Organization focuses on Central American identity

first_imgMarcelle Saulnier | Daily TrojanA newly recognized organization on campus, the Central American Network, is seeking to provide unity, academic help, personal support and, most importantly, a space for students to unapologetically be themselves. “Essentially, the mission statement of CAN is to empower the Central American community on- and off-campus by bringing educational resources to our people such as mentorship, tutoring and partnerships with nonprofits and fostering a Central American identity,” said Nathalye López, one of the CAN co-chairs. “We want to raise awareness and advocate for our culture.” Two years ago, López, a senior majoring in human biology and contemporary Latino and Latin American studies, was sitting in an Introduction to Mesoamerican lecture when the teaching assistant, Floridalma Boj-López, briefly discussed contemporary Latin American issues, emphasizing Central America. This intrigued López, and she decided to go into Boj-López’s office hours to dive into detail about her culture. After a few meetings, Boj-López urged López to start a small gathering of Central American students who also wanted to further their knowledge about their own culture. “She told me, if there are more of you, you should all connect because numbers are powerful,” López said. Boj-López also told López she was an immigrant herself and this was a topic she held dear to her heart. The group began with one other student joining López and Boj-López, then it expanded every week. Ultimately, the Central American Network was conceived. However, there was a long road ahead before CAN could be formally acknowledged. López and Boj-López faced many obstacles in sorting out the logistics of becoming a recognized student organization and finding a group of members to uphold the values of CAN. They had to wait an additional year to get recognized. Through it all, CAN organization persevered and is now officially recognized.Michael Alvarez, CAN’s director of public relations, hopes that CAN will make an impact far into the future. “Now that we are an official organization, our goal is to maintain sustainability and growth,” Alvarez said. “We do not want this to become dormant. We want to grow within our campus and community for years to come.” Although there are other Latino/a-oriented organizations, CAN is the first to represent Central American students.“We have Latinx organizations like [the Latina/o Student Assembly] and El Centro Chicano, but they focus on Mexican culture and I personally do not feel at home,” said Jennifer Gonzalez, CAN’s recruitment chair. “I know they do not intentionally mean to focus on Chicano/as, but it just so happens to be that way.” Members of CAN believe that the campus should encompass the diversity of countries that the Latinx community represent.  “We want to pave the way for the inclusion of different Hispanic cultures,” Alvarez said. “Personally, I am from Puerto Rico and it would be great to have a club centered around Caribbean culture, but for now this is great — one step at a time.”CAN’s executive board is continuing to work to bring its ideas to life. One of its goals is to create a scholarship to benefit current freshmen and the youth in South Central Los Angeles.“This will be open to everyone regardless of race or ethnicity, but it is moreso directed towards Central Americans,” Gonzalez said. “We feel this is one way to be active and enhance access to education within our people.” CAN is looking forward to two upcoming events. The first is La Fiesta Centroamericana, taking place on Sept. 15, which aims to shed light on the Independence Days of four of the seven Central American countries. CAN is also partnering with the Central American Resource Center, Homies Unidos and South Central Scholars to host the annual Central American Youth Leadership Conference at California State University, Los Angeles. The event will feature food and educational workshops for undocumented and at-risk youth. Last year, CAN members volunteered at the event, but this year they will be responsible for the programming and execution of each workshop topic. “We are the first and only Central American organization at USC,” the executive board said in statement. “Everyone is welcomed regardless of race, ethnicity, religious or sexual background. We want to bring cultural awareness through our history, food, music and traditions. But also, start open dialogues by sharing migrant stories and social realities that make our countries unique.”last_img read more

Read More