When Edgar Martin ’17 came to Kenyon, he felt detached from his Latino heritage.
“I felt homesick, and I wanted to be around people who I could identify with culturally,” Martin, who hails from California, said. “I ended up finding Adelante.”
Today, Adelante, the College’s oldest and largest Latinx student organization, begins celebrating its 30th anniversary with the Latinx Heritage Month opening ceremony at 11:10 a.m. in Olin and Chalmers Libraries. The month-long event was previously known as Hispanic Heritage Month, but the name was changed to Latinx (the gender-neutral alternative for Latino or Latina) to increase inclusivity.
The ceremony kicks off a three-day program of events honoring the group, whose name is Spanish for “moving forward.”
The anniversary will feature a reception hosted by President Sean Decatur on Friday; an award presentation to Associate Professor of Philosophy Juan DePascuale; the faculty advisor who helped create the organization, a poetry reading by Professors of Spanish Víctor Rodríguez-Núñez and Katherine Hedeen; panel discussions and festive dinner events. Professor of Spanish Clara Roman-Odío’s Latinos in Rural America (LiRA) research project and a history of Latinx peoples at Kenyon compiled by Alma Urbano ’18 will be featured at an event hosted at the bookstore on Sept. 16.
“For us, it’s more than just 30 years of Adelante — it’s 30 years of Latinx people contributing great things to the Kenyon community,” said Martin, who is now the organization’s co-president. “It’s 30 years of reaching out to the community, educating people about issues they normally wouldn’t think of.”
Adelante, which began as a relatively informal and small group, has since grown to an increasingly diverse association of around 45 students, according to Martin. “When it started, it was a sheer force of will,” said Associate Provost and Associate Professor of English Ivonne García, who is also the faculty advisor for Adelante. The group had about five active members when García began at Kenyon in 2006.
Adelante serves as both a resource for Latinx students at Kenyon and a hub for projects focused on the Latinx community at Kenyon and in Knox County. Members organize and host events each year as part of Latinx Heritage Month, which runs from mid-September to mid-October.
“When I was a student, most of the members [of Adelante] were international students — they identified as Venezuelan, Argentinian or as wherever they were from,” Assistant Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) Jacky Nari Arias ’13 said. “Now, we have students who are from California, Texas, Chicago — students who are familiar with the Latinx experience.”
Adelante’s history has not always been smooth. García said sometime around 2007, the flags Adelante hung in the atrium of Peirce Hall for the opening ceremony of Hispanic Heritage Month were stolen. In 2013, flags from that year’s ceremony were stolen from the Peirce atrium, and others were ripped. “We’ve had some interesting years … in terms of the number of students just who soldiered on to keep this organization alive, and handled some pretty dismaying situations,” García said.
For many students today, Adelante represents more than just a gathering of individuals with shared interests: It is a place where students who are otherwise cut off from their cultures can reconnect.
“I joined Adelante because it was a place where I could be my true self,” Adelante Social Media Coordinator Jonathan Urrea-Espinoza ’19 said. “Being able to find people I could relate to on a cultural level was something that was important to me.”
Nari Arias, who managed the logistics of the anniversary, said outreach for the event was largely focused on alumni, but anyone in the Kenyon community is welcome to attend. Twelve Adelante alumni, including the student founders of Adelante, will attend the anniversary celebration to speak with current students, learn about Adelante’s recent activities and tour the organization’s new lounge. Currently, 59 non-students are registered to attend the anniversary events.
“Support for Adelante has come from all over the College,” Martin said. “This honestly could not have come together without the help of the President’s Office, the ODEI and our advisor, Professor García, as well as Professor Roman-Odío.”
García is looking forward to today’s opening ceremony, which she calls “one of my favorite moments in my life here at Kenyon.” She is equally excited for the approaching anniversary weekend. “I’m really wanting to meet the founding members and shake their hands and give them an abrazo, you know, a hug,” she said.
“Adelante has been really involved in opening this world to the community at large,” García added. “It’s really up to the community how much they want to find out.”