On Monday, Oct. 1, SVSU hosted Dow Visiting Artist Olmeca, who spoke about the Latinx community.
Olmeca is a music writer and producer who specializes in bilingual pieces. He is an advocate for social commentary and community efforts that bring together campus programs, offices and academic departments.
“The Latinx community grows up with the idea that we are not from Mexico, but we’re also not from the United States,” Olmeca said. “When we have this in our psyche, we don’t speak up. We see everything as a privilege. We feel like maybe we shouldn’t be here, but we are going to make the best of it and we don’t rock any boats.”
To Olmeca, this lack of belonging is the biggest struggle for the Latinx community.
“You go to Mexico, they see you and believe you’re Mexican,” Olmeca said. “But, as soon as you tell them you grew up in the United States, then all of the sudden you’re not Mexican anymore.”
Latinx students often struggle to mesh their Latino heritage with their American lives.
“Students will start speaking Spanish to each other if it’s just two of them standing in the line at Starbucks, but as soon as a group of students, whether they’re black or white, come up, they stop speaking Spanish,” Olmeca said. “Then, they’ll start over-articulating their words in English to somehow prove that they are American and they belong.”
Spanish and French junior Rachel Berlin believes the issues Olmeca addresses helped her see the world from a new perspective.
“I never realized that the issues facing the Latinx community affect so many people so deeply,” Berlin said. “As a Caucasian person, born in the United States, it’s difficult sometimes to put yourself into someone else’s shoes.”
Olmeca urged members of the community to take pride in their cultural differences instead of trying to blend in.
“Rather than seeing our (culture as a deficit), we need to see our culture as a point of strength and power,” Olmeca said. “We don’t have to create a new space for us to exist in and be in this little bubble. Instead, we have to see that it is a privilege to navigate two cultures because, if you grew up in two cultures, you have more to offer.”
Despite the challenges, Olmeca sees hope for American society to accept the Latinx community.
“This identity of America is ongoing,” Olmeca said. “Identity is an ongoing process especially in a country that came from migration. There is still an opportunity to change what it means to be an American.”
The lecture was followed by a performance on Tuesday, Oct. 2, where Olmeca performed his mixed-language hip-hop songs.