The Latin American Crisis at AUP
AUP prides itself on being multicultural, accepting, and open-minded. One of AUP's primary goals is to be internationally recognised by 2020, for being the most demographically diverse American university of higher education in Europe. AUP's ethnically-diverse environment is meant to offer students the opportunity to learn about racial and ethnic groups other than their own. But how can the administration achieve such goals when it doesn't provide its students with adequate knowledge about the cultures?
Latinos form about 11% of the population at AUP. Twenty-one Latin American nations share elements of history, politics, economics, social development, and more. Still, AUP rarely encourages consciousness about the region — besides the few classes on Latin America that merely focus on literature and cinema, as well as the few events conducted in 2017 by the AUP Club Latinoamérica.
We hear numerous lectures and talks on conflicts that are meant to raise awareness and strike a chord with those who attend to understand what humanity is capable of when it reaches its lowest point. We hear about tragedies spanning from the ongoing civil war and humanitarian crisis in Syria to Trump’s “Muslim Ban.” Our school invited experts to talk about the importance of identifying fake news, in particular to Trump's narratives. Once again, this is a reflection of the forgotten Latin American region at AUP. Does this mean that we are irrelevant? Why is this overlooked?
What about the disastrous situation in Venezuela, a country where people have to battle daily for survival, where food is scarce, where there is a grave shortage of medicine and medical staff (Casey, The New York Times)? The nation is grasped by Maduro's dictatorship, which continues to torment, persecute, incarcerate and assassinate those who speak out. Where is our awareness? Does AUP ever create consciousness about this crisis — or even reflect upon it?
What about the political conflict and economic crisis in Brazil, a nation that experienced a financial crisis since 2015, which started with the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff forming a political catastrophe? This corruption scandal pervaded discourse in South America, and is of great importance to Latin American students. Why wasn't this critical issue discussed on campus?
AUP's community has put little effort into fomenting awareness of Latin American culture. Our culture, like myriad others, is celebrated at AUP occasionally, and mostly at the World's Fairs — for food. Many Latin American students feel like our peers don't know much about the Latin culture: they only know about the negative aspects, which is what the media shows us all the time.
Students at AUP should be able to build a comfortable atmosphere for themselves and others. However, some Latino students at AUP have dealt with being asked, "Which part of Mexico are you from?" even though they are from Ecuador or Venezuela. Such ridiculous questions have no place in an open-minded liberal arts university like AUP, but lamentably, they persist. Furthermore, the release of the popular Netflix series Narcos lead to the spread of what can only be described as "fake news" via Hollywood’s misconceptions and the stereotypes about Colombians and Latin Americans as a group. Latino students got many reductive comments because of the show.
For instance, "I was discussing 'Narcos' with a student from California. He told me that the show made him want to go to Colombia for the coke." (Senior, USA), and "A student — I don't remember her nationality, asked me if I could give her the contact of a Colombian dealer in Paris that had drugs from 'down there'". (Junior, Colombia)
Finally, the deterioration of Latin American culture at AUP revolves around the way the community treats Latino students, as seen in the examples above. If a Latino student decides to wear camouflage pants to class, and a peer asks them if the professor relates their "rad" clothing to the Colombian guerrillas — shouldn't the community at AUP address this issue to prevent it from happening again in the future?
Latin American culture at AUP is being neglected, and this problem has to be addressed. Our community should focus more on doing events that include Latin American culture such as celebrating the Hispanic Heritage Month and raising awareness about conflicts going on in Latin America. AUP must not fail at its goal to make us better individuals, accepting of diversity. Our Latin American students must not remain silent and maintain their status as forgotten minorities.