An Open Letter to Incoming Hoyas

By:
04/16/2015

My piece is a cry to decolonize; to blatantly deface and dismantle the structures on this campus that alienate by telling us that we cannot be proud of our working poor background, our accents, and our black and brown skins; to realize that there is no shame. We need not a degree, or an acceptance letter from an affluent and predominantly white institution to give us our worth. Our stories and struggles—those that we demand a space for—are the true foundation of our beauty.

This letter is our affirmation that this campus cannot ignore, for we, just like those who came before—indios, slaves, campesinos, obreros, immigrants—endure.


To those newly admitted,

Jack the Bulldog has a house, on 36th between P and O Street. If I had told my dad, he would smile slightly, and chuckle with his gaze faced down toward the ground. He’d say, “Mira, tenían razón Los Guaraguao.” Look, The Guaraguao were right.

Guaraguao who sang:

Que alegres viven los perros, en casa del explotador.

Usted no lo va creer

Pero hay escuelas de perros

Y les dan educación

Pa’ que no muerdan los diarios.

Pero el patrón hace años, muchos años

Que esta mordiendo el obrero.

How happily the dogs live in the exploiter’s house.

You are not going to believe

But there are dog [training] schools

That give them education

So they don’t to bite the newspapers.

But the boss for years, many years

Has been biting the worker.

Pero mira. But look. You, newly admitted. In the Junited Estates—in Georgetown—there are houses for dogs. El Patrón has given el perro, Jack, a multi-million dollar townhouse, as we Latinos beg the university for a bone—for a house, for a space to express our own.

Can I tell you that the institution, Georgetown, welcomes you, asks you to be open to the diverse experiences of those around you, tells you that you will learn from each other? Do I omit that, when you hear “Spring Break in the Caymans,” see that the Spring Fashion catalogue students put together includes a $200 shirt and a $325 blouse, it might be hard not to feel excluded? Do I spend my last dollar buying that Brooks Brothers shirt, those salmon Polo shorts, Sperry Top-Siders, as if a piece of clothing with some smiling whale is going to mask my accent and brown skin? Or do I fight?

Te digo that even when we get a casa, we will not allow the university to put us on a leash. They tell us not to bite the hand that feeds us. They’ve told ours to be silent in the fields of concrete and green, in their houses, kitchens and offices. No más. No silence can be afforded. Racism and classism exist even here in this heaven, where white angelic bodies reign, where capital affords you power and belonging. Here where John Carroll waits like St. Peter at the gate, admitting you who leave your homes to come to one of the most privileged places in the country.

I’ve had it with the nice talk. Mijos, mijas, and all y’all, this campus does not have a Casa Latina. And we need you to be aware. Don’t get me wrong. Latinos are here. Look at yourselves. Look at how you make up twelve percent of your incoming class.

If you come, there are several here ready to make you feel like you’re at home. But, I want you to know what you are signing up for, when you sign that paper committing yourself to attend this Hilltop. Babosos, la lucha doesn’t stop when you walk through those gates. Beans and rice follow you even though they might taste worse without consomé, at Leos. That lack of salt may assault your identity. I know. There is no place to affirm that tu lucha es mi lucha. Pero confía. It is. There is no space to dialogue, to discuss, and to discover our person: queer, women, men, black, brown, poor, proud and all we are in jumbled Spanglish. Pero confia, we are fighting for a permanent home.

Excitement and fear runs through your veins. We’ve been there; feeling alone, leaving those los que nos aman y entienden for those who might not accept us. I want to congratulate you. You’ve made it vos, gotten that letter and probably that financial aid with as many zeros that you didn’t know existed. I’m proud of you, fool. I hope you join us in establishing our presence—let this institution know that our liberation is not based on silence, not on assimilation, but the expression of ourselves and our identity. Demandamos Casa Latina.

You can sign the petition to create a Casa Latina here.

About Author

Avatar

Kevin Ruano


16 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “An Open Letter to Incoming Hoyas”

  1. Avatar Your Boy says:

    Hey, this kid’s a good writer. Voice, recruit him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Avatar Reader says:

    Cool and all, but why not save this for the first issue of next year when the incoming freshmen can actually read it?

  3. Avatar Kevin Ruano says:

    The target audience is admitted students. Retrospectively, the piece should have been titled “An Open Letter to Admitted Students.” Why target admitted rather than incoming students? To agitate action and consciousness among those who the University is trying to recruit serves to prove that what’s at stake with the Casa Latina is the establishment of a space (as President DeGioia said in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdluyZbCSXA) for generations to come.

    Yes, the Casa will help current students, and incoming students. But, if granted and established, the Casa will also be proof to every admitted student, every admitted Latinx specifically, that the University recognizes the value of their identities and struggles. The way I see it, the Casa Latina will only help this University attract the students it desires–and that message, I could not have alluded to as strongly if this piece was published in August and addressed to the incoming freshmen.

  4. Avatar Cinthya says:

    Very proud of you Kevin :)

  5. Beautiful, Kevin. Una tremenda admiracion para luchadores de corazon como tu.

  6. Avatar RAGE says:

    As a brown, minority, first gen, low income, queer female from a country that was previously colonized by ‘angelic white bodies’, I disagree with this article. Just because you go to school with a bunch of rich white kids doesn’t mean that they’re literally stuffing vineyard vines down your throat. Georgetown isn’t silencing you – you seem quite capable of speaking as you harshly reduce the rich/white portion of this community (while significant in numbers) to a bunch of stereotypes devoid of identify and purpose (you’re all Hoyas at the end of the day and were chosen to be a part of this community for SOME reason). You’re forgetting that you’re privileged enough to get a great education. If the targeted audience of this article is people with financial aid with lots of zeroes, don’t forget that these people are getting an essentially FREE EDUCATION that YOU CAN TURN DOWN IF YOU FEEL SO INCLINED. Furthermore, I can’t understand why any kids from lower income backgrounds feel like they’re being SHAMED into silence – stop to think that you’ve achieved admissions into a prestigious university with possibly less resources/infrastructure than wealthier kids? What’s there to be ashamed of? Why not change the narrative to one of empowerment rather than of WOE IS ME I’M POOR AND I FEEL OPPRESSED BY THE INSTITUTION.

    It’s awesome that you want a space for the latino community, I think it can do wonders for people who wouldn’t feel comfortable/flourish otherwise, but don’t act like this is violence upon your identity and experiences. We’re being given a chance to make something of ourselves and be better people, so don’t knock it while you’re obviously still reaping the benefits of this AWESOME education.

    • Avatar The Dude says:

      This response was awesome. Rage, I hope you’re not graduating b/c we need more rational thinkers like you on-campus who are willing to call out the b.s. peddled by people like Kevin. I hope you start writing opinion columns. You will go far in life with your ability to think clearly and your attitude of empowerment. You will no doubt add value to your community and improve society. Kevin, I suspect, will end up bitter and spend the rest of his life as a professional victim complaining about things while doing nothing more than embittering others and fostering hate.

  7. Avatar Sad Hoya says:

    This article isn’t a letter to incoming Hoyas. It’s a letter to Latino identifying students from working poor backgrounds. Rather than contextualizing his own experiences, Kevin is clearly trying to lump all Latino students experiences into one.

    I fail to see the connection the lack of a Casa Latina has with any effort by Georgetown to ‘colonize’, so I’d love to hear a better explanation about that.

    As a first generation American, first generation college student in GSP, I have never been oppressed by any structures that make me feel ashamed of my parents’ working poor background. I’m sorry that Kevin feel excluded. It’s hard for me to listen to kids talk about their weekend trips out of the country and summer vacations to far off places, too, because my family and I can’t afford that either.

    I have no idea what these fields of concrete and green that are mentioned have to do with the lack of a Casa Latina. Equating systematic racial issues and quasi-dependencía rhetoric in the United States to the lack of a ‘permanent home’ for Latino students which (to my knowledge) was never advocated for before this semester (assuming that the temporary La Casita on Magis Row in years past isn’t what Latino students are looking for) is a massive logical leap.

    It’s unfair to say that there are no spaces on campus for Latino and/or LGBTQ identifying students to facilitate dialogue, foster discussion, and discover yourself. I have seen it happen with my own eyes. Yes, it is undeniably true: we need more spaces on campus for students of color. CMEA is stretched beyond its means already, and trying to schedule hours with an advisor is nearly impossible. But it’s unfair to say that Latinos don’t occupy an incredibly important and vibrant space on campus.

    The assumption that all Latino students that are admitted are poor is also problematic. Really?

    Honestly, it hurts to read this. It ends up being propaganda and high rhetoric about some fight that must be waged against Jack DeGioia and Jack the Bulldog with some anti-capitalism and anti-white privilege commentary thrown in. If nothing else, it’s the antithesis of the #MiCasaEsTuCasaGU campaign. Interested to see how this all pans out.

  8. Avatar Kevin Ruano says:

    Rage,
    The point of the article was not to say ‘WOE IS ME I’M POOR AND I FEEL OPPRESSED BY THE INSTITUTION,’ but rather realize that there is power in narratives, even those that come from low income backgrounds.

    I do not target any individuals, and do not wish that any to feel attacked by the piece. ‘White’ for me is a construct that, you can’t deny, shames many for their darker skin tones.

    ‘White’ and ‘rich’ come together, for me, when looking at current socioeconomics. If you think that we are truly in a world were brown kids have the same/equal opportunities as those white, that’s on you. I believe, that brown kids ‘succeeding,’ coming to higher education institutions, is still considered the exception. And to these exceptions, many times (although not all the times poor) what we teach is to be proud of coming to such institution, achieving what they have DESPITE their poverty. What I get from that is—brown kid here at a affluent, predominantly white institution=good, brown kid back at home, where people are working poor, are immigrants, and many do not speak English=bad. I want to destroy that notion that what makes us valuable is that we got accepted to/attend Georgetown. To say that my value is based on my place here at affluent Georgetown is to devalue my family and background that is poor (in the economic sense).

    Do you think, on this campus, I can as easily say and get the same reaction from those I am telling, that I come from a family of waiters, construction workers, house cleaners, people who don’t speak English, as someone who’d say that they come from a family of lawyers, doctors, etc.? For me, that answer is no. And that is the silencing, that is the shame. Here, having parents who are lawyers is considered the normal. And, so anyone different is considered taboo and, many times, receives unwarranted pity. My piece was written again to affirm that those stories are not taboo, and don’t warrant pity for they are beautiful and nuanced, and should have a space to be expressed in, such as Casa Latinx.

    Yes, you are right—I have been lucky enough, am privileged, because someone is paying for me to be here. But that doesn’t mean that I should have to choose between furthering my education and having to mask certain aspects of my identity and voice—such as this article is a testament of.

  9. Avatar Kevin Ruano says:

    Sad Hoya,
    I use the ambiguous ‘you,’ ‘we,’ etc. Never once do I say ‘ey, you Latinx.’ The reader can choose to identify with the experience or not. Nonetheless, there is value in telling the experience to which many low income Latinxs, who (I think its not difficult to assume) would like to see a space dedicated to them on-campus, can relate.

    The whole field of concrete and green—I’m talking about construction workers and farmworkers. I think in any fight against oppression—that which capitalism and white privilege instill—we can be fooled by thinking that because they pay us, because we’re in this country, because we’re in this institution, that that’s enough and we should be content/silent. Any workers movement, immigrant movement, any student movement that celebrates an identity still at the margins of GREATER Georgetown, affirms the dignity, of a person that society says shouldn’t feel proud because they’re ‘poor.’

    While, I don’t feel ashamed of my working poor background, it took years and several processes to reach this point. You say that it hurts to hear how the norm on campus is vacation=travel to x, y and z place. Well that norm is the same that, I think, shames many for whom Thanksgiving/Spring/Easter break=going home and staying there, or better yet, staying here because you can’t afford to go home. When I tell people who ask what I did during break, “I went home to Maryland,” and they respond ‘oh,’ as if saying ‘I feel for you,’ isn’t that an instance, whether conscious or unconscious, of oppression? Aren’t they, in some, even though, indirect way telling me that I should feel sorry for myself because I can’t afford what they can?

    I see the Casa Latinx campaign as a part of the whole effort to truly destroy the idea that narratives from low income/minority students warrant pity, for that means that we should be ashamed of them. The Casa Latinx hopefully will be the space that affirms value in every story, even those of marginalized identities. And, yes, there’s CMEA, GSP, and there was the Magis Row house but there has never existed an established, on campus space, run by students to meet the needs of incoming Latinx/working poor students. There is value in having the University recognize the worth of the stories and narratives that often times, go unnoticed on this campus. That—a space for the narratives that many do not get to hear and are considered ‘taboo’—is what I am, with the Casa Latinx campaign, fighting for.

  10. Avatar Adam says:

    When I tell people who ask what I did during break, “I went home to Maryland,” and they respond ‘oh,’ as if saying ‘I feel for you,’ isn’t that an instance, whether conscious or unconscious, of oppression?

    HahahahahahahahahHa

  11. Avatar The Dude says:

    I worked during my Spring Breaks. I also worked during the summers. And these weren’t internships, they were jobs, doing things like waiting tables or entering data, that I would have preferred not to do. I did them to survive.

    BTW, I’m white.

    Kevin, I’m going to drop a knowledge bomb on you. Despite your Georgetown education, you are a whiny, PRIVILEGED, little boy, and if you don’t lose your “woe is me I’m a victim” attitude, will end up living an unhappy life, and waste your education and potential to contribute to society. My fear for you is that you will end up only fostering more division between us as a society (such people likely attempt to profit by doing so) and thereby waste your Georgetown education and the opportunity given.

    Vaya con dios, amigo. Rezaré por ti.

    • Avatar The Girl says:

      This is in reply to The Dude:
      I’m going to drop a knowledge bomb on you.
      You’re asking him to ignore the fact that he is a person of color. You’re asking him to ignore this fact because he will live an unhappy life. How can he ignore this fact when society is constantly reminding him that he is a minority. What he is doing is not called whining. He wants to FEEL welcomed. He wants to FEEL that he is wanted in the campus. He wants to FEEL that his culture is acknowledged. You must understand that this nation was built under racism and it is a venom that is injected in this society. It is there, we cannot just ignore it. Kevin is not fostering more division in the society, he in fact does NOT want division. I mean you would have noticed that if you read his piece and understood it. Now, please do not ask a person of color to ignore their skin color because in a nation like this you are only down to two choices: 1. Ignore the fact that you are not accepted as who you are and struggle internally for life. or 2. You accept the fact that you are not accepted for who you are and assimilate to the American culture. Do realize this The Dude, in both choices there is struggle.

      • Avatar Adam says:

        Kevin isn’t asking for acceptance, or acknowledgment. Kevin wants a house.

        Here’s a summary of what Kevin is saying. Most people here are rich and I am poor. I want a house for me and the other poor people. Only the Latino ones though.

      • Avatar The Dude says:

        I’m not asking him to do anything. I’m telling he’s incredibly privileged to be a student at GU (like all students, regardless of background), and he’s whiny and spoiled. Plenty of white kids work and don’t get to go anywhere special for Spring Break or summer vacation (which is more like a workacation), and don’t have university funded summer internships like he does (btw, what’s Kevin’s financial aid like, bet there’s few if any loans, just free money b/c of his race). Georgetown’s done a great deal to welcome him. And if America is such a horrible racist country, why doesn’t he leave? Oh, right, for the same reason so many Latin and South American’s risk their lives trying to get here. You know, I know plenty of immigrants who are thankful for being in America and try to contribute. Kevin’s not one of those. He acts like he’s doing America a favor for being here and Georgetown’s oppressing him b/c his crowd has to share a house with another group, despite getting accepted and mucho dinero from the University. I’ll say it again: Kevin will graduate and likely be employed in the grievance industry as a professional victim peddling their narrative oppression and further dividing people in order to secure resource transfers, while people like Rage will graduate and add value to our nation through a can-do attitude of empowerment and hard work. One will be happy. The other will remain bitter and entitled. And we all know who the latter will be.

        • Avatar Robert says:

          The dude:

          Why would Kevin leave the United States to go to a country he isn’t familiar with? He isn’t whining for a house, he is demanding that the institution doesn’t ignore his roots and our people’s struggle. Kevin is asking for his cultures recognition, which America is constantly shaming and forcing him to resent.

          The negative connotations linked with being a person of color will never be erased if we ignore our differences and forget our struggles. A colorblind society doesn’t aid in facilitating the minority experience, rather, it forces minorities to believe that their failure is strictly due their circumstance and not the fact that society chooses to shame and degrade minorities.

          The stereotypes linked with people of color make it difficult for us to accomplish greatness. And if we don’t, then we are called lazy and self loathing. In fact, our society attributes black features, such as curly and kinky hair with laziness, ugliness, crime and drug usage, while white features are regarded as beautiful and professional. Ironically, the largest group of people in America that consume illegal drugs are white, middle class women, but the prison system doesn’t reflect that.

          Kevin isn’t “whining,” he is asking for recognition, he is asking for a place where anyone, regardless of color or background, can come and learn about Hispanic culture and our influence in America. A place where we can feel powerful and value who we are.

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