Institutionalizing Empowerment: A Latina Sorority for Davidson

Angelina Gurrola-

Davidson College prides itself on its commitment to a diverse community. Whether this diversity comes from socioeconomic status, race, or nationality, Davidson preaches this commitment in its admissions, academics, and extracurriculars. However, its diversity with respect to PCC [Patterson Court Council] culture has historically been limited. Although it houses two NPHC [National Pan-Hellenic Council] sororities, Davidson severely lacks in concrete spaces for minorities in Greek life, causing the entirety of Davidson’s student of color population to be categorized as one thing: nonwhite.

I’ve had the pleasure to work with a talented and driven group of women beginning in the Spring semester of 2017 to challenge this pervasive and harmful dichotomy. Operating independently from the group of men working to bring a Latino fraternity to campus, our efforts were spearheaded primarily by underclassmen, a feat within itself. Cynthia Rodriguez ‘20 initially brought the idea of bringing a Latina sorority to campus to me and several other sophomores last semester. With our recent “yes” vote from PCC, we are more motivated than ever to achieve a space specifically for Latina women on campus, pulling in several interested freshwomen into the process as well.

Davidson currently only has one prominent organization devoted to the celebration and education of Latino culture: the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS). However, the scope of this single space is extremely limited. As Leslie Vergara ‘21, my STRIDE mentee, observes: “Even though I felt welcomed my first few weeks at Davidson, I had not felt fully comfortable. As I learned more about OLAS, I was fascinated by how the group has strived to bring Latin cultures together…However, even with OLAS, it did not feel the same. I know that being in a Latina sorority will allow me to bring a little bit of home here at Davidson.”

Leslie’s sentiment rings true for many of us involved. Even with the amazing work that OLAS does on campus currently, it simply does not have the national and post-graduate influence that a Greek organization would. On Davidson’s campus, we can celebrate Latinx culture within the sphere of those interested, but we have little power to help surrounding communities thrive. In addition, we crave the sense of sisterhood promised by Greek life.

Another involved first-year, Olivia Palaez, explains the importance of this group’s effort: “I come from a high school that was 80% hispanic and I felt like I always had someone to turn to who would understand my jokes or the problems I faced as an immigrant. I think bringing a sorority on campus will create that community that I’ve been looking for as well as educate the rest of the student body on all of our different cultures.”

Olivia’s words bring up a point of extreme importance: Latinx culture on Davidson’s campus tends to be conflated into a single thing, while in fact, Latinidad encompasses the cultures of many. Our interest group includes people of Mexican, Cuban, Colombian, and Dominican descent. This is by no means an all-inclusive list, and the beauty of a Latina sorority would be its inclusivity to those who share a passion for Latinx culture and outreach.

Genesis Canela ‘21 emphasizes the emotional support of this initiative: “Having a Latina sisterhood will be beneficial in the sense that not only will I have a stronger support system here but it will also be very empowering to be surrounded by women who have gone through similar struggles that I have been through.”

Empowered we will be. As someone of mixed race (my father is from Mexico and my mother is of German heritage), I’ve always felt an amount of discomfort at Davidson from not being able to fully identify within a single group. At times this pressure has been overwhelming, as I don’t want to claim struggles I haven’t experienced firsthand. However, calling myself “white” disregards the tremendous amount of importance I place on the culture I have been raised with by my father, who is just as much a part of me as my mother is.

The acceptance I’ve felt from this group of women so far has been one of the best and most empowering parts about this experience, and something I hope will increase as we move forward with the process and get to know each other more. With the upcoming presentations to the Committee on Campus and Religious Life, and then to President Quillen, our group is gaining momentum. We hope that Davidson recognizes our efforts to unite and work towards this common cause; we could not be where we are now without the incredible support we continue to gain.

Angelina Gurrola ’20 is a Sociology and Music Technology double-major from Chicago, Illinois.  Contact her at angurrola@davidson.edu.