Lacking the Latino
by Heather Stratton
willing, apathy, well we're here for you, but weÌre not
here for you,
are the words that come out of Victoria Cepeida-Mojarro's mouth
as she speaks to me about the struggle for getting Latino Studies
Indeed, the struggle to gain a Latino Studies program is more
than just a matter of gaining a new department and a set of new
classes examining the hispanic culture in America; rather, it
is about a whole generation of Latinos at NYU and throughout America
who are putting their heritage behind them.
ÏNo one says that they donÌt want a Latino Studies
program, says Cepeida-Mojarro. Everyone wants more diversity,
but students are not willing to fight for it. A fight, precisely
the definition of the main Latino organizations on campus that
has been going on since 1972. Group organization and proposals
concerning the specific details of a how a Latino Studies program
would be initiated on campus are not the reasons for the fruition
in this movement. Symposiums, lectures and conferences have been
held. A petition reeling the names of students, professors and
administrators has been created. And the administration itself
says that it wants to see this program come into development.
But then why has it failed?
It comes down to building a critical mass: a group of students
who are willing to consistently put their efforts forward to demand
changes. Rankings that claim NYU has one of the nation's top politically
active student bodies and a considerable Latino population on
campus would make one believe that enthusiasm and participation
would be the least of LUCHA's concerns. People show up at the
information sessions we hold, says Cepeida-Mojarro, but the problem
is that most students are not willing to major in Latino Studies.
The consequence of this is that less students are willing to put
their time and energy into making Latino Studies a reality.
Indeed, most students would argue that classes that fit into the
category of Latino Studies could be placed into other departments,
such as Metropolitian Studies, History or Sociology. Cepeida-Mojarro
refutes this position.It encompasses a much wider spectrum of
issues that does not fit under any one of these departments.
The importance of such a program to minorities and non-minorities
alike is one that is not clearly defined or appreciated. Diversity
is most often understood through statistics rather than understanding.
A Latino Studies program would be one way that students could
gain a deeper understanding of minority cultures in America.
This has an important implication for students in any field of
study. Cepeida-Mojarro suggests that students press for the formation
of a program rather than a department, that begins with the offering
of a minor and eventually builds into the development of a major.
How to strike a major interest on campus though? That is the question
of the year! says Cepeida-Mojarro. It seems LUCHA has tried nearly
everything, from sending out flyers and emails to approaching
Many of the students at the forefront of this movement will soon
be graduating, and after such a long period of exhausting efforts
with few results, members are starting to become weary. But I'm
not going to give up this fight, Cepeida-Mojarro says. I'll keep