Why the Hispanic Student Council doesn’t back the Latino Cultural Association’s request for a USG seat

By Diamond Jones

Some Hispanic and Latino students disagree whether each is represented equally within Undergraduate Student Government.

Hispanic Student Council president Alejandro Franchini held a meeting Thursday concerning the possibility of fulfilling the Latino Cultural Association’s request to create a senate seat in addition to the already present Hispanic council seat within USG.

Franchini, a senior studying health care management, led the discussion in the Student Center where he defined Hispanics and Latinos and how those of the two cultures self-identify.

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The term Latino describes people whose language is descended from Latin, Franchini said, and does not include those from areas not colonized by Spain. On the other hand, Hispanic refers to heritage and cultural traditions linked to Spain and to those who speak Spanish, he said.

His main argument was that giving a seat to the six-year-old Latino association, an organization “similar” to the Hispanic council, Franchini said, could cause them to overtake HSC’s current position as a representative for Hispanics and Latinos on campus since 1986. He also said it would be redundant and unnecessary since HSC already implements and properly represents the overall culture of Hispanics and Latinos within its one organization.

But some students don’t agree HSC is properly representative of everyone.

A few students who don’t identify as Hispanic said they felt as though HSC shouldn’t spend money on events that aren’t educating and properly representing not only Latinos, but also Hispanics, equally.

Damaris Gonzalez, for example, is a first generation student whose parents are from Mexico. She doesn’t identify as Hispanic.

The sophomore studying languages, cultures, and international studies said HSC fails to realize that some students on campus and across society do not identify as Hispanic.

“The only reason HSC [is] being taken seriously now is because it’s seeing LCA as a threat,” Gonzalez said. “LCA is not a threat — it’s not competition. It’s just trying to do what HSC [isn’t] for our community.”

Some of the students questioned HSC’s authority to make the decision to be the only organization representing SIU’s 1,200 Hispanic and Latino students on campus.

Further disagreement occurred when Franchini compared the situation at hand to a hypothetical example where students in the Black Affairs Council might ask for a separate seat if some found the term “black” offensive and preferred the identification of “African American.”

Former LCA President Yahaira Heller said the two groups — Hispanics and Latinos — have some political and ideological differences.

For example, she said HSC was nowhere to be found when some students were speaking out against members of SIU’s swim team last fall when a photograph was found of some of their athletes wearing sombreros and mustaches as part of a Halloween costume.

And even though HSC and LCA share similar constituents and have worked together in the past for Hispanics and Latinos, Heller said there’s no credit given to LCA when this is done.

“Even when we do things to try and further the work of HSC, we’re still treated as the ugly stepchild,” Heller said.

A decision on whether or not a seat will be created for LCA will be taken at an upcoming USG meeting.

“I know that the government gets to choose and try and put us in boxes,” Heller said. “But you’re not the government, so let them identify how they want to.”

Correction, Oct. 30: Yahaira Heller is the former president of the Latino Cultural Association, not the current president. 

Staff writer Diamond Jones can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_dimewrites.

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