Latino Center reopens following repairs

(From left to right) Andres Almanza, Julián Cancino (Tufts Latino Center Director), Alberto Rivera, and Khalil Payton pose for a portrait shot outside the newly renovated Tufts Latino Center (Vintus Okonkwo / The Tufts Daily)

The Latino Center, located in Bolles House, has reopened after being closed over winter break for repair, Director Julián Cancino said.

Cancino, who became the director of the Latino Center in September 2017, said that after his first few days in the office as director, he felt the house was in disarray and not conducive to community gathering.

This is the first time the center has been redone since its founding in 1993.

Many of the repairs took place over break, according to Cancino. There is now a new carpet and new window décor. Clunky and inoperative AC systems sitting on the frames have been removed, different furniture will be installed later in the semester and the walls have all been repainted with new colors.

“This room is blueberry, [that] one raspberry and the floor in the kitchen is flan with golden sprinkles,” Cancino said.

Whereas previously the wheelchair ramp from outside to the kitchen area was blocked by a microwaves and tables, the area has now been cleared and computers have been removed until further notice.

At the moment, the space is bare, with blank walls and no clutter.

Cancino spoke about his vision for a better selection of couches, tables and lighting, though he did not yet know where he would find those items.

“I feel like I’m selling the ice cream before buying the cow,” Cancino said.

Cancino coordinated with Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon and Senior Director of Diversity, Pluralism and Inclusion Linda Daniels in the fall to make repairs to the Latino Center, according to McMahon. She said that Facilities Services began to work on improving the house’s carpeting, lighting and furniture in January and later started work on the floor, but these repairs have taken longer than expected.

McMahon referenced the current renovations in the Africana Center’s kitchen, noting that the work being done in these two centers can sometimes pose a challenge for the students who spend time there.

“We very much appreciate [students’] patience as these upgrades are undertaken,” she told the Daily in an email.

According to Cancino, Rubén Salinas Stern, who served as the director of the Latino Center from 1993 to April 2017, kept the center filled with books and plants.

Both Cancino and Stern expressed that the Latino Center feels like home for both its faculty and the students it serves.

“I spend as many hours here as I do in my own home … I think it’s an amazing space. I think it’s the best space on campus as far as I’m concerned,” Stern said in an April 2017 Daily article.

“It’s a home, not just a center,” Cancino said. “For a lot of Latino students who are minority within a minority, they feel safe in dorm rooms, maybe labs, the campus center, but this is a safe space for them and we want to create it very intentionally.”

Cancino said he feels that the updated aesthetics will help people reimagine the space as one focused on wellness and the needs of students. He said that the space is not just for Latino Center events, but also for napping and filling moments in between classes and student group meetings. He added that he has plans for mental health-focused programming and hopes to celebrate the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Latino Center with an archival history project that will preserve sentimental objects in Bolles House.

“As we continue to grow and expand the vision and impact of the Tufts Latino Center, we honor our history. In partnership with the University Digital Collection and Archives, we seek to permanently preserve and make accessible this history, the valuable contributions of Latinos at Tufts,” Cancino told the Daily in an email.

One item that will stay is a framed photo of the Bolles House from its early days.

Alberto Rivera, a senior who worked with Cancino to plan the Center updates, expressed his respect for the Latino Center. Rivera works as a peer leader for the center and has been a part of the community since his first year at Tufts.

“You learn a lot outside of the classroom and this is one of those spaces where I learned a lot. I was exposed to different ideas and different terms even that I wasn’t even aware of before coming to Tufts. Fostering that space was what led me to feel like I depended on it,” Rivera said.

Sara Pizarro Jaramillo, a senior at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) at Tufts and an intern at the center, hopes that as part of these changes, they might be able to bring part of that sense of community to students at the SMFA as well.

“I think that it would be good for us to know there’s a community there that can help us and that we can relate to,” she said. “If you come here from a different place, there [are] a lot of people that you don’t know … I definitely am glad it’s here.”

Rivera said he knows the center is going through changes, though he has high hopes that it will be a home again.

“I know that after I graduate the place will carry on without me,” he said.