Cultural Series: A sense of ‘comunidad’


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Rocio Rivera said being part of a group makes her feel at home.

The Association of Latinos Moving Ahead is a student run organization with the purpose of uniting Latino students and offering community service and cultural awareness to the UI.

The group’s meetings, which occur every other week starting at 7 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Latino Native American Cultural Center, focus on organizing events at the UI, as well as duties performed by the organization’s members, such as an upcoming blood drive. Past events included Cinco de Mayo, the Day of the Dead, and other Latino holidays. The association often cohosts events with other Latino organizations.

Social activities bind members together into a community of approximately 25 students. This provides a closely knit connection for members to regain a piece of culture they lost by moving from their respective hometowns. Many communities that Latinos come from are large in size, so it can be a challenge to adjust to a city that is the ethnically different from their hometowns.

“This [organization] works as a transition for students as a home away from home,” Rivera said. “Even outside of our meetings we hang out.”

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This group, which was established fewer than 10 years ago, has had an effect by involving such members as Celene Espinoza.

Espinoza, a UI junior majoring in business and Spanish, found a place in the group during her freshman year and flourished. Originally from West Liberty, she lived in a community largely populated by Latinos. After moving to Iowa City to attend college, she became the minority in the community.

“I wasn’t The Latino at home,” she said.

Her former roommate also attended meetings and discussed about the merits of the organization with Espinoza.

“I never really listened to her until she forced me to go,” Espinoza said.

Now the treasurer for the 2009-2010 school year, she recommends the organization to the Latino students at the UI because of the companionship among its members.

“There’s a lot of people that share the same tradition, the same music, and the same food,” she said.
For Rivera, it is the commonality of ethnicity combined with the assortment of different backgrounds within the organization that gives her a sense of home.

“We are very diverse in this organization,” she said. “It’s nice to have people around and to learn.”

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