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Querida Carolina Latinx Center Familia,

From us to you and your loved ones, Happy Holidays! This year’s season comes with a little extra energy. If you’ve visited us in the last few weeks, you’ve likely heard at least one resounding GOOOOOOOLLLL!!! Here at the Center, we have been hosting World Cup watch parties to cheer on the great Latin American teams representing. We have been a gathering location for our friends from around the world and it has really put us in a festive mood. Please join me as I reflect on our many successes from this past semester.

All that was accomplished was possible because of the amazing team we have. I want to thank our professional team: Marcela Torres-Cervantes, assistant director; Cinthia Salinas-Pavon, program assistant and Associate Professor Paul Cuadros, faculty associate for making our center’s impact possible. I am sad but excited to share that Cinthia will be leaving us to follow her dream to teach abroad. Cinthia has been an important part of our team at the Center and we are happy we could help her achieve her dreams of teaching abroad. We will all miss her spirit at the Center and wish her the very best.

I also want to thank our graduate and undergraduate Ambassadors. It is because of what you all do that brings our center to life. I have enjoyed watching each of you develop as young professionals and I am very proud of all you have done for the Center and our community on campus. I know my family and I feel blessed to have such amazing young people serve as role models to our girls. You all embody what it means to be a Tar Heel and never forget your roots.

This leads me to our theme for this year “Vivir Mi Vida.” The committee came up with this theme because they wanted our stories to be heard right here, right now! All our programming for the year is centering the voices of the present moment and living our lives out loud. For me, it was on Thanksgiving that “Vivir Mi Vida,” was very apparent. I was watching our 10-month-old daughter, Julia, while my oldest daughter, Lucila, and Isabel, were helping to make tostones and sweet potato casserole while I switched back and forth between the World Cup and the Thanksgiving Day football game. We can be our full selves in any space and that is what we have been promoting to our students. Be proud of who you are and the richness of your heritage

We had several signature programs and events that included hundreds of participants. Our Latinx Heritage Month Celebration featured USA Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast, Laurie Hernandez as our keynote speaker. Laurie delivered an important and timely message to a packed house, sharing her struggles with mental health and the importance of staying “Brave.” The difference between being fearless and therefore lacking emotion and being “Brave” know it would be difficult but still willing to put in the work. I know it was a message that truly resonated with me. There was so much great programming like welcoming a group of college students from the area for a year-long LÍDER program. If you get the chance watch the video and tell me if you are not encouraged about the future.

We saw the need and desire for our students to engage with our surrounding community in education and we acted. We partnered with Frank Porter Graham Bilingüe to develop the Enlances volunteer corps. Now we will have a group of students assigned to a teacher and stay with that class for the rest of the year. They will be able to forge relationships and serve as role models to young students.

Finally, led by Associate Professor Paul Cuadros and Dr. Maria DeGuzman, faculty gathered to build community and share stories through our Carolina Latinx Faculty Council. We hosted a social at the start of the semester and one at the end of the semester for faculty to meet each other from across units and departments. We had faculty members that have been at Carolina for years and had never met. We are making strides to break campus siloes and are building a richer more integrated community.

When I reflect on these moments and all of the smaller ones from the semester, I am inspired for what is to come. Our community has been able to galvanize and grow as the center begins its fourth year. We’ve had major achievements, but nothing has meant more to me than to see how we are breaking down stereotypes of what it means to be a Latinx person in North Carolina. We are marching towards a more fruitful and rich future because of spaces like the one we have created, and I am hopeful for all that is to come. Thank you all for believing in us and I can’t wait to share more with you all soon.

Until then, stay warm, and safe and enjoy this wonderful time of year.

Con mucho cariño,

Josmell Perez, Director