They have a variety of jobs and come from different KELOLAND communities, but everyone at taking part in our roundtable has a Hispanic background
“The rhetoric that’s currently taking place in the United States is very hateful. It’s very demeaning, it hits home, and it impacts students,” South Dakota State University advisor Florencio Aranda said. “And they may be simple statements that people don’t realize are actually influencing and impacting others, but they really are.”
“I think it’s been really hard right now, like in 2018 for a lot of us. I mean even though South Dakota has been awesome for us, living here, one of the biggest things for us is just seeing everything unfolding in the news in other states,” real estate agent Nancy Reynoza said.
Sioux Falls sales analyst Francisco Álvarez-Evangelista points out the power of the ballot box.
“This political environment, it’s important to, everyone’s going to have their opinions at the end of the day. A lot of people are going to keep their opinions however they may be, but if you want to make things better, and if you think your vote is going to make a difference, then I think you should go vote, and make your voice heard through that venue,” Álvarez-Evangelista said.
“Voting, being an active part of a community, also building relationships with people that don’t know any better,” Yesenia Gonzalez of Sioux Falls said. “So I love sharing things about me, and I love learning a lot from people.”
“You vote for a candidate that you think is tackling racism. That’s also a way to, yourself, tackle racism, by using your power as a voter to influence that,” Álvarez-Evangelista said.
There is also the option of being on the ballot yourself.
“If you don’t like what’s currently taking place in politics, then I suggest you run for office,” Aranda said. “Or support that one candidate that you know has that view that’s going to help shift that mentality, change those people, change that community,”
“I use being Hispanic as a privilege to educate other people about how it is to be Hispanic in a prominently white state,” University of South Dakota criminal justice major Gabriela Revolorio said.
I asked group members how they respond when someone says they don’t see color that they are “colorblind.” Revolorio doesn’t mince words here.
“I think that statement is absurd,” Revolorio said.
“I think it’s important to see color,” Gonzalez said. “It’s important to see it because that way we recognize that we’re all different. And there’s beauty in difference.”
“And in recognizing that we’re different, you start to accept and learn and grow from each individual and realize that each person has something beautiful that they can provide,” Aranda said. “Each person is an asset.”
“We are all diverse, whether we like it or not, some people just don’t understand that concept, and we can only do so much before it’s a dead end,” Revolorio said.
Álvarez-Evangelista brings up a way to continue and redirect conversations when someone says they don’t see color.
“I think oftentimes we should shift that conversation to how do we make things better, and tackle the situations of ‘I don’t see color,’ as okay, ‘Well, let me tell you why you should,'” Álvarez-Evangelista said.
“I always tell my students, I say, ‘Get out there,'” Aranda said. “Don’t be in the shadows, who’s going to defend and who’s going to fight for you, who’s going to speak up for you, if you’re not doing it yourselves. And so the Latin American student association at SDSU has been extremely vocal.”
Around this table, we didn’t just talk about the present; we also discussed the future, and how they’re feeling about it. I asked 19-year-old University of South Dakota student Isabella Gasca if she’s optimistic.
“I’d like to think I am,” Gasca said. “I think our generation is willing to fight for equal rights, and what’s right, what’s wrong. We want to improve the world for our future, and for our kids, and we’re just not willing to accept things that happen to us.”
The other college student at the table has a similar take.
“I think I’m pretty optimistic,” Revolorio said. “I’d like to see more growth in the years to come, hopefully with what experience I’ve been through and what other individuals have told me. I hope to use that knowledge and step up and say, ‘Hey this is what I believe in.’ And there is no matter what obstacle I have to go through. I will be bigger than that.”
“We’re laying the groundwork, we’re paving the way, and we, I think we are at a great time to create opportunities for our children,” Gonzalez said. “So I am very optimistic.”
Across the table, Reynoza echoes this.
“I’m very optimistic, yes,” Reynoza said. “I have some of my kids already, one of them is out of college, some of them are in high school, and just to see that they themselves are already in that mindset of standing up for their beliefs, standing up for their race, and saying, ‘Hey, yeah, I am Hispanic, but this is me. This is how we are.'”