Latino Leadership Institute educates on Latino identity

Rajya Atluri

Latino students found a safe space Monday to discuss community empowerment and self-identity during a workshop at the Latino Leadership Institute.

Ilse Colchado, radio-television-film and Mexican American studies sophomore, presented on self-identity during the workshop. After attending the institute’s events last year, Colchado said she became passionate about Latino issues and became a presenter for this year’s programming.

Colchado said she was inspired by discussing the struggles of Latinos at a retreat with other UT students last year.

“I felt that I resonated with a lot of the issues we were talking about, especially with representation in Student Government and representation in media, and I finally felt at home,” Colchado said. “I finally felt safe to talk about these issues. The reason I want to talk about identity is because sometimes students are in the same shoes I was in last year when I didn’t know how to talk about these issues and how to have other people be aware of my racial or ethnic background.”

The student-led event, hosted by Latino Community Affairs, included a speaker segment, discussions and a group social justice activity.

Radio-television-film sophomore Bianca Zepeda, the co-director of archives of LCA and co-director of the institute, organized the event.

With the current political atmosphere, Zepeda said it’s hard for many Latinos to feel comfortable with their identities.

“I just wanted to make a safe space for people to come and listen and be empowered by the workshop,” Zepeda said. “We just want them to know that they can feel comfortable with who they are, and in order to do that, they have to embrace each other so they can help each other out, too.”

Although all students at the workshop were Latino, each came from different cultural backgrounds and experiences.

“The problem with identity is very prominent within the Latino community, because the Latinx community is so broad — there’s so many cultures, so many backgrounds,” Zepeda said. “It’s really hard to put us in a box.”

Dania Diaz, human development and family sciences sophomore, participated in the institute workshop for the first time.

“I personally feel like I needed to get more involved (with the Latino community), and I needed to get more knowledge in order to help more people,” Diaz said. “The Latino community is my family … I want to be here for this opportunity.”