The La Alianza Conference last weekend attracted attention from a wide variety of groups. From the workshops Saturday to Merengue Madness and the Latin Boogie, many segments of the college community were touched by the La Alianza conference.
Sophomore Claudia VonVacano said the conference was a success and had a good turnout. "People came from all over the place," VonVacano said. "There was a wide variety of speakers," she said, ranging from Latina-lesbian speakers to speakers with a more moderate view.
The conference was part of the East Coast Chicano-Chicana Student Forum (ECCSF).
The annual conference is held at a different school each year; this is the first year Oberlin has hosted the conference.
A number of speeches and workshops were held during the conference. One workshop was run by VonVacano, who presented two videos: one on globalization and the other on Nicaragua. She said, "I talked about acquiring voice. As a lesbian and a Latina, I need to create my own issues and agenda[and not just]," respond to mainstream culture, she said.
Other workshops covered topics such as the empowerment of Latino communities and how Americans are unaware of their deep Latino roots. Judith Ortiz Cofer gave a poetry reading at Wilder Friday evening, and spoke about the cultural differences between Puerto Rico and the United States on Saturday.
Conjunto Cespedes, a 12-member Afro-influenced Latin band, performed at Finney Chapel to an almost full house. "It was an amazing performance," VonVacano said.
The conference also included a collaboration with the Male Exotica party at Stevenson Saturday night. VonVacano said she had the biggest problem with the Male Exotica party. She said the Latino culture is centered around the mother figure and the talk of a wet T-shirt contest, though it was not actually held, went against the values the conference tried to advance.
The published purpose of the ECCSF "affirms the importance of La Raza, the greatness of our heritage and our culture. The forum supports our courageous people organizing in the fields, in the barrio, in the work force and in the schools. We commit ourselves to the organization and leadership of La Raza, to our families, to our communities and to the struggle for equality for all people."
VonVacano commended the organizers of the conference: First-year Maria Barajas, sophomores Magaly Roman and Isabella Quintana Rachiel were unavailable for comment. "La Alianza has done an excellent job," Von Vacano said.
She said one issue that emerged during the conference was that of need-blind admissions. "Need-blind needs to be reinstated at Oberlin," VonVacano said. She said need-blind admissions would help bring more Latino students to Oberlin.
The ECCSF was formed to gather the college Latino community on the East Coast together during school breaks when many could not return home. "It is an all encompassing unity thing," VonVacano said.
"If we espouse a Latino identity, we will be able to have strength in numbers," she said. "We will be able to fight for each other's rights in the extended community."
The organization's goals include strengthening the security of Chicano and Latino student organizations and providing for the "common action and issues of compelling importance and effect," according to its written goals.
The conference, "Unity through Diversity: Embracing Diversity as a method of unification within the Latino community," was sponsored by La Alianza, the Forum Board and the Multicultural Resource Center.
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 22, April 25, 1997
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