William & Mary over the years has had a growing number of Latinx identifying students. Unfortunately, much of the history of Latinx alumni is unknown, because in its early years W&M did not track Latinx identity among students and alumni and some alumni may not have felt comfortable self-identifying as such.
Our history as Latinx alumni has, in many ways, resembled our experiences as students at William & Mary. Despite the years apart between our respective class years as students at W&M, many of us struggled to find and connect with peers who were also Latinx. Some of us were luckier, having the opportunity to attend W&M during times when Latinx organizations were established and offered a space to more easily connect with peers sharing similar cultural backgrounds and interests. Post-graduation, however, our alumni experience has paralleled this disconnect as many of us were unaware of other Latinx alumni outside of those individuals we knew while we were students. We had no formal organization and, therefore, no real way to connect to one another.
The diversity inherent to the Latinx community is its true strength. We are Indigenous, Afro/Black, white, biracial and linguistically diverse. We have had different personal and community experiences with colonialism, imperialism, racism and classism. Yet, as students and as an alumni community, we come together because of our similarities. We turn to each other for support because of our shared experiences as immigrants or navigating our immigrant roots here in the United States. We connect through language or the unique blend of languages (i.e., Spanglish) and laugh at the variations of certain words across our dialects. We marvel at the types of empanadas and tamales that exist within our different countries and yet agree that they are all delicious. We sought each other out as alumni despite having different experiences connecting to or disconnecting from our Latinidad during our years at William & Mary.
Which brings us to this moment in time, when we have come together to formally organize as the Latinx Alumni Association. The idea was ignited when several Latinx alumni collaborated to support our undocumented students by creating the Jorge Alberto Urcuyo Scholarship fund in 2018. The family of Luis Navas ’82 — brother-in-law of the late Urcuyo, who was a teacher in Nicaragua — provided the seed money for the scholarship, and former Latin American Student Union leader Jessica Chilin-Hernández ’12 mobilized support for the effort.
Then in March 2020, a small group of us had the opportunity to convene through Leadership Circles, which united alumni with Latinx, Black/African descent and LBGTQ+ identities. In January 2021, the Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern/Southwest Asian (APIM) Leadership Circle was created. Through some difficult conversations during this time, we verbalized and recognized the range of isolation and support we experienced as students. Yet through this process, we also realized there exists a strong thread of love for our alma mater woven through us as individuals and as a group, which drives our desire to do more for our community. This thread kept us coming back to each other during this pandemic, despite Zoom fatigue and a host of other responsibilities, to strengthen our connection and continue building what we envisioned we could be.
We are formally organizing as the Latinx Alumni Association to assure our Latinx students and future alumni that they will always have a larger community of support once they graduate. We welcome the growth to come and are a confident and strong alumni presence ready to enact a positive impact at W&M. Our current body of dedicated Latinx alumni leaders are working on developing a formal sustainable structure for the Latinx Alumni Association while continuing to offer events and mentorship opportunities for students and alumni and continuing to grow the Jorge Alberto Urcuyo Scholarship fund. We are working to uphold our vision statement: "We envision a vibrant and multicultural environment that celebrates our unique experiences as a Latinx community and fosters a future where diversity and unity are our strengths."
This is the first step of many to come for our Latinx Alumni Association. We stand strong together with a renewed hope for what our beloved William & Mary’s future can hold for Latinx students moving forward. We stand in great company with our intersecting identities, allies and friends of the Crim Dell Association, Hulon Willis Association and APIM. Together we are building a better tomorrow for William & Mary.
If you are a fellow Latinx alum interested in learning more about or connecting with us, contact Ivana Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org, engage with the Latinx Alumni Association on the William & Mary Alumni Association website or like our Facebook page to be up to date with our events.