The Latino Leadership Forum is advocating for the creation of Casa Latina, a permanent space in the style of Black House that would function as a safe space for Georgetown students, alumni and allies.
The LLF is composed of various Latino student groups, including the Latin American Student Association, GU Riqueza Dominicana, the GU Mexican Student Association, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, PorColombia and Reventon Latino.
The Latino House would serve to increase community ties, institutional support and visibility among communities of color, according to LLF facilitator Naomi Fierro (COL ’15).
“What we’re hoping is that Casa Latina will be a safe space to celebrate and honor our culture, not only through cultural celebrations, but also by hosting meetings and events,” Fierro said. “It would be a place to just unwind, to be with other students who come from a shared experience. I think it would be very powerful in terms of an informal space that the classroom can’t necessarily provide.”
In a survey distributed by the LLF to gauge student support for Casa Latina, the LLF stated that a permanent house would offer a variety of programming to meet the needs of Latino students, alumni and allies, including events on Latino Identity, Intersectionality, Immigration, Study Breaks, Cultural Celebrations and Race, Ethnicity and Class.
The survey has already received over 300 responses, with the majority of students expressing support for the initiative, according to Fierro.
In the past, temporary Latino residences such as La Casita and El Hogar del Poder Latino were available on Magis Row, an independent, self-designed living learning community for juniors and seniors, which is administered through the university housing system.
Currently, the Latino community shares space in the Black House, which was founded in 1972 after 10 students petitioned then-University President Fr. Robert Henle, S.J., for a space of support and congregation for students of color. Each year, a rigorous application process conducted by the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access selects five students to live in the house, and the students then host events throughout the year. Associate Dean of Students in the Division of Student Affairs Dennis Williams, who works closely with the CMEA, said that the center “has no position on the issue” of a Casa Latina at this time.
Sharing the space between the Latino and black communities for events has recently resulted in a lack of adequate resources. Last semester, the Black House saw record-high attendance at programming events, with 931 students using the space, according to Black House Resident Director and LLF member Nancy Hinojos (SFS ’15).
Fierro emphasized the need for a separate Latino residence in the face of this high demand.
“We realized that the resources were being spread quite thin among the communities of color,” Fierro said. “Alongside that, we felt that there is a need for us to be recognized as an important and valuable identity that can be different from the Black House community.”
Hinojos said that Casa Latina, if established as a permanent residence, would look to the Black House as a model and partner.
“Ideally, the Latino House would be next door to the Black House,” Hinojos said. “This would create the opportunity for collaboration within the community and help us dive more deeply into the issues that affect students of color at Georgetown.”
GU Riqueza Dominicana Co-President and LLF member Ediana Then (COL ’15) emphasized the potential benefits of creating a Latino House, drawing on her experiences as a past committee member of Hoya Saxa Weekend, which gives admitted underrepresented students of color a chance to experience Georgetown.
“I’ve been participating for many years in Hoya Saxa weekend, and potential students have asked if we have a place here where Latino students can congregate,” Then said. “When I came here as a prospective student, that’s what really sold me on the school — that at that point we did have a Latino residence on Magis Row. That really cemented my decision, and I thought that this would be a place I could really feel at home.”
The LLF proposed the idea of creating Casa Latina at the annual Black House Dinner hosted by University President John J. DeGioia on Feb. 18, and the group is currently finalizing an official proposal that will likely be presented to the Office of the President after spring break, according to Hinojos.
The LLF will launch a campaign soon to mobilize student support for the initiative, and the group hosted a town hall on Feb. 17 to further ascertain student enthusiasm.
“All the students we have spoken to have responded very positively; everyone really wants this house to happen,” Then said. “At the town hall, some ideas were suggested on how to run the campaign to help promote this to the administration, such as reaching out to the [Georgetown Scholarship Program], the Women’s Center and the LGBTQ Resource Center. It would create a grassroots situation where everybody would be involved.”
They cited other universities with established Latino residences, including Columbia University’s Casa Hispánica, the University of Pennsylvania’s La Casa Latina and Yale University’s La Casa Cultural.
Fierro stressed that the LLF aims to move as quickly as possible on the project.
“As a senior, and speaking for the majority of seniors on the Forum, we want to see something tangible in place before we leave,” Fierro said. “It would be excellent to have a house next year. It’s definitely something that I wish I had as a Georgetown student during my time here — and I can only hope to leave that legacy for incoming Hoyas.”
Correction: This article previously stated that 10 students petitioned Fr. Timothy Healy, S.J., for the creation of the Black House in 1972. Healy did not arrive until 1976: the students petitioned Fr. Robert Henle, S.J., who was the university president in 1972.