Casa Latina Fosters Community

KATHLEEN GUAN/THE HOYA

KATHLEEN GUAN/THE HOYA

Casa Latina, a permanent safe space for the Georgetown Latino community housed next to Black House on 36th street, will be launching this fall and is currently evaluating 11 applications for five spots to reside in the house next year.

The Latino Leadership Forum and the Last Campaign for Academic Reform initiated a sit-in in President DeGioia’s office Apr. 10, 2015 to push for the establishment of Casa Latina. After the sit-in, a working group was formed and the logistics of the development of the house were organized over the past summer.

The five selected residents will be responsible for creating a safe and inclusive space for the Latino community to come together.

There is currently a group consisting of both Georgetown administration and leadership members of the Latino Leadership Forum who are reviewing the 11 student applications.

The Latino community has been working for several years to establish Casa Latina at Georgetown. According to Luiggy Vidal (COL ’18), LLF facilitator for the Casa, leaders from Latino organizations on campus last year pushed for the creation of Casa Latina.

“They all stepped up after having the first ever Latino Heritage month. The leaders of every organization decided that they needed to propose Casa Latina and that it needed to happen because they no longer wanted to dilute the resources of Black House and they just felt like they needed a safe space,” Vidal said.

According to Laura Padilla (COL ’18), the establishment of Casa Latina was a necessity for Latino students on campus.

“It was difficult for a lot of the students, especially because there are so many other identities that intersect with being Latino, so a lot of the times Latinos also happened to be low-income students, first-generation students,” Padilla said. “Having a house filled with people that understand and accept your experiences is really important.”

As an established space that has been open to the Georgetown community for over 40 years, Black House will serve as an example and framework for residents of Casa Latina.

Since its establishment in 1972, Black House has been a center for diversity within Georgetown and for the student-of-color community. Although initially established for Georgetown’s black community, it has evolved into a safe space for students of all cultures.

Holmes said that Black House offers the leaders of Casa Latina valuable lessons in developing a similar community.

“It would be a great opportunity for Casa Latina folks who are new to the space to use the Black House as an opportunity to gain some lessons learned. You don’t have to start from scratch and there’s a community that is willing to support you,” Holmes said.

The Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, which will manage and support both Black House and Casa Latina, also sees Black House as a foundation to which they can refer to when choosing residents for the Casa as well as during its formation throughout the year.

Olivia Holmes (COL ’16), who lives in the Black House, said that no matter who is living there, Black House hopes to build a community at Georgetown.

“It depends on the residents and the mission that they seek for the space, but I think it’s always important to think about building community first. That’s kind of how Black House has approached things over the past year,” Holmes said. “The Black House seeks to build community and put out a positive message of solidarity to the greater Georgetown community.”

Black House and Casa Latina will be housed next to each other on 36th Street. Vidal said that this will help students find community.

“I think that because they are going to be right next to each other, I think that it’ll serve as a locus point for diversity, which is essentially what a lot of students of color look for on this campus because some just don’t feel comfortable immersing themselves in a culture, community that is not their own,” Vidal said.

Padilla said that having Black House and Casa Latina next to each other will help both groups.

“It shows the greater Georgetown community that there are oppressed identities on this campus, and by being right next to each other, we’re supporting and being in solidarity with one another,” Padilla said.

According to Director of the CMEA Charlene Brown-McKenzie, the CMEA is looking for students to help build community.

“We are looking for student leaders that can be engaged in fulfilling the missions of the university and their communities; students with the ability to work as a team, with leadership skills, with the ability to network and connect with the larger community and the ability to really execute goals,” Brown-McKenzie said. “The movement behind this was really about having a space where they’re empowered to grow and flourish.”

Although much of the foundational preparation for Casa Latina has been completed, much is still left to be done in terms of programming and event planning for next year.

CMEA Assistant Director of Diversity Programs Daviree Velázquez, advisor of both Black House and Casa Latina, emphasized the autonomy that residents will have in forging Casa Latina.

“I am very conscious of allowing the community to form [the Casa] together and I think my role is to be supportive of where [the residents] see it going, but not to place my expectations as the advisor upon them,” Velázquez said. “I hope it meets the vision that the students have.”

Vidal said that the Casa will be a benefit for the entire Georgetown community.

“I think [the Casa] will benefit everyone because I know that there’s a lot of things that the community and Georgetown itself doesn’t get to learn,” Vidal said. “The Casa will just teach more about the Latino narrative and serve as a big leadership role for the residents.”

Padilla hopes that the establishment of Casa Latina will create a more unified Latino community similar to the black community at Georgetown.

“Just seeing how united they are under the same cause and how organized they are, that’s what I’m hoping for for the Latino community. I also know that a lot of Latinos have a hard time adjusting to Georgetown, and I personally had a hard time adjusting, too,” Padilla said. “I didn’t find a community right away, so hopefully we can help first-years acclimate.”

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