March 12, 2017

Letter to the Editor: To my comunidad querida

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To the Editor:

I came to Cornell in the fall of 2014 with a clear goal of exploring my identity as a Latino. Like many first generation Latinxs, my relationship with latinidad had been one fraught with awkwardness and confusion. My communication at home was dominated by a form of Spanish marked by an American accent, stuttering, incorrect word choices and insecure apologies. My parents lightly teased my inability to dance a simple merengue. The predominantly white Cornell was a far stretch from the predominantly brown Queens, and for the first time in my life I felt both visibly and emotionally out of place.

I was assigned to the Latino Living Center as a freshman and it was exactly the space I needed to explore my identity safely. A quick walk through the LLC reveals the flags of Latin America painted on the walls of our main lounge and beautiful murals and paintings (some of them preserved from the old Latinx Living Center on West Campus) scattered all around. Instantly, I had found a community that was accepting of my Spanglish and my two left feet; my conceptions about what it meant to be Latinx were changed forever.

As a junior and in my third year in residence at the LLC, I have learned to exist unapologetically  in this brown skin and Latinx identity. I found a family in this community and safety in spaces like the LLC, the Latinx Studies Program and the Sabor Latino Dance Team. People from all around the country and all around the world with different and unique academic interests, ambitions and passions have come together to form an unbreakable bond of love, acceptance and support which has been on display time and time again all over campus: every faculty fellow dinner, every Unity Dinner, every Café con Leche, movie nights watching documentaries about health care in Cuba and others watching The Emperor’s New Groove. From the dancefloors with blaring loudspeakers at Agava to the makeshift discotecas and portable speakers of our suites at the LLC, the ability that my community has to care for each other and provide joy during the best and worst time is unparalleled.

This week, mi comunidad suffered a loss. In an instant, we were left with a void in our hearts and in our halls. From one day to the next, my community became hypervisible and exposed to gross violations of privacy. We have had to endure the pain and trauma of police presence, the attacks on our community by strangers online and the cold and impersonal reactions from university administration. We have had to witness our community leaders, faculty and staff make themselves available to us under unimaginable circumstances while still dealing with their own grief. Our attempts to smile, laugh, and come together to make it through are still marked by the gravity of that loss.

I look at my community and I see unspeakable pain. I see mourning and the grief that has changed us forever. But see the embodiment of the words “Juntos Somos Fuertes.” I see the same spirit that carried mi gente to take over Day Hall in 1993. I see the same spirit that empowered us to carve out our own spaces for survival in the face of administrative opposition.

I see the same spirit that has carried us forward in strength during times of trouble, even when our individual strength fails us.

To my hermanxs: to the first-generation students, the international students, the undocumented students, the Afrolatinx, queer and indigenous members of our community; to those of us who speak Spanish and can pull off a bachatica and those of us who cannot.

To Angel.

I love you. Thank you for loving me right back.

Irving Torres ’18