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April 14, 2005

Progressive Profiling: the Organization of Latin American Affairs

James Girvin

      The Organization of Latin American Affairs (OLAA) is one of the most active—and, not to mention, progressive—undergraduate groups found on Boston College's campus. From organizing voter registration drives to participating in the School of the Americas (SOA) protest, OLAA has been involved with many student activities throughout the school year. Recently, I sat down with OLAA President, Arivee Vargas, to ask her a few things about the organization.

      What is OLAA and what do you see as its main role at BC?

      OLAA represents the Latino voice on campus. In addition to that, it aims to advance the Latino community at BC, in Boston, and beyond that. It also serves as a home base for Latinos on campus. We actually refer to each other as family.

      Is there a specific issue that you view as most important on campus right now?

      Ah, so many. The non-discrimination clause is probably the most important right now because it promotes equality for all people. We need to band together to try and support that clause. For us in OLAA specifically, our most important issue is trying to establish a Latino Studies program. There are several professors actually working on that. Right now, we have a Latin American Studies Program, but it does not involve Latinos within the United States. It does not focus on the histories and experiences of Latinos in the U.S. from Mexican immigration to the Zoot Suit Riots. A Latino Studies Program would include this. If there are some things I regret about my BC education, it is that I was never able to take a Latino studies class. All students like to see themselves reflected in their class material. I thought at a prestigious institution like BC, I would be able to learn more about the history of my people. So I have been disappointed in that regard. Also, we need to work on hiring and retaining more Latino faculty at BC. Other than that, it'd be great to get more Latinos coming to BC.

      You have a quote from Ché Guevara on your t-shirts ("We are not a minority"). Why did you choose that quote?

      We didn't choose it because of the controversy that surrounds his name—we aren't trying to romanticize him. We just feel it's most fitting considering we, as Latinos, are not a minority—we exert such a profound influence on society. We are a huge part of the U.S. and will continue to create such a powerful impact on the very social fabric of this country.

      You were involved in voter registration and the SOA protest earlier in the year, what other functions are you looking forward to for the remaining school year and the next?

      For the rest of the year, we have a Latino Student Admitted Weekend. This is to try and convince other Latino students to choose BC. At this, we talk about our experience at BC and try to answer any questions they may have. Other than that, we do a lot of volunteering, trying to give back to our community. Next year, we hope to continue to have our Latino Family Weekend and [to further] our efforts to raise awareness regarding issues pertinent to the Latino community—whether it is educational inequality or current political situations in Latin America. We also hope to bring even more OLAA members to the SOA protest.

      Any recommendations for The Patriot?

      It would be really insightful and informative if you were to research and write about the history of student movements—like O.N.E. [Obeying No Establishment] and FIST [Family in Struggle Together]. People don't really know about these things and I think it'd be great if they could learn more about it. Also, I think recently the student voice has been repressed even more. For example, the alcohol-ban at homecoming was an administrative decision; no students were involved. Maybe the Patriot could talk about it and try to encourage students to do something about that, call students to action. That was all part of Reena and Nick's goal: giving a voice back to the students, which we desperately need.

      And finally, did you know you spelled "hola" wrong?

      [laughing] You're a dork, James.

      For more information on the Organization of Latin American Affairs, please go to /olaa.

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