Vassar College prides itself on hosting over 100 organizations on campus that provide community for students with similar interests. Poder Latin@ is one of those organizations, but Dalia Griñan ’17, current Publicity Chair on the Executive Board, says that Poder Latin@ is different, specifically in its focus on recent issues of identity as they appear in the media.
“All of the ALANA center organizations are about identity and having a community base of individuals that have can come together and discuss their experiences and needs,” she said.
The organization was founded to address the needs and concerns of Vassar’s Latin@ community and to serve as a support group and a political action group.
Jamily Duarte ’16 is the President of Poder Latin@ and said, “It also serves to create a network between Poder Latin@ and other Latin communities, particularly in the local area, in order to provide strength and support. All members of the Vassar community are eligible to become members of Poder Latin@.”
As an organization facing a new year of programming and meetings, they hope to build up the membership and sustainability of the group. “I would like to go back to the mission statement in terms of how we organize programming. I would also like to be more involved in the Poughkeepsie community as an organization,” said Griñan.
Duarte agreed that the organization needs to find ways to better include individuals, “The Latino population at Vassar is growing and Poder Latin@ would like to be responsive by catering to the needs of the population by being more inclusive in both our general body and executive body meetings.” Duarte said.
Additions to programming this year will likely include a new annual event and Poughkeepsie community outreach.
In addition to hosting and participating in campus events, Poder Latin@ holds weekly general body meetings. These meetings are intended to promote communication and understanding between the members of Poder Latin@ and the other members of the Vassar community.
Recently, the group has noticed a trend rising in social media and decided to address the implications of that trend.
Whenever the hashtag #Latina or #Latino is used, there are very commonly negative connotations such as sexually suggestive photos and prejudiced stereotypes. All over social media individuals have been displaying these negative connotations and making them well known.
In response, women everywhere have worked to reclaim the hashtag and represent the wide variety of women who identify as Latina. Poder Latin@ decided to contribute to these efforts.
The group recognized that while this social media movement was originally intended for Latina women, everyone should be welcomed and valued in discussions concerning identity and representation in the media.
The activities at the meeting included sharing how you would like yourself and your culture to be represented in social media no matter what gender you identify as.
Recently, the offices of Campus Life and Diversity, Campus Activities, Residential Life and the Bias Incident Response Team have worked to create programming outside of organizations that can address issues related to the hashtag discussed in Poder Latin@.
Programming has included a Social Justice dialogue and features a Privilege Campaign II that will be held early next week.
Regarding the planning of these dialogues, Griñan said “I think the events should be student-centered and led when possible. Also, part of having a community that can handle these types of discussions requires having more people with life experiences directly tied to their identity and the issues we would be discussing.”
On the subject of identity-based organizations and dialogues on Vassar’s campus, Griñan remarked, “As an institution, Vassar was not established with the needs of students of color in mind and it is still not up on those needs. It is important for students to have places to come together and talk about their needs and their experiences.”
Duarte added, “Poder Latin@ has made my college experience so much worthwhile in that it provided a space for me to convene with Latino students who have had similar, yet distinctive experiences as I’ve had.” Besides engaging her in discussions about issues plaguing the Latina/o community, she has found friends to bond with and help her learn about and appreciate her identity.
Poder Latin@’s general body meetings are in the ALANA Center from 7-8 p.m. on Thursday evenings.