La Casa Latina opened its doors to the Georgetown community Saturday, marking a historic milestone a multi-year long effort to create a space for Latinx students to build and empower their community.
Led by the Latino Leadership Forum, Casa Latina was approved last year to be created as a safe and inclusive space on campus for Latinx students. The space is located on 36th Street, N.W., next to the Black House and will house five residents on an annual basis.
Georgetown’s Latinx community worked for several years to acquire Casa Latina. The Latino Leadership Forum and the Last Campaign for Academic Reform initiated a sit-in outside President John J. DeGioia’s office in April 2015 to push for the house’s establishment. The sit-in resulted in a working group tasked with organizing the logistics of house’s development.
The Latino Leadership Forum and the Last Campaign for Academic Reform also pushed for the implementation of a diversity requirement in the same sit-in.
This year’s inaugural residents are Ximena Cespedes (SFS ’19), Josué Coronado (COL ’18), Zeke Gutierrez (SFS ’19), Citlalli Velazquez (COL ’17) and Bria Wade (COL ’19).
Casa Latina hosted a welcome barbecue to ring in the academic year on Saturday, with several members of the Georgetown community in attendance.
Coronado, the dialogue coordinator for Casa Latina, said the house’s establishment was significant not only for Georgetown, but also for other Latinx college students across the nation.
“For me, it’s like history in the making,” Coronado said. “There aren’t many ‘Casa Latinas’ around the nation and for Georgetown to finally have one after over 200 years is pretty empowering for many different people in the community.”
Casa Latina is currently planning what direction its programming will take. According to Coronado, it is important that the house serve as a safe space for Latinx identity and self-care.
“There aren’t too many spaces where we can be ready to enjoy being Latino because it’s such a white space on campus,” Coronado said. “It’s great just to have this center where we can come together and succeed in it. It’s Georgetown – it’s such a hard school to get into and even harder to stay in and it’s really important that we’re able to balance our happiness with academics.”
Much of Casa Latina’s mission and foundation was based off the principles of the Black House, which has served as the center for communities of color on campus since 1972.
Gutierrez, the Student of Color Alliance Liaison for Casa Latina, said the Casa is committed to continuing to build a relationship with the Black House community.
“I think that there’s been a lot of collaboration going on between Casa Latina and the Black House that’s been more logistical and behind the scenes, but I really like the fact that we’re always talking to each other and whenever I need advice or need help with anything, I can just ask and they help me,” Gutierrez said.
According to Wade, the marketing outreach chair for Casa Latina, the group is looking to build solidarity with other groups for students of color to discuss issues that surround their communities on predominantly white campuses.
“For me, a personal goal is to in some way address or work to fix the tension that exists between the black and brown communities,” Wade said. “I want to in some way work on solidarity and making sure that people realize that allyship goes both ways and how we can work on realizing that our communities go through similar struggles and how we can be there for each other.”
According to Cespedes, Casa Latina intends to collaborate with the Black House to host events highlighting the similarities and celebrating the differences between the two communities.
“I think that there are so many different things within our communities, but there are so many more similar things,” Cespedes said. “We go through similar struggles and similar issues and we both get through that in different ways, but I think that at the end of the day, we’re more connected and we’re rooted in the same cause.”
The Georgetown Center for Multicultural Equity and Access Assistant Director of Diversity Programs Daviree Velázquez, who serves as advisor of both Black House and Casa Latina, said that although it has only been open for less than a month, Casa Latina has already begun to fulfill its purpose as a place of community building for everyone, not just students.
“One of the main desires of having the house was to be a space where a collective consciousness is built along with community, and it’s definitely already attracting that,” Velázquez said. “I’ve received several calls from alums who are anxiously looking for ways to give back to the house and help support the house so that it’s thriving. I’ve also had a lot of opportunities to meet with faculty, staff and administrators who are on campus and want to be a part of building up this community.”
Wade said the residents ultimately want the space to reflect the views of the broader Georgetown Latinx community.
“We want to make sure that we’re not dictating what we think people want to see from us,” Wade said. “We want to hear from those who will be using and taking advantage of this space, but it’s definitely been a little bit overwhelming.”