Gamma Alpha Omega, Sigma Iota Alpha host Hispanic Heritage Month discussion panel

By Sergio Legorreta

“How could you sell my culture as a costume?” The question was asked Wednesday evening, when students and staff gathered to discuss stereotypes.

The discussion, organized by the Latina sororities Gamma Alpha Omega and Sigma Iota Alpha, was held on Wednesday, the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, as one of many events to promote awareness of Hispanic culture.

Dr. Elizabeth Palacios, dean for student development, facilitated the discussion by asking questions, beginning with, “What is a stereotype?”

Palacios said stereotypes are simplistic representations of people that prevent us from truly getting to know and understand them.

“It makes you feel bad,” said Waco senior Noe Araujo. “Usually they’re negative.”

A recent incident at Baylor occurred in 2012, when students dressed up with stereotypical Mexican sombreros and ponchos and posted pictures to social media, as reported by Inquistr. Apart from their clothes, the students also hung signs around their necks that read, “Green Card?” and posted a picture of themselves climbing over a makeshift wall with the caption “Best entrance ever #lodge #mexicans #hoppinthafence viva mexicooooo!!”

Palacios said people’s intentions matter, because many people do not act out of malice. However, she said often, people don’t think about how it affects others, and she has seen parties that depict Hispanics as just barefoot and pregnant.

“They will think it is cute or funny and won’t realize how many people they hurt,” Palacios said. “It affects how you see yourself. It affects how you view your community. You are not able to be part of a community that sees you as something less.”

Palacios also said stereotypes exist for everyone, whether for ethnicity, gender or even hair color. Stereotypes can arise from not having an interest in understanding the other person or group, she said.

The lack or perceived lack of interest can prevent people from learning about one another. El Paso senior Adrian Galvez, member of the multicultural fraternity Omega Delta Phi, said he tends to shut off people that seem arrogant or ignorant toward his culture.

Katy freshman Ari Venegas also said she normally does not invite people to her home to eat, because she is worried people won’t like or be interested in the type of food.

Palacios said it’s important to show an appreciation for other cultures and educate others about our own culture. She also said people should not assume others won’t be interested in other cultures such as when people believe that Caucasians won’t like spicy food, as that can be a stereotype as well.

Palacios said every person is unique, and everyone should thus learn who every person is, without assuming one person represents or is confined by an entire ethnic group.