Latinos across the nation took notice of the offensive comments Donald Trump made about Mexicans during his presidential campaign announcement speech.
Recently, Temple’s Asociacion de Estudiantes Latinos worked to use Trump’s comments to their advantage.
AdEL held its Latino Heritage Month kick-off event, “Why Trump is Good for Latinos,” Sept. 16, to provide students with the opportunity to discuss Trump’s comments and to inform them about the issues affecting Latinos in this upcoming presidential election.
AdEL’s co-presidents, Melonie Collado and Nadia Vanessa Toro, hoped the name of their event would attract enough people’s attention to draw a crowd to Room 223 of the Student Center.
“I think again a lot of people were so almost like disturbed at the fact that we named our program that,” said Collado, a junior psychology major.
Their marketing strategy paid off, because the crowd of about 55 students was larger than the group’s leaders expected.
As students crowded around the back of the room, Toro, a sophomore political science major who led the group discus sion, began the event by sharing the specific comments Trump made during his speech.
She also shared a video showcasing Latino journalist Jorge Ramos of Univision, who was kicked out of a press conference after trying to ask Trump a question about illegal immigration policies.
“We’re not in a post-racial society,” Toro said. “People of color are still being oppressed every single day, and Latinos are one of those [peoples].”
Toro also opened the floor up to discussion. As expected, many students expressed anger with Trump, but some students also echoed the idea that Trump’s comments may benefit the Latino community.
“We don’t thank [Trump] for anything else, but we thank him for raising awareness,” Collado said. “At least he’s getting people together to talk.”
Many students also turned the discussion toward the American Latino experience in general.
Students like Jaymarie Santana, a junior secondary education and English major, shared their family stories and Latino heritage with the crowd.
Santana said while growing up, her mother placed importance on education as a step toward having a voice and achieving the American dream. After graduation, Santana hopes to become a teacher so she can be a role model for young Latino students.
“I feel like we need more people of color to be teachers,” Santana said. “I feel like that would improve the education system so much, to have someone that you can look up to, someone who can be an advocate for you.”
Many in the room became visibly emotional while sharing their families’ histories and their own goals for the future.
“I’m just happy people felt comfortable enough to say what they had to say,” Toro said.
AdEL’s co-presidents concluded the event by encouraging those who can register to vote to do so and provided them with information about “Voto Latino,” a nonpartisan organization that aims to register young Latinos to vote.
“I want us to have a voice,” Toro said to the crowd.
Santana, who is not currently registered to vote, said she plans on registering within the next few weeks so she can more actively participate in this upcoming presidential election.
“We were able to discuss these issues that are very pertinent in the Latin American community and then be able to find solutions, for example voting,” Santana said. “That to me was really important.”
AdEL will continue fostering discussion and celebrating Latino Heritage Month with events throughout this week as part of Latino Excellence Week.
Collado and Toro also said AdEL’s main priority for the rest of the year will be providing Latino students with a home away from home, as well as a platform for issues they care about.
“When you finally have that moment, when you have that chance to physically say how you feel, it’s like nothing else,” Toro said.
Jenny Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.