State Press Play: Hispanic Heritage Month roundtable

ASU student leaders reflect upon change in the Latine community, and the importance of providing more visibility and accessibility of University resources

ANDREA SOTO

I am Andrea Soto, and I work at the podcast desk here at The State Press. I am a freshman here at ASU studying political science. I go by she/her/hers pronouns. We will be discussing the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month. I will pass it on to our first participant. 

ALEXANDRA MORA MEDINA  

Hola todes, this is Alexandra. My pronouns are she/her/hers/ella. I'm a journalism major here at ASU, with a minor in justice studies. I'm also the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists here at ASU. I'm also just involved with my community. I volunteer with Corazón Latino. I'm also an intern at the YWCA. I'm really happy to be here with you, Andrea, and also our next participant. 

JESUS AMAVIZCA ALDAMA 

Thank you for passing the torch there, Alexandra. I'm happy to be here. My name is Jesus Amavizca, I am a sophomore here at ASU. I'm majoring in medical studies, pursuing a career as a dentist, identifying myself with the pronouns he/him. I'm also involved in organizations here at ASU like SPARKS, in which I'm the vice president of the e-board, and I'm also involved with Chicanos Por La Causa. 

ANDREA SOTO 

We have two amazing leaders here with us to talk about something super important in this community and on campus. So Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States recognizes the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture and achievements of the United States. Those under the Hispanic umbrella refer to a person's culture or origin, regardless of race. 

What does the word Hispanic mean to you? Do you use Hispanic to identify yourself? And if so, why, and if not, why? 

ALEXANDRA MORA MEDINA

The word Hispanic to me kind of connects more towards my Spanish bloodline, at least that's kind of how I see it. When I think of the word Hispanic, I can't help to think about colonizers, I can't help to think about my ancestors who lived in Latin America and then when Spain came to conquer them. I personally don't use the word Hispanic as often. I did, probably a few years ago. I used it in mostly professional settings and if I was filling out like a test, they have all the different ethnicities, so I would pick Hispanic if Latino/Latina wasn't in there. I think it for me, it just depends on the situation.

JESUS AMAVIZCA ALDAMA

I was born in Mexico and raised there until I was 15 years old. Then I moved here to the States, and these terms like Hispanic, Latino, Latinx, etc., they're pretty new to me. Like it was a really huge cultural shift for me, and I mostly identify with Mexican for the fact of me being born and raised in Mexico. I've made some research about the word Hispanic and Latino. I think like Alexandra said, if you're Spaniard or you come from a Spanish-speaking country, you are considered Hispanic. If you're Latino, that means you are from a Spanish-speaking country in the Americas, and I'm surprised about the many terms.

ANDREA SOTO 

It's true, not a lot of people in our community know about the term Hispanic, even coming from the U.S. Census here in America, or even understand why these new terms are popping up. I think for me, I go by Mexican American now, but growing up I did go by Hispanic, and then I graduated to Latina, and I'm just here now. 

How do you feel about the new generation bringing to the table new terms like Latine and Latinx in the United States, in contrast to the older generation or our families from Mexico?

ALEXANDRA MORA MEDINA

I think it's amazing. I think this opportunity to use the word Latinx and Latine is progress. I know that for our parents' generation, that might not be the case to them, that it's probably just confusing. I remember telling my dad the word Latinx and he thought it was another form of technology. He's like, "Oh, is that like a Mexican iPhone?" And I was like no Dad, Latinx refers to a non-binary person, then, you know, a non-binary person can use it. He can't even say it. I think it's definitely a language thing, and I also did research like Jesus, people prefer Latine because it kind of just rolls off the tongue. A lot of people have a hard time actually saying Latinx, but I think this progression towards being more inclusive, I think it's amazing and I really hope that it sticks with our generation. 

JESUS AMAVIZCA ALDAMA

Wow, I didn't know that Latinx was specifically for like, non-binary people. You learn something new every day. I come from Mexico, we're somewhat conservative, socially. We're not really used to this kind of diversity that we have here in the States, especially not the impacts that we have on social media, because this whole movement with the Latinx community — it's a community right? OK, Latinx community, Latine, it was all thanks to social media. I just think it's a good thing that our generation, it's trying to raise their voices, and they are using them. They're using them to tell the world that we want some things to change because we will feel more comfortable doing these things. I think it's one of the first steps to take for a whole variety of issues that might be, that might have to be solved in the future in the long run, or maybe just weeks from now. 

ANDREA SOTO 

How do you feel ASU supports the Latinx community or the Hispanic community? 

ALEXANDRA MORA MEDINA

I actually came from community college and then I came here to ASU and it was a huge culture shock for me, like, community colleges are so small. It's huge here, you know, there's so many people, so many different ethnicities, so many different genders, so many different just people in general.

I go to the Walter Cronkite School in downtown, and I was very intimidated because I did not see people who looked like me, who talked like me and I was so scared. So my first semester there, I did fairly well in my classes. I saw a few like Latinos around, we never really talked a lot, we kind of just like, "oh hey did you do the homework, oh yeah me too."

I did feel lost and I didn't feel supported. I didn't think that journalism was going to be for me because it is a very white-dominated industry, I don't see a lot of people like me there. 

But then I came across NAHJ, so the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, shout out to Vanessa Ruiz our advisor, who also welcomed me to this group. I got to meet a lot of different students, not just journalists, but people who are studying public relations, communication, and they welcomed me with open arms and they told me, like, you have a place here, you deserve to be here just as much as anyone else. And ever since then, I've been very thankful. So now I've taken the organization in my hands to make sure that no student feels ever left out.

JESUS AMAVIZCA ALDAMA 

I agree with you. I mean, ASU is huge, right, we have like four campuses, each have their own special thing. I'm the West campus, it's a really small University, it's kind of similar to the size of a community college. 

I would say that ASU, and I've experienced this, I've seen this in the last two years, and for someone who comes from Mexico and I got here, like, when I was 15 years old, I didn't know anything. I didn't have any idea of what to do after graduating high school, but I'll say that it was thanks to ASU I am where I am now. Like, I learned things I didn't know about universities, schools and even my future and what I want for my future. 

I would say that ASU does a really good job in providing the resources for diverse ethnicities to stand and deliver, to move forward. It's just that I think that not a lot of, let's say, Hispanic or Latinos or Latinx or even Mexicans don't take the opportunities that are handed to them because they either don't believe in them or they're not really into them in high school. 

I come from (a high school with) Hispanics, African Americans, a small portion of Caucasians, and the majority of my friends in high school they didn't have plans of going to a university after graduating because they didn't believe in it, and they weren't supported by either their families or they didn’t learn about the resources that ASU offers. 

Thankfully I attended one session with American Dream Academy (WeGrad) at ASU, it was hosted in my high school. That's where the domino effect started for me to get here to University, shout out to Christian Rosario, he's like the coordinator for the program, and without him and many other people, I wouldn't be here. I'll say that a ASU does a really good job in providing the resources but it's more about the Hispanic people wanting to really use them and have their voices heard like we're doing here with Andrea and Alexandra.

ALEXANDRA MORA MEDINA

I definitely agree with Jesus in some aspects of it. However, I also sort of disagree. I think that being a first-generation student is so hard, navigating through college can be so difficult. I think, yes, the resources are there, absolutely, but I think sometimes it's hard to find them because I don't know about y'all, but I'd be like, talking to financial aid for like hours, and then they send me somewhere else, and that can get frustrating, especially when you're new here.

I do think ASU does provide those resources. However, I think we lack navigation. Departments can do better to help students get to that final destination of whatever it is they need, whether it's financial aid, counseling, academic advising. I think there can be better ways to execute them.

ANDREA SOTO 

Education in general in our community is something that is super important and that's why we have so many first-generation students. What specifically do you want to see on campus to better support the Hispanic or Latinx community? 

ALEXANDRA MORA MEDINA

Just having organizations out here consistently tabling, like saying "Hey like we're here for you. We want to support you. We are here to be that support system." We've all been saying, it can get hard, it can feel lonely too, because our parents, they don't really know what we're going through, they just know that we're going through it and that they want results, you know? And I say that with all the love and respect, Dad, if you ever hear this. 

But yeah, I think my biggest thing was always I just wanted a support group. They're definitely having these resources out here. I know they have like a first year student success. Definitely having that for transfer students and for freshmen, getting more like Latinos, Hispanics, Latinx folks out here going to these counseling sessions, finding ways to get involved and finding ways to do well academically, tips and advice, looking for a job, like we got you, we'll help you out. 

Something as simple as just having a social media page advertising like Latino success. We know that ASU is No. 1 in innovation, but where is our community in that? What is the school showing for our community? I want to see people like me, people like us, really, succeeding in this University, so I would love to see more Latino success here at ASU.  

I know my advisor for NAHJ, Vanessa Ruiz, is the director of diversity and I know she did get recognition, not in ASU but she was on the Forbes Under 40 magazine, and so that was a huge accomplishment and we made sure to highlight her and we were very proud of her. 

Editor's Note: The recognition Vanessa Ruiz received was a part of the Phoenix Business Journal's 2020 class of 40 Under 40.

I'm very proud of my college because they know all the students work very hard, all the professors. I went to Estrella (Mountain) Community College, which is predominantly known as a Hispanic serving institution. I had a lot of like educators at my community college who were Hispanic, Latino, Latinx so I had friends around even the staff there. 

Coming here to ASU you know I didn't really see that my first semester. Actually, I did at the transborder study hall, and that's where I met my friend group and where I met a lot of like faculty that are Hispanic, Latino, Latinx. I was very proud to be part of that community, even though I wasn't even studying that. But they welcomed me with open arms and they would always invite me to their events, and I thought that was really sweet of them.

But as for the journalism school, it did get uncomfortable sometimes when there wasn't a teacher that looked like or spoke like me. However, most of my teachers were very open to the idea of me writing stories about my community. In fact, they thought they were important, so even though they were not Hispanic, Latino, Latinx, they were allies and they supported me. I would still love to see more diversity in my own college, we're still working on that, so I hope that ASU does take that step and continuing to hire more educators that look like their community. 

JESUS AMAVIZCA ALDAMA

I'll tell you that the first time I got into a classroom in the University, being someone that comes from Mexico, it's a really different world. I felt small, but not in a bad way, I also felt like somewhat empowered and somewhat hopeful because I'm in a place that will really help me, and help those around me, and especially with English being my second language, I felt that being in university is an opportunity for me to improve and to do something more for the people out there.

ANDREA SOTO 

What would you say has helped y'all keep grounded to your roots?

JESUS AMAVIZCA ALDAMA

My stepfather being somewhat strict with me, being like, don't forget where you come from, because it's true. My whole family, and this is somewhat personal but I'll share it. My mother, she's from a fisher town in Sonora, Mexico, same as my stepfather, and they barely graduated high school and after that they headed on to the workforce. That would be me, like heading on to the workforce, if it wasn't for the opportunities I heard from and for them giving me the advice of staying in school and pursuing an educational career.

ALEXANDRA MORA MEDINA

I would say for me, similar to Jesus, like, it is my family who, every day I hear them, you know, speak Spanish so I'm like "Oh yeah that's right." But me, myself, I mean, I would also say my grandfather plays a huge role in that he migrated from Guanajuato to Tejas in the '80s and he's been here ever since and he was an agriculturalist and now he's retired. It's always nice to talk to him and he reminds me where he's from. The resiliency he has after coming here because there were so many barriers, there was the language, you know, there was racism, there was financial instability sometimes. I hold that with me all the time because it shows me that if he can do this, something as big as leaving his family to come to make a better life for himself and my father, I can finish my college education. 

Also last year, unfortunately, I lost my grandmother to COVID. I was very, very close to her which was like the biggest heartbreak of my life. When I was younger, I was never really fully into who I was being a Mexican American. I never really identified with Mexican, I was just like "oh I'm just me," but the closer I got with my abuela and the closer I got with my family and the more I started to learn about like, hey we're from Sonora, we're from Guanajuato, and learning about these places and trying the food, seeing the culture, seeing the beautiful art that our people produce, it gives me a sense of home and it gives me a sense of pride and I know because of her I will never forget where I come from. But I would definitely say the biggest attributions I love the most is probably the art and the culture, the music, the food and even some of the traditions. We have our quinceañeras, our baptismos, I would even say that even though I'm not as religious as I used to be, I still partake in a lot of the religion ceremonies that our community has. 

JESUS AMAVIZCA ALDAMA

I'll be honest with you, I didn't know about Hispanic Heritage Month until very, very recently. I'm from Mexico and we're not used to celebrating that month for that reason, though in September we celebrate our independence and what I like about that fact, of the independence in general, is people fighting for a cause bigger than themselves. Them raising their voices to be heard for something they believe in and to basically seek the justice for them and their families and their loved ones. 

ANDREA SOTO 

What kind of impact do you want to have on campus and even in the future? 

JESUS AMAVIZCA ALDAMA

Right now I'm a sophomore, I know I'm not doing like a lot of stuff.

ALEXANDRA MORA MEDINA

You are doing a lot of stuff. I have to cut you off because that's the one thing I hear from our community the most. "I'm not doing a lot." No. You are doing a lot — value yourself, we should value ourselves more. 

ANDREA SOTO 

Validation, it's important. 

JESUS AMAVIZCA ALDAMA 

Thank you guys. 

Something I might add, it's that when the moment for me to leave campus comes, that I know that my absence, will make less of ASU, in a way that means that I really do a huge impact, but I'm actually paving a way for new generations to do better because right now I'm involved with SPARKS and Access ASU in general, and we reach out to those communities of students, that they don't have the resources or maybe they don't have the mentality to pursue higher education or they don't have the full support of someone they love. It is important that they have a place here at ASU and they really move forward. It's all based on échale ganas, to stand and deliver, to look for a go and just go with it. 

ALEXANDRA MORA MEDINA

I just want to make sure like I said before, like, you know, our community feels resilient, at the end of the day our community le está echando ganas for the future. And like Jesus said, you know, we are paving the way, we ourselves can go through those barriers to make sure that the next generation is also able to. Whether that's making sure that we find ways to navigate resources for them or even having more support groups. I want to make sure that the news that comes from our communities isn't about drugs or criminalization, I want to make sure that I am empowering our community throughout the news.

JESUS AMAVIZCA ALDAMA

I would like to give a special shout out to Marcelino Quiñonez.

ALEXANDRA MORA MEDINA

My friends, my colleagues, my advisors, my professors, thank you so much for always being there for me, whatever barrier is in your way, please. I know it's hard but please go find help because I guarantee you there will always be someone there to help you.

ALEXANDRA MORA MEDINA, JESUS AMAVIZCA ALDAMA, ANDREA SOTO

iÉchale ganas!

ANDREA SOTO 

For The State Press, I'm Andrea Soto.


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