Latinx Hall Makes a Star

 “What’s your name?”

A single question is enough to bring my entire body to a halt. To make my mind go silent. My name is one that I associate with my identity. It’s a name that represents my culture, my family, and my background. Yet, it’s also a name that many struggle to pronounce. That’s a fact that I always kept in mind as I struggled to come to terms with my identity. Sometimes when people ask for my name, I pronounce it incorrectly for the sake of their comfort. But then what does that mean? By choosing to sacrifice the ease of saying my name correctly for the sake of America being able to pronounce it, what was I truly sacrificing? Just who am I in this country? A country that tries to Americanize me. 

I always describe my first year at Oberlin as being the hardest. I name the stereotypical reasons behind it. The reality is that I unknowingly was forcing myself to conform to those around me. Like a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit into the puzzle it stumbled into, I tried to force myself to fit into my surroundings. “What’s your name?” With a smile I would say it with a Spanish accent while watching them struggle to pronounce it. With a smile I would tell them to not worry about it since I had yet to meet someone who could properly pronounce it. In my head, all that mattered was meeting someone new and opening myself up to new people. Even if that meant locking away a side of myself without even realizing it. 

For those that are unaware, the Latinx culture consists of heavy teasing, banter, and communication that can seem like fighting. To us, it’s natural. We were raised within an environment that consisted of these types of interactions. Naturally, the first year, I tried doing the same to those that I began to see as friends. The reality is that I was still a puzzle piece that had the wrong edges. I was still a piece that was foreign to the puzzle in front of me. My teasing would lead to people asking me whether I was serious. My sarcasm would lead to hurting my friends. My communication would lead to some wondering whether I even cared about them. This was the reality that I found myself in. An environment that would question my identity and ultimately lead me to end my teasing, my banter, my sarcasm, and the pride behind my culture. What pride is there in a place that questions me? How much would I be accepted after being left with people who could relate to one another but never to me? 

No words can truly describe the desolation and utter defeat I felt living in a white environment that continued to feel foreign to me. Hearing my name called in a very Americanized manner. 

“Do you know about Latinx Hall?” 

These are the words I heard my second semester. They were asking about the hall that used to be in Langston Hall, a hall that consisted of Latinx students. Without thinking about it, I signed up. A few weeks later, I was a member of the hall and would live my second year in a quad with three other Latinas. 

“What’s your name?” 

It’s a question that left me with expectations as I stepped into the hall. Yet, I easily heard my name repeated back with ease and fluency before being caught up in a conversation that would switch from English to Spanish. A conversation that opened me back up to banter and teasing. Latinx Hall allowed me to revive the identity that I locked away. The Latinx students treated me with such familiarity that I found myself reminiscing about my own family and hometown friends. But my first year had left its damage. I forced myself to conform too fast to the norms of non-Latinx students. Instead of teasing back, I would respond with simple smiles. Instead of playful communication, I would respond with hesitation and simplicity. 

It took me an entire semester to be able to slowly come back into my old identity. One that banters when prompted and teases when the opportunity arises. The reality is, it took me a while before I found my culture on campus. Whenever I heard Spanish, it would leave me a bit more stunned than I would have preferred. Latinx students are easy to find if you know where to look. But without connections or resources, you can easily go an entire year without meeting a single one. 

Do you know of Latinx Heritage House? Inside, paintings that relate to our culture can be found on various walls. The kitchen and living room are usually occupied by Latinx residents who are known to loudly fight and banter before quickly quieting down to do homework. Our Resident Assistant, Stephanie Shugert, has quickly become known for making dishes special to our culture. Dishes that range from chilaquiles, enchiladas de pollo en salsa verde, and even horchata de fresa for those extra hot days. Oberlin’s campus can feel like home if you know what to look for. For those that are Latinx, come to Latinx House. Sit in a space that will allow you to hear your language spoken. To see your culture represented. To allow your own identity to flourish in an environment that feels like you never left home. 

But to tell the truth, I’m still figuring out my own identity. Habits formed in my first year have slowly begun to break and shift. Yet, the feeling of foreignness and discomfort have long disappeared. In their place are ease and comfort. There are always going to be people who will never be able to properly pronounce my name. What was important wasn’t to be surrounded by people who could say it. It was how I felt when responding to those who struggled to say it. 

“How has the Latinx community helped you find your identity?” 

It’s a question that I won’t be able to answer until the future. But I do know that instead of discomfort and unease, instead of feeling disappointed when I see people hesitate when hearing my name, that now when I hear people mispronounce it, I feel nothing but fondness when I hear them try. I feel the need to tease them while encouraging them to try again if they desire while comforting them after their failure. The Latinx community, after finding them, has allowed me to feel at peace on this campus. It may be a hidden community, but when you find it you’ll feel encouraged rather than lost or isolated. For those that aren’t Latinx, I implore you to learn about our culture. We have made attempts to adjust to the culture found here. In return, don’t try to absorb our culture, but rather, embrace it and let us live in it. We only have each other. To those that are Latinx, come to us. Whether it’s through Latinx House, or the Latinx program La Alianza, or single one-on-one meetings, you’ll find that we’ll always welcome anyone at any time. We’ll say your name correctly. So don’t forget to teasingly laugh at those unable to say it and continue to strive and try. 

“I’m sorry, I’m so going to butcher it.” 

As long as you try, then it’s okay. 

“Can you say it again?” 


“What’s your name?”