By JEFFREY KEITH, WC Reporter
MACOMB, Illinois (Western Courier) – Empowering, Evolving, and Educational. These are some of the words and feelings used and expressed by organizers Vanessa Barban, Samantha Hernandez, and Jose Espinoza of the recent “Destigmatizing the Stigmatism” beach bracelet crafting event held at the Multicultural Center.
The activity provided students to socialize and discuss both important issues and empowering facets of Latinx culture while building bracelets and enjoying complimentary snacks. The event in question, which was a collaborative effort put forward by Chingonx Afrocentric Queers (CAQ) and Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc (LTA), strived to highlight deep-rooted prejudices within the Latinx community; particularly pertaining to the discrimination and mistreatment of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Barban, Herandez, and Espinoza explained that queer voices have, and are, continuing to be silenced within the Latinx community due to the prominence of strong, retrogressive beliefs on gender and sexuality. Espinoza explained that there’s an emphasis on “machismo” within the Latinx community specifically regarding men, which leads to the belittlement and bullying of males who don’t quite fit the established gender norms and appearance and behavior.
He continued by spotlighting his personal experience with this kind of discrimination. Espinoza explains that, “I’m a feminine man, and so I get dragged a lot because, you know, I’m supposed to have these ‘manly’ attributes.” The solution, as Espinoza described it, is education: by “becoming aware about what is going on in the world, [it] can slowly help contribute ways to help improve these things that are going around in our generation.”
Barban highlighted the hypocrisy of LGBTQ+ people being stifled within the Latinx community and the importance of pointing it out, asserting that “we encounter so much struggles as our culture in the United States, and for us to silence a different community, it’s kind of sad. So [we’re] definitely putting awareness and putting a spotlight on that.”
Hernandez, who joined CAQ in order to become more active at WIU and represent queer people of color, placed an emphasis not simply on highlighting the injustices faced by LGBTQ+ people. On embracing and celebrating the many different facets of Latinx culture, Hernandez goings on to say, “Even though we do focus on, like, educational purposes, and we do talk about serious topics, there’s also a different side within culture, within our food, within how we represent ourselves and the traditions we have.”
Hernandez continues, “I think as a WIU student, you should be involved in learning about our community.” The message of the event is clear: educate yourself, both on the many positive aspects of Latinx culture, as well as the injustices faced by queer people within it. If interested, CAQ has meetings on Tuesdays from 4:00 to 5:30 in the evening, where you can learn, discuss relevant issues, and even obtain study hours, and the organization is open to all people, regardless of race or sexual identity. Breaking barriers is not simply the message of the event, it is the message of the organization.