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Latin exposure

Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012

Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 01:10


Roger Zhang

A 38-year-old organization called the Committee Awareness of Mexican-American Culture exists to further one of Texas A&M’s greatest philosophies: an appreciation of diversity.

Graciel Rodriguez, chair of MSC CAMAC and senior information and operations management major, said CAMAC’s goal is to make Aggies more familiar with the Hispanic culture.

“My main goals have been to increase awareness of Hispanic culture within A&M and to bring cultural and educational events for students to talk about how certain issues are affecting the Latino community,” Rodriguez said.

Claudia Limas, CAMAC executive member and senior international studies major, said it is important for students to fully understand the organization’s title of “Mexican-American Culture.”

“Our goal is not just to focus on Mexican-American students, but we focus on events that encompass all Latino cultures,” Limas said. “It’s not limited to just Mexican-American culture.”

Limas explained how the organization, at its roots, encourages students to appreciate the diversity of all cultures at A&M.

“It is open for all people to join,” Limas said. “We welcome diversity. It would be so awesome to have people that aren’t Hispanic in our organization. It would be great to have that diversity promoted.”

Melanie Weiser, MSC CAMAC advisor, said she wants to encourage students who initially may be put off by the organization’s name.

“I think [CAMAC] can be really intimidating for someone who doesn’t feel connected to the Mexican-American culture,” Weiser said. “I want people to know that our events are open to everyone. It doesn’t matter what your background is.”

CAMAC sponsors various events throughout the year, many of which exemplify common activities of certain Hispanic cultures. Though each director of the organization focuses on a particular area of the event, they all work together to plan everything most efficiently.

In addition to partnering with the Department of Multicultural Services to plan events — such as Edward James Olmos speaking during Hispanic Heritage Month — CAMAC organizes activities including salsa dancing.

“On Oct. 25, we have Salsa Dance Night where we teach students traditional Hispanic dances such as salsa, merengue and bachata,” Rodriguez said. “We provide lessons for them, we have competitions and we have everyone dance to the music.”

Every spring, CAMAC invites A&M and Bryan-College Station to celebrate “Mis Quince Años,” a re-enactment of a Quinceañera — a traditional Latino celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday — to help everyone better understand the cultural celebration.

For the re-enactment, CAMAC selects girls who otherwise may not be able to have her own Quinceañera, therefore giving back to the local community.

Freshman architecture major, Amber Estrada, joined CAMAC and became involved in its cultural team that plans Mis Quince Años.

“I wanted to join something where I can further experience the basic [Hispanic] traditions, because I have never really experienced the Mexican culture that I am part of,” Estrada said.

In April of every year, CAMAC organizes the Student Conference On Latino Affairs. SCOLA is a two-day forum that centers in on current Latino issues with the help of guest speakers, all of which is directed by Limas.

“Our mission is to provide a forum for students to discuss issues that impact the Latino community,” Limas said. “Leadership is our theme this year. We are going to be covering subjects such as Hispanic leaders in the American past and Latinos in the media and work force.”

Lima said she is excited for SCOLA’s 25th annual conference this year, and that she has high hopes for the future of SCOLA.

“My team is so pumped for our conference,” Limas said. “It is not just a conference for A&M students, but also ones outside. Last year we invited people from other universities, and this year we hope to invite students from the SEC.”

Behind all of Limas’ hard work is a passion for acting on something she said she believes in.

“There is no better high than what you get when you [passionately] believe in something,” Limas said. “I believe in SCOLA and I am very passionate about empowering students to become better leaders.”

Rodriguez also said CAMAC often contacts Latinos who have recently been accepted to A&M in order to inform them of the benefits of A&M, as well as of scholarship opportunities.

“These types of gifts are the ones that move me the most, because I believe only about 40 percent of the Hispanic students that are accepted to A&M actually come to the University,” Rodriguez said.

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