Creating safe spaces for the Latinx community: A preview of Latinx Affinity Groups across the 5Cs

Student pose for camera and smile
TSL spoke with student leaders from Latinx affinity groups at Pomona College and Claremont McKenna College (CMC) to see what they’re doing on campus. CMC’s Mi Gente is pictured above. Courtesy: Javier Gonzalez

Latinx affinity groups create spaces for 7CLatinx students, also referred to as Latine, to find community on campus. TSL spoke with student leaders from Pomona College and Claremont McKenna College to learn more about their organizations.

Pomona College Latinx Alliance

The Pomona College Latinx Alliance (LXA) strives to provide a safe and comfortable space for Latinx students. This year, there are eleven students on the executive board. TSL spoke with LXA co-presidents Bayardo Lacayo PO ’24, Brisa Salazar PO ’24, treasurer Brandon Karagozian PO ’24 and vice president Kelley Delgadillo Garcia PO ’25.

Lacayo said Pomona LXA’s primary goal is to foster a space where the Latinx community can celebrate their similarities and differences. They hope to create a community in which students can feel comfortable.

“It’s very difficult to go to a predominately white institution. It’s an institution that doesn’t have spaces for us,” Salazar said. “LXA is meant to create space for community to come together.”

The student leaders spoke about the diversity in their affinity group. Eager to embrace differences within the Latinx community, the group strives to understand the community’s heterogeneity and welcomes any student who identifies as Latinx.

“It’s not only about recognizing our differences but […] just understanding what it means to be Latinx across the country, across the world, and learning that from each other,” Delgadillo Garcia said.

Pomona LXA hosts music and dance events, Lotería nights and painting nights, among other events. The organization also collaborates with other 5C Latinx affinity groups, such as Scripps College’s Café con Lèche and the Pitzer College Latinx Student Union.

The executive members told TSL about the group’s founding. When a CMC student and Scripps student dressed up as stereotypical Mexicans for Halloween in 2015, discourse was sparked across the 5Cs. Students came up with demands for an alliance of Latinx students and presented their list to the president, leading to the official founding of the Pomona LXA.

Since the group’s establishment, its biggest challenge was bringing underclassmen into the group after COVID struck. However, Garcia emphasized that they have been working to overcome this.

“It got to a point where LXA and the traditions were mostly known by upperclassmen, and we struggled to bring in the lowerclassmen,” Garcia said. “There are a few first-years on our board right now […] I think we’ve definitely done a lot to bring in and create that comfortable space for any Latino.”

Claremont McKenna College Mi Gente

At CMC, Mi Gente aims to strengthen community among Latine communities at the college and throughout the 5Cs, according to their leadership. Founded in 2016, the club said they celebrate Latine culture through programming, events and creating an inclusive space on campus.

This year, Mi Gente is run by Javier Gonzalez CM ’24. For Gonzalez, a first-generation low-income student, Mi Gente was important in transitioning into CMC, helping him strengthen his passion for community building among marginalized students.

“My parents immigrated from Mexico, so coming into a space that was predominantly white, I was really able to find footing with people that looked like me,” said Gonzalez. “I felt like this is a community that helped me become my own person and led me to the resources I can find here.”

Gonzalez emphasized the lack of affinity group spaces as a challenge Mi Gente has faced as a student club. Instead, most affinity groups meet at the Civility, Access, Resources and Expression (CARE) Center, a room located in the second room of the Heggblade Center at CMC.

“We obviously have the CARE Center. But that’s not the equivalent of having an actual space,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t even have a space to hold our meetings. We have to try to reserve and it’s a first come, first serve basis.”

When thinking about previous events Mi Gente has hosted, Gonzalez recalled the strength and beauty of their previous celebratory and educational events. His favorite social event was a 5C quinceañera party from the previous academic year.

“It was basically for a graduating senior that did not get to have their quinceañera. We got them a dress and everything and learned a surprise dance. It was beautiful.”

Moving forward, Gonzalez hopes to move Mi Gente towards an inclusive space for all identities and experiences within the Latine community.

“We recognize that the Latine experience is not a monolith,” said Gonzalez. “We want to be able to celebrate and hear from and have the input from all cultures, Mexican culture.”

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