Latin American Committee creates space for discussion about regional issues

The executive board of the Tufts Latin American Committee poses for a portrait in East Hall on Feb. 11. Christine Lee / The Tufts Daily

According to the Latin American Committe (LAC) Facebook page and co-presidents Jorge Eguiguren and Sara Torres-Raisbeck, the LAC was founded under the Institute of Global Leadership (IGL) in the spring of 2019 in order to encourage widespread community discussion about political issues in Latin America.

Thus far according to the IGL website, the group has hosted a discussion on the Venezuelan mass exodus and is conducting a discussion on natural disasters on Thursday, Feb. 14, . Torres-Raisbeck, a junior from Colombia, mentioned that these discussions are intended to bring an academic voice to the region’s geopolitical status.

“There was not really a space where Tufts students could learn about current events and history regarding the Latin American region,” Torres-Raisbeck said. “We created LAC to cater to students who were interested in learning about Latin America, [and] those interested in international relations.”

Torres-Raisbeck got involved with the group because of her interest in major political events, such as new presidents taking office in Colombia and Brazil. She said that her involvement with the IGL community at large made her excited about the prospect of bringing a research focus to Latin America. Her involvement with the New Initiative for Middle Eastern Peace (NIMEP) made her interested in starting a similar group dedicated to Latin American issues.

“There are a lot of people at Tufts who are from the region, have relatives in the region or are part of the Latinx diaspora who have no sort of representation,” Torres-Raisbeck said. According to her, this reality made it important to provide a discussion space on campus.

Eguiguren, a junior from Ecuador, cited similar reasons for starting the group.

“There were a few Latin American culture groups on campus that brought the Latinx community together, but we realized that there was no academically focused group that created space for discourse about Latin American issues,” he said.

According to Eguiguren, he started the group with Torres-Raisbeck and junior Vladimir Proaño, who is currently abroad, to provide that discussion space on campus and because of the keen interest the three of them had in the region. Torres-Raisbeck and Eguiguren said that the executive board of the organization consists of two co-presidents, a programming chair, an outreach chair, a treasury chair, a first-year representative and an IGL liaison.

“We meet once a week to plan and sketch out long-term events as well as weekly discussion[s],” Eguiguren said.

Sophomore Patrick Beliard is the current programming chair. He noted that his role involves deciding the theme and focus for each week’s discussion. He searches for articles and materials to provide group members with a glimpse into the topic prior to the discussion.

“The goal is to make it accessible for members and inform them without convoluting the information,” Beliard said. “We are looking for clear and concise articles to enhance involvement.”

The financial chair, Ana Maria Samper, a junior from Colombia, mentions that she got involved because of the absence of such a group from campus in previous years.

“We all feel that Latin America is an under-discussed region with a lot of potential and there should be more discussion about it,” she said.

In terms of the group’s finances, Samper said that because the group was just formed under the IGL and is not an officially recognized club under the Tufts Community Union Senate, funding is requested on a case-by-case basis. According to her, as the group becomes more established, they will organize a budget that will be set aside for them.

First-year representative Santiago Moguel joined the group to find a community of Latin American students on campus and to shadow and learn from the older students in the group. Sophomore Carlos Irisarri is the IGL liaison, and his role is to help maintain a connection between the IGL and LAC in terms of funding, programs and event organization.

“My job as IGL liaison is to ensure that LAC has everything it needs from both a funding and connections point of view as it relates to the IGL,” Irisarri said in an email to the Daily.

He said that his role is to reach out when needed and to make use of all the resources the IGL has to offer, including panel speakers, funding and alumni donors.

Sophomore Juliana Vega, from Ecuador, is the outreach chair. Her main role is to find ways to make the society as accessible as possible to all Tufts students.

“I work to reach as many people as possible,” she said. “One of the main objectives is to get involvement from those who are from outside the region.”

In addition to the weekly meetings, both Eguiguren and Torres-Raisbeck also mentioned that LAC plans to host multiple panel discussions and a symposium at the end of the semester.

“We want to have a symposium at the end of the semester on a topic of our choosing that seems most relevant to the moment, or one we have not explored yet,” Torres-Raisbeck said.

“We haven’t decided on a topic yet,” Eguiguren said. “We are leaning towards the Venezuelan corruption scandal and the regime.”

Additionally, both co-presidents discussed the hope of allowing interested students to conduct research in the future.

“The goal would be a group research project,” Eguiguren said. “Interested students would pick a topic, do some research here, and it would culminate in a trip on the ground in Latin America.”

Torres-Raisbeck also echoes the goal of a future research trip.

“It’s not part of our structure, as we just started, but students who are interested are encouraged to pursue research. We want to implement this with LAC, just as NIMEP has their own research trip,” she said.

Moving forward, all current members highlight the goal of continuing to make themselves and the LAC accessible to all of those interested in the Latin American region and to make sure that the committee continues its engaging discourse in the future. According to Eguiguren, the group used to exist, but was discontinued in 2016 due to a lack of interest. In that regard, continuity is his main aim.

“One of the big things would be to reach the larger Tufts community, specifically the first-years and the sophomores, so that they can carry this organization into the future after we graduate,” Eguiguren said.