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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis Latinos speak out

Published: October 1, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

As part of Brandeis University's Hispanic Heritage Month, AHORA! and the Brandeis Labor Coalition came together on Tuesday night for Take a Look Inside, a panel discussion focusing on the lives of Brandeis Latinos and their experiences in the United States and at Brandeis.

The panel included Gabriel Camacho, an immigrant rights advocate for the American Friends Service Committee, Gerardo Garca-Ros, Director for the Student Support Services Program (SSSP), and last-minute addition, Romance Studies professor Jorge Arteta. Former and current Brandeis facility workers, Jorge Santana and Guadalupe Ortiz were originally scheduled to appear, but were unable to attend.

Camacho said that he believed the “Push-Pull” theory was responsible for the huge influx of immigrants to the United States. This theory holds that the poor economy of the country of origin pushes the person out of the country, while the residing country pulls the person in because of the many opportunities that are available.

While there are many job opportunities in the US, Camacho said that often the jobs available are not greatly desired.

These immigrants end up being your gardeners, janitors, baby-sitters… but they will continue to do these jobs because many have families back in their home country,” he said.

Garca-Ros, a native of Mexico who immigrated to the US at the age of 17, said he agreed with Camacho, since he has held many of the jobs that Camacho mentioned.

But as soon as I got here I knew that I had to learn English, there was no question about it, he added.

Garca-Ros entered the United States through the California-Mexico border and was able to quickly get a job. However, he was not satisfied to remain working the low-income jobs that immigrants are often stuck with. He was soon on his way across the country, stopping in Texas, attending college in Pennsylvania, and finally ended up in Boston. Before coming to Brandeis, he was a youth counselor at schools in the Boston area and spent a short time as an adviser at a local high school.

He has been at Brandeis now for three years and has gone from being the Assistant Director of SSSP to his current position of Director.

Arteta described his experience of coming to the US through La Puerta Grande (The Big Door). Born and raised in Puerto Rico, he was granted US citizenship at birth and had no problem immigrating to the US.

For him the bigger problem was coping with racial prejudice. Unlike typical bigotry, his experience with racism were centered mainly around people questioning his identity. He never looked Latino or acted Latino. Arteta said this always struck him as surprising because he found it hard to believe that there was a certain way that a Latino was supposed to act.

He said that although he is used to this prejudice now and can combat it with witty comebacks, it still happens today on a regular basis.

Both Camacho and Garca-Ros agreed that they too have had to deal with racial prejudice regularly.

Just last week, Garca-Ros said. I had to deal with an incident, on campus!
Following a small Q&A session everyone proceeded to enjoy some home-made Mexican food provided by AHORA! treasurer Lilia Pineda.

Hispanic Heritage Month events continue with “LATINOS: Different Colors, Flavors, and Religons” tomorrow at 7 pm at the Sherman Function Hall.