Fresh faces, creating Latinidad: A new Alianza works to empower Latine students


Daily file photo by Joanne Haner

Alianza’s poster board for the Spring Student Org Fair. The Latine student organization has ramped up its activity this year.

Sterling Kossuth Ortiz, Reporter

Representing all Latinidad at Northwestern is a tall task. Alianza, a student group promoting Latine culture, tries every day to meet it. 

In 1989, students founded Casa Hispana, the first Latine student group on campus. Casa Hispana was the precursor to Alianza, which currently has about 140 members.

Weinberg sophomores Mayerli Constante and Leslye Molina are this year’s Alianza co-presidents. Both Constante and Molina emphasized that one of the executive board’s priorities is defining Latinidad to include anyone with blood or traditions from Latin America, no matter their race or ethnicity. 

For Alianza, this definition matters because representation of Latin American culture in the U.S. and NU has historically been primarily focused on Mexico, failing to acknowledge the wealth of countries and cultures in the continent, according to Constante and Molina. The pair said before them, the last three Alianza presidents were Mexican — a tangible manifestation of this issue. Constante is Colombian and Ecuadorian and Molina is Mexican. 

To better represent this cultural diversity, the board is including a range of cultural food at its events. For its Bienvenida welcome event in October, Alianza provided tacos and other Mexican food from Taqueria Los Comales. For its next event in February, the Comedy Beatdown, the club provided Venezuelan food from local restaurant La Cocinita, making a conscious decision not to cater Mexican food through Compass Group to be more accurately representative of different Latine cultures. 

Alianza is also actively expanding and planning more events, Molina said. In fall 2021, the organization ran five events — more than double the events it hosted during the whole 2020-21 academic year.

Since fall, Alianza’s executive board has also doubled in size, adding positions like an ASG Senator, currently filled by Weinberg sophomore Andrés Polanco Molina. He said his passion for working with ASG comes from a sense of solidarity with students of marginalized identities at a predominantly white institution.

“In Alianza, our constituency includes (first-generation and low-income) students, oppressed students, Latine queer students, Latine undocumented students, and all these people need a voice in the Senate,” Polanco Molina said.

Weinberg sophomore Melissa Barraza, Alianza’s social chair, said she wanted to be involved in the group because she grew up in Miami around a strong Latin American community. She wanted to find a similar community on campus, Barraza said. 

“There was a lot of conversation going about forming community and how it was really hard during the pandemic,” Barraza said. “I really wanted to be involved on a personal level to create our opportunity.”

Constante, Molina and Barraza said they applied together to help lead Alianza during the summer of 2021. McCormick senior, Gilberto Guadiana, on the other hand, applied on his own.

Guadiana, Alianza’s outreach chair, said he wanted to run for an executive position once he learned no board members from last year would return.

“Alianza often experiences resets every couple of years,” Guadiana said. “My aim was to give back to the community and make Northwestern a more welcoming place.” 

Alianza members voiced excitement for the future, both for their club and Latine students at NU at large. The group currently hosts study sessions every Thursday at the Multicultural Center at  6 p.m. and plans to hold a celebration at the end of Spring Quarter.

“We just want to bring the community together as much as possible,” Molina said. “I feel optimistic. I’m excited.”

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