Discussion on Spirituality Extends Beyond Hispanic Heritage Month

Cristian Tineo ’22, Staff Writer

An event held to provide a safe environment for Latinx and other students of color to share their experiences with spirituality. The event, titled “LatinXistence” took place on Monday, Oct. 14 and drew in a crowd of 30 students.

Shantel Hernandez ’20, the Social Justice intern at the Center for Spirituality and Social Justice as well as the leader for the Latina Discussion Group, welcomed attendees by lighting some incense, and placing them at different tables in the Social Hall. She continued by acknowledging the observance of Indigenous People’s Day, and raised awareness of the land that Dickinsonians walk on every day. 

“Shantel guided us into deep reflection on not just our spiritual energies but our ancestral legacies,” said Isiah Godoy ’20 in response to the atmosphere of the event.

Hernandez read the names of ancestors out loud to the group, and encouraged others to also bring people they wanted in the space by either vocalizing or thinking of their names. “Thanks to them we’re here, we’re moving forward,” said Hernandez. 

Hernandez‘s inspiration to organize LatinXistence comes from a “great reverence for organizations like the Young Lords and The Black Panthers where they unfold the interconnections of social justice and spirituality.” This led her to create “an event where Latinx folks acknowledge and appreciate not only the environment we are currently taking up because we deserve it but the other community environments we are part of.” She shared that last summer she was able to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the Young Lords in NYC, which began with a ritual “honoring our African, Indigenous, and eastern traditions,” she said.

At the tables, students from all class years discussed the meaning of social justice and spirituality. Some shared stories of growing up in a religious family, and later finding other ways to engage in spirituality such as through breathing exercises, physical objects and writing. One student expressed that spirituality changes depending on where you are, highlighting the work they do in their local community back home and the increase of activity and creation of Latinx spaces on campus.

Students also brought up Indigenous identity and languages that originate from Mexico. Liz Zaragoza ’22 talked about her family’s native language. Reflecting on her time, Zaragoza said, “it was an event that had to happen because it reminded me the reason why I am here in this campus. As a women of color there are many times that I feel out of place. I feel like this campus was not made for me but this event was a reminder of why I should fight to have my voice heard in this campus.”

Godoy also expressed a positive experience attending, “it channeled in a sense of spiritual essence and energy that I have seldom allowed myself to appreciate. In the constant hustle and bustle of life and college demands, I’ve hardly looked back and thought of my ancestors or lineages that have brought me here today.” 

During the discussion, students enjoyed a dinner from Doña Eli’s Mexican Cuisine, including rice, pupusas, salad and quesadillas. Despite being closed on Mondays, Hernandez was still able to receive food that day. She explained, “when I called [Doña Eli] last Friday and spoke to her in Spanish and told her that a Latinx event was being thrown and that many of us Dickinsonians love her food she did not refuse.” 

By the end of the program, Hernandez recognized how the leadership positions of people in the room go beyond themselves, but also serve those that come after them. She encouraged everyone to show and spread love to those around. “Think about the ancestor you’re becoming,” she said.

“LatinXistence: Spirituality Practices That Sustain Us” was part of the campus-wide celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, and was the first sponsored by the Center for Spirituality and Social Justice.