The annual Semana de la Raza — a celebration of Latinx culture and heritage hosted by student organizations La Raza Coalition, Las Hermanas Aliadas and Los Compadres — spans multiple weeks in March. This year’s theme of “Sembrando Nuestras Raizes” translates as “Planting Our Roots.”
Los Compadres Vice President Jesus “Chuy” Flores (senior) explained the theme of Semana de la Raza at the keynote speaker event last Thursday.
“In light of the movement that’s been going on on campus, we wanted to really foster a theme that supports and continues to cultivate this concept of us creating a sustainable community for people on campus,” Flores said.
Before a keynote address from activist Bea Esperanza Fonseca, former La Raza Coalition president Jasmine Tovar ‘14 talked about the history of Semana de la Raza on campus. According to Tovar, the program started at Occidental in the early ‘90s with the inception of former club Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan (MeChA, or Chican@ Student Movement of Aztlán).
Tovar said the purpose of Semana de la Raza is for members of the Latinx community to express pride in their culture and heritage, rather than to educate white allies and peers.
“It’s more to serve as a mechanism to empower our community,” Tovar said.
Tovar emphasized the importance of looking at and celebrating intersecting identities within the Latinx community.
Fonseca, an LA-based transgender Latina activist and recent Whittier College graduate, spoke of her work as an organizer in college and about economic justice for trans people of color. Fonseca highlighted the barriers working-class trans women of color — specifically Latina women — face in the job search, resulting in their underemployment. She noted the contrasting role that trans women play in public spaces.
“We are hypervisible in public space because we are not meant to be there,” Fonseca said. “At the same time, we are erased. We erased from the media when we do work. We erased from the media when we die — we are misgendered. We’re erased from social movements, even ones that we started.”
Fonseca recounted working to achieve trans rights as a student, an endeavor she has continued into her post-grad life.
For Semana de la Raza’s Dia de la Familia — family day — students were encouraged to bring those they considered family for live music and food Sunday at Samuelson Alumni Center.
Organizers have planned numerous upcoming Semana de la Raza events. As a crossover with Herstory month, Thursday will feature a talk by Bamby Salcedo at 7 p.m. in Choi. Friday’s Travesuras Dance on Branca Patio will center on Latinx music. On Saturday, students can participate in a Cesar Chavez day of service to honor the labor leader.
Monday night, students will be able to discuss the events of Semana de la Raza at a general meeting in the Pauley Hall’s MLK Lounge at7:30 p.m. The last Semana de la Raza event, on April 1, will allow students to share their artwork in the Green Bean with an open mic night at 7:30 p.m.
More information about Semana de la Raza’s events can be found on the Facebook page of La Raza Coalition.