When Associate Professor of Philosophy Juan DePascuale agreed to be Adelante’s faculty advisor in 1986, only nine students on campus identified as Hispanic. In 2016, however, when the cultural society marked its 30th anniversary, 6.7 percent of Kenyon students — over 100 individuals — identified as Hispanic. “Es para no creer,” DePascuale said in the speech he gave at a dinner thrown in his honor during the anniversary celebration. The phrase, which means “It’s unbelievable” in Spanish, reflects DePascuale’s thoughts about how far Latino and Latina students have progressed at Kenyon since Adelante was founded.
The Adelante anniversary celebration commenced Thursday, Sept. 15, with the annual Latinx Heritage Month Opening Ceremony in the Olin and Chalmers Libraries, and culminated with a farewell brunch Sunday, Sept. 18. Clara Román-Odio, professor of Spanish and director of Latino/a Studies, and Jacky Neri ’13, assistant director in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, worked alongside Adelante’s presidents, Edgar Martin ’17 of Santa Ana, California, and Sebastian Chavez Erazo ’18 of Dover, New Jersey, to organize the events. They were aided by other Latino and Latina faculty members, students and allies.
Despite Adelante’s success on campus today, DePascuale remembers a time when Adelante participation dwindled to the point that the club almost ceased to exist. He recalled two persistent tensions the club faced, especially in its early years. The first struggle was to resist becoming simply a culture club for students taking Spanish classes. “The Hispanic students resisted that,” he said. “They didn’t want to be watered down, if you will, or diluted in terms of its identity as a Hispanic student organization.”
The second struggle Adelante faced was with recruiting Hispanic students, as their population grew at Kenyon, who did not want to join Adelante. These students, DePascuale said, “wanted to blend into the dominant student culture and did not want to stick out as Hispanics.”
DePascuale believes the club’s endurance should be attributed to the women of the group, who have always been greater in number than men in Adelante. “The women students, I believe, should be given full credit for keeping it alive and healthy over the years,” he said. “Whenever it faltered, they would nurse it into health so it remained alive and continued and continues.”
The weekend’s anniversary festivities, attended by nearly 50 people, celebrated not just DePascuale, but also the overall rise of Latino and Latina presence on campus, aided by the 2012 addition of the Latino/a Studies concentration.
Neri, who was a member of Adelante during her time as a Kenyon student, said she has seen the community grow even in the three years since she graduated. “There wasn’t really an avenue for [Latinx students] to be really outspoken and political until a group like Adelante was born,” she said. “So the celebration is for this. We actually have a space to speak now.” Along with their anniversary celebration, Adelante members have developed their club this year by gaining access to their own residential lounge for the first time since their creation. The lounge is located in Manning Residence Hall.
With Adelante alumni and students celebrating on campus, club members were given the opportunity to reflect about what Adelante has meant to them throughout their time at Kenyon. Chavez-Erazo said the support he has found from fellow Latino and Latina students through Adelante has been invaluable. “I think as Latinx students, we are so removed from our communities here that we just miss waking up and smelling some rice and listening to a certain type of music, whatever that may be, and just speaking the language,” he said. “Even if that’s just an hour during an Adelante meeting, it’s helped me feel a little less homesick and a little more productive at Kenyon.”
By India Amos ’17
In addition to Adelante’s 30th-anniversary celebration, Latinx Heritage Month events include the following: