; that is almost 1 in 5 people. These numbers represent people living in our community and many students.

Did you know that in 2010, 17.2 million households(approximately 1 in 7), were food insecure; the highest number ever recorded in the United States according to the latest government report released by Hunger Notes in September 2010.

There are many things we can do to fight against hunger. Even small things such as can drives in schools, jobs, and communities can make a big difference.

If you are interested in helping out you can visit our local campus OSU Emergency Food Pantry located in the Snell Hall International Form on campus. To learn more please visit their website or follow them on Twitter @FoodPantryOSU and be sure to check out the OSU Food Drive events happening this month.

Angelica Perez, Community Relations Facilitator

Finding a home away from home  October 20th, 2011

Three years ago I contemplated dropping out of college. Out of my 10 siblings, I was the first one to attend a four-year university. I did not know what to expect. I still remember the excitement I felt when my parents dropped me off. However, the enthusiasm and excitement quickly dissolved. I never thought I would miss home so much.

I grew up in Woodburn, Oregon, where the majority of the population is Latino/a. Moving to a town with a population of less than 6 percent Latino/as was a very difficult transition. During fall term I went home every weekend, I missed “real” Mexican food, my mom’s cooking, and all my friends.  Even though I didn’t have a car, I would always make my way back to Woodburn. I asked for rides, carpooled, and had my parents pick me up. If everything else failed, I would turn to my last resort: the Greyhound! The weekends at home couldn’t go by any faster, and the weekdays in Corvallis couldn’t go by any slower.

Being a person of color in a predominately white institution (PWI) comes with its challenges. I found it difficult to relate to most of my classmates. I felt like I couldn’t be myself and still fit in.  Communities with a large minority population have their own culture, norms, sense of humor, way of talking, and many times these norms are different than those of the dominant culture. While I loved Corvallis, this sense of normality was missing. I couldn’t find a group of people I could call friends – people who shared similar stories, passions, and backgrounds as me.

No place on campus felt like home. Many of my friends asked me why I went home so often and even made fun of me. At first, I was unaware of this unwritten rule. Many times conversations turned awkward when it was my turn to explain my “crazy” weekend. I began to feel embarrassed to them the truth, so I either avoided the question or said I was studying all weekend.  I began to lock myself in my room, snooze through classes, and not care about my grades. During Week 4 I failed my first midterm. I felt miserable and began to contemplate dropping out of school. I feared I was becoming a statistic; another “Latino drop-out.” I felt like I had no one to turn to for help; I knew none of my family would understand having never attended college.

Luckily a friend began to invite me to events sponsored by the Centro Cultural César Chávez (CCCC). I began to meet new people and become more involved on campus.   Thanks to my friend, I also found a place on campus that felt like home, the CCCC. The CCCC had events that served food that tasted like home. I began to meet people with whom I could relate; the more friends I made, the more involved I became on campus. Eventually, my involvement with CCCC gave me the courage to seek out the Student Leadership and Involvement homepage and saw OSU had hundreds of clubs and organizations. I became involved with the OSU Soccer Club Team, and Omega Delta Phi, a non-housed, multicultural, community-based fraternity. Becoming more involved on campus and seeking out resources helped me build a support network. I now felt I had a reason to stay in school. I began to feel a sense of belonging. As I became more involved on campus my grades began to rise and I began to go home less often.

The transition to college can be very difficult for many students but there are many resources on campus that can help. Feeling homesick is natural for everyone. Being a Student of Color at a PWI can exacerbate these feelings. Homesickness becomes a problem when it begins to hinder your academics or health. If you begin to feel depressed, I encourage you to take full advantage of the resources available. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is free for students and is located on the fifth floor of Snell Hall. A rough transition can also lead to poor grades or bad studying habits. The Academic Success Center (ASC) located in Waldo Hall is a great resource.  The ASC allows you to work with an academic coach to build skills to become a successful college student. The best way I found to get connected to campus is meeting new people and getting involved.  Check out the Student Leadership and Involvement website. Did you know OSU has more than 300 clubs and organizations? Getting involved with clubs and organizations is not only a great way to meet people who share similar passions as you, it also helps you network, build a support system, and become a leader on campus.

Most importantly, I encourage you to think about how you are helping to create an inclusive and safe community for your roommates and floor mates. How would you feel if you paid money to live in a place that does not feel like home? Every resident plays a role in building a safe and welcoming community. If you know someone who goes home every weekend or is not close to people on their floor, make an effort to invite them to events, programs or floor dinners. Try to find out their story and perspective before making judgments. I wish someone had reached out to me, now I work on reaching out to others.

Thank you for reading and good luck with your fall term!

Miguel Arellano, Community Relations Facilitator

Being a friend, becoming a proud LGBT ally  October 20th, 2011

I was sitting in the Pride Center today, thinking about my first personal experience with LGBT* identities. I was in high school and one of my close friends came out to me as gay. He said I was the second or third person he opened up to about his sexuality. I realized that his coming out to me showed a great deal about his trust in me as a friend and a person. I didn’t know the term for it then, but this was my first experience of discovering what it means to be an ally.

Before this experience, I had never (knowingly) been around anyone from the LGBT community. I was raised in a very sheltered setting, not very aware of personal differences. I remained extremely naïve as a child, even as late as high school. I don’t remember knowing about people being gay or that they were around me. I just thought “people were people.” I was raised in a heavily Protestant family. I was taught that being gay was a choice and that it was bad. I learned that, according to the Bible, God didn’t agree with people who are attracted to the same sex. Realizing that one of my close friends is gay helped me make some personal decisions of what is true for me.

Surprisingly enough, my relationship with my friend was not at all negatively affected by his coming out. In fact, I think our friendship actually became stronger. I knew he trusted me and I was able to support him in his coming out to others when he was ready. I still saw him as the same person, because he is the same; the difference is that I now know him more completely. The fact that he is gay doesn’t change his personality or the friendship we have between us. Unlike some TV shows, I was not, all of a sudden, worried that he was attracted to me just because he is gay. He helped me understand that, for him, it wasn’t a choice. His sexuality was something he had been struggling to understand and share for quite a while. I am glad he chose to confide in me and include me in his coming out process. I am also glad his courage sparked courage in me to learn how I can be a better ally to him and others in the LGBT community.

Since I have been at OSU, I have found that going to the Pride Center events have helped me explore my own thoughts regarding sexuality and the LGBT community. I would like to consider myself a proud ally, and I encourage caring curiosity with regard to what it means to be an ally. I encourage you to check out the Pride Center soon. The Rainbow Continuum student group is another great avenue to learn more. I especially encourage you to check out their fall and spring drag shows, which are quite fun! In fact, their next drag show is at 8 p.m. Oct. 28, in the Memorial Union Ballroom.

Thank you for reading,

Nick Taylor, Community Relations Facilitator

*(lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender)