Professor says Latin-American youth not engaged in culture

Caleb Wong

Many Latin-American youth are not adequately engaged in Latin-American civic culture, according to several panelists at the Benson Latin American Collection’s Lozano Long Conference on Friday.

In the panel, titled, “Complex Contradictions: Activism, Economics & Politics,” four professors presented research on various aspects of youth involvement in Latin-American culture.

Chloe Sikes, a curriculum and instruction graduate student, said youth who grow up in cooperative communities believe there are no professional opportunities in the community.

“There’s a sense of belonging in the community but not a sense of place in any other way to make a life in La Cooperativa,” Sikes said. “[It] is the major employer, even for students who might seek a lot of higher education.”

Youth activists face opposition by older, more established union groups, according to Ellen Moodie, an anthropology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Youths represent their entrance into activism as almost accidental and happened upon something, which is far from the way their deeply organized elders represent themselves,” Moodie said.

Sonja Wolf, a visiting professor from Mexico, said youth street gangs in Latin America can be thought of as activists for social change.

“Gang members have started protests or marches in prison,” Wolf said

Alejandra Zambrano, the director of La Poderosa Media Project at Cornell University, said Sikes’ talk contained many similarities with the study abroad program she directs.

“We work connecting students from the U.S. with students from Ecuador,” Zambrano said. “For example, we try to make it a democratic process so that they don’t feel the adults are running and making all the decisions, but all the decisions are given to the students.”