Identify the Latin experience and how the community is founded while studying in higher education
TORONTO (Barrio) – Reporting to you live from the other side of finals. I know I have been out of this as of late. The reason was to understand the Latino experience in higher education and what it means to be Latino in systems that were not made for but now include POC. My first instinct was to get in touch with community members from the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS) to understand the community networks in post-secondary institutions.
The beautiful thing about OLAS is the love for Latino culture in various campus communities. This profound admiration for the cultura helped establish the connection for Latin students to find one another and find a sense of belonging.
The president of OLAS (York) Olivia states that the initiative for the organization is that “we just want to create a community for those who show up for the culture and Latin community .”The mission is to “push for recognition” and showcase that “we’re here too.”
However, speaking with Olivia, she revealed that OLAS was initially started by a non-Latino individual who loved the culture and formed a group at York University. The group allowed Latin lovers and Latinos to find one another. Then, a trickle effect of developing various chapters was initiated all over Ontario, including at TMU, UofT, and MacMaster.
Upon speaking with executive members of OLAS at York and TMU, I realized the impact Latin culture has in EL Barrio but sharing and spreading la Cultura con todos. The idea of giving other members a home away from home reached down to the center of mi Corazon. I resonated with the feeling of unity in coming together with others of various backgrounds and upbringings. Come together to be a part of something bigger than themselves and want to feel validated in their experiences. Olas is not exclusive to Latinos but welcomes all members of campus communities, which sets a different tone than other POC membership groups that prefer exclusivity. Taking this notion further, I asked the members what it means to be a Latino.
“It means being proud of where you come from and who you are and owning it” (Olivia, OLAS York)
“It means being part of a beautiful culture—embracing the Latino Sun that becomes tu familia that shows how we are the same and different.” But most importantly, to “feel like home.” (Andres, OLAS TMU)
Being in post-secondary education is not easy. It is made to test and strengthen the minds of individuals with a passion for their selected fields. The ideals of OLAS really showcase the idea of Latin culture, that in which home is not a physical space but a cultural one. Home is where you find your tribe or tu familia and is a place that only your heart would know.
And to all the readers out there, I urge you to step out of your comfort zone. Embrace the cultures and people that make you feel at home. Community groups such as OLAS pave the way for a different meaning of belonging and stretch the bounds of finding your way home. The beautiful thing about the Latin community is that it is not about where you are from, what language you speak or what you look like. Latin culture invites all and celebrates all. It focuses on what makes you different in a way that makes you feel celebrated. I hope it paves the way for community groups to open their doors so others can find a home away from home. This follows the timeless saying that is the epidome of Latin culture.
“Mi casa es tu casa,” and I hope that you all one day get the chance to find your home away from home.
Reporting to you live from el barrio and to all of you out there, I hope you never have to long for a place to call home. Even in a foreign and unknown place, you can always find your way home.
Check out OLAS on Instagram to find out more about the upcoming events and more!
Written by: Maria Guardado @maria.guard