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Student Cultural Groups: Princeton Latinos y Amigos

In some ways, Princeton Latinos y Amigos can trace its roots back to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Acción Puertorriqueña, the group she co-chaired while a student at the University. After numerous national origin-specific groups such as Acción Latina, Acción Puertorriqueña’s successor; the Cuban American Undergraduate Students Association; Chicano Caucus; and Colombian Students Association and Friends faded into obscurity, PLA was officially recognized in spring 2013 as a pan-Latino organization for undergraduates on campus.

“A lot of our programming so far works on three main things,” co-president Briana Christophers ’17 said. “We have a lot of stuff on identity, then like cultural stuff, and then we try to do a lot of collaborative events as well.”

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“It’s really about building a community for Latino students on campus,” co-president Nicole Gonzalez ’16 said, in reference to the group's focus on Latino identity.

Two discussion groups, Mujeres and Hablemos, bring together students to discuss issues pertinent to Latina women and to students who identify as both Latino and some other identity, respectively.

In terms of cultural events, PLA starts off the year with Latino Heritage Month, which runs from mid-September to mid-October and concludes with the Fall Gala. It also sponsors movie screenings, such as an upcoming screening of the Venezuelan film “Pelo Malo” in collaboration with the Black History Month Committee, and Caja Loca, a Latin dance party in Campus Club that PLA hopes to host monthly.

As for the element of collaboration, Christophers said, “Even more recently, the collaboration stuff has been becoming bigger and bigger. We’re trying to engage the broader Latino community institutionally.” PLA has been working with the Association of Latino Princeton Alumni, the Latino Graduate Students Association and Latino Princetonians, a resource group for Latino University staff.

In its first years, PLA was more focused on its cultural activities. In the past few months, however, recent campus political movements have created avenues to engage in discourse with University administration, which have allowed PLA to take on the role of advocate for Latino students on campus.

“Another goal … was working more with the administration to work on topics specific to — or maybe not even specific to — the Latino community but that involve [it],” Christophers said. “[To] advance the needs of our population and hopefully also those of other minority or cultural groups on campus.”

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“It’s really a focus on equity on campus,” Gonzalez added.

“Not just for us, for all of us,” Christophers said.

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