Being a minority at a predominantly white institution is not easy.
Being able to cultivate a community and stay true to your identity in a place where there are so many people different from you is incredibly important, and on the flipside, also incredibly difficult. Interfaith work offers not only that community, but education, activism, and hope that our differences can lead to a brighter future for all. Being able to create “Café y Conversación” allowed me to highlight my two main identities. I am a spiritual non-religious individual passionate about interfaith work, and I am also a Latina with Puerto Rican roots. Creating an event where Spanish-speakers could have a chance to engage in conversation about “cultura y fe,” culture and faith, allowed for this target audience to be recognized and catered to in a way that’s rare on our campus.
The event included a variety of identities such as non-religious, Muslim and Jewish, and we also invited and included all levels of Spanish speakers. The event had two amazing faculty partners, Profesora Nuria Ibañez, Professor of Spanish Language and Culture, and Manuel Velásquez-Paredes, the director of the LGBTQ Center here at the University of North Florida. Our partners were able to share insight on their own backgrounds and the connection between “cultura y fe.” With such a diverse group, the conversation was very enlightening, and it featured questions like, “¿Cómo ha moldeado su cultura su identidad religiosa o no religiosa?” y “Dado que la familia es tan importante para la cultura hispana, ¿cómo se cruza su identidad con la familia?” (“How has your religious or non religious identity shaped your cultural identity?” and “Given that family is so important to Hispanic culture, how does your identity and family intersect?”)
These questions allowed us to share about our religious and non-religious identities through the lens of Spanish culture. There were so many rich connections between Spanish speakers and different worldviews that I would not have uncovered or thought about without this event.