La Alianza Hosts Start-of-year Bonfire

La+Alianza+Latinx+will+host+their+next+interest+meeting+in+Latinx+Heritage+House%2C+officially+called+Zechiel+House.

Juliana Gaspar

La Alianza Latinx will host their next interest meeting in Latinx Heritage House, officially called Zechiel House.

La Alianza Latinx, Oberlin’s campus-wide Latinx Alliance, welcomed new and returning members at a bonfire chat on Saturday.

According to College fourth-year Haley Sablay, who sits on the LAL Bort (the organization’s board) as both an interim co-chair and program coordinator, the event was publicized via weekly emails and the first-year orientation schedule. From there, the information quickly spread via word of mouth, and the event saw an impressive turnout.

The bonfire’s popularity highlights LAL’s important cultural role on Oberlin’s campus. The group functions as a support system for Latinx students in a college environment with a Latinx population hovering at just around 8 percent and also serves as a nucleus of Latinx cultural programming and celebration.

“LAL’s presence on campus is part of a wider network of Latinx-identifying organizations that do extraordinary work to ensure folks in our community feel affirmed in their identity and that they have a space on Oberlin’s campus,” Sablay said. “At a predominantly white institution that regularly caters to the needs and concerns of white, middle-to-upper-class students, LAL is important to serving the interests of Latinx students and helping folks build support systems.”

Like many student organizations, LAL struggled with a loss of institutional memory during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, executive board members feel that the organization has found its footing once again, bringing a renewed sense of energy and unity within LAL.

College third-year Cristal Ramos serves as co-chair and program co- ordinator for LAL along with Sablay, who joined the LAL Bort during her second year at Oberlin. Ramos has noticed that the organization is running especially smoothly this year, and she is confident that LAL is now well equipped to organize large-scale events that are fun, thought-provoking and valuable to Latinx students.

“I want to see as many events happen as possible, but I especially want to see more informational events,” Ramos said. “That’s something that La Alianza was great at in the past, and it’s something we want to re-commit to, especially because I know many students feel disconnected from their culture or just want to learn as much as they can about it.”

Ramos’ expansive vision for LAL breaks barriers that exist for students not only at Oberlin but in their own homes as well.

“I want to arrange more guest speakers talking about topics that we as Latinx students don’t always have a chance to talk about with our own families due to cultural taboos, such as mental health and the intersection of Latinx identity with issues of gender, race, sexuality, and class,” Ramos said. “La Alianza is a social organization, and we definitely have a good time, but it’s also meant to be a resource for students.”

Now that LAL is gaining momentum and growing in size, members of the Bort are enthusiastic about recruiting new members and getting them involved in holding positions for planning events.

They were excited to see a large number of new students at the bonfire.

“Some of us who planned the bonfire were expecting more returners than first-years, but we were pleasantly surprised at the amount of first- years and newcomers,” Sablay said.

In addition to new members, Ramos emphasized a desire to attract students from a range of Latinx backgrounds to leadership positions so that LAL’s programming can be as diverse as possible.

“The Latinx community is so broad and diverse. It can be hard to represent everyone because we come from everywhere. We’re encouraging more people of different Latinx identities to join our executive board and our programming committees.”

If you’re interested in learning more about LAL, contact [email protected] edu or @oc_laalianzalatinx on Instagram. A total of eight open positions on the LAL Bort will be announced at the next interest meeting taking place at Zechiel House. An in-depth overview of LAL’s structure and hopes for the upcoming academic year will also be discussed.

Zechiel House is located at 207 Woodland Street, Oberlin, OH 44074.