Blogpost: Latinos and Education in the United States

By Amicia Bowman

Latinos are the fastest growing population of non-whites in the United States.  To be a Latino is to be a person of Spanish descent who is born in the United States.  The term “Latino,” however, is understood by most people, both Latino and non-Latinos, to be a term for “anyone who is of Spanish descent.”  This understanding is a misconception.  Further, the misconception that the role of Latinos in the United States, citizens or not, is to do physical labor rather than seek an education is a myth and a stereotype.

Dr. Marta Moreno Vega came to visit the University of Michigan two weeks ago to speak about the books she has written and to relay a very important message.  Dr. Vega is a professor at Hunter College in New York City, New York and is also Founder of the Caribbean Culture Center African Diaspora Institute.  Dr. Vega wrote The Altar of My Soul: The Living Traditions of Santeria, When the Spirits Dance Mambo: Growing up Nuyorican in El Barrio, and Women Warriors of the Afro-Latina Diaspora.  As an Afro-Puerto Rican/ Boricua feminist, author, and activist, Dr. Vega strongly believes that it is important for Latinos to embrace their cultures and the African influences that lay within them.

In her speech at the University of Michigan, Dr. Vega spoke on the importance of being a Latina intellectual and firmly advocates that education is the key to being successful.  She truly believes education is the solution to all oppression.  She also challenges the misconceptions that Latinos are just of Spanish-descent and the role of only doing physical labor.  She believes Latinos are a combination of many identities and are heavily influenced by African cultures.  She also dedicates much of her time promoting that it is the responsibility of Latinos to educate others about our cultures, our struggles, and the art that develops from the lives lived in these ways.  Intellectuals and speakers like Dr. Vega are valuable role models for the continued educational and professional success of Latinos.

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