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University hosts 20th annual Latino Issues Conference

Richard+Blanco+speaks+to+the+Latino+Student+Union+during+the+Latino+Issues+Conference+Wednesday.
Anthony Malinak

Richard Blanco speaks to the Latino Student Union during the Latino Issues Conference Wednesday.

Students and community members got a chance to learn about Latino culture Wednesday at the 20th annual Latino Issues Conference, presented by The Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Latino Student Union.

The theme of this year’s conference was “embracing our past and creating our present” and included keynote speaker Richard Blanco.

Blanco became the fifth inaugural poet of the United States in 2013, becoming the first Latino immigrant and openly gay poet to hold this position.

Blanco spoke at the luncheon to around 300 attendees about his life, his family and his journey to discovering where he belongs.

He read his poems to the audience, beginning with a humorous poem recounting his memories of watching the Miss America pageant with his family.

His speech outlined the difficulties that Latino immigrants face with finding their identity and how they belong in the country.

“Your home is not where you were born, but where you choose to die,” Blanco quoted his mother.

Before the luncheon, attendees of the conference were invited to the Latino Cultural Festival, which was a new addition to this year’s conference.

Organizations from the community, the University and the cultural arts were set up to provide an opportunity to experience different aspects of the Latino community.

Junior Juan Pimiento, president of the Latino Student Union, helped organize the event.

“It gives us a platform to educate the community about Latino culture,” he said.

Pimiento thought that Blanco did a fantastic job as the keynote speaker.

“He tied his story to the theme of the conference in an entertaining and insightful way,” Pimiento said.

The theme of this year’s conference was different from previous years, Pimiento said.

“I think its appropriate being the 20th anniversary, [the theme] is different from our other themes which focus on one big issue,” he said. “Times are changing for Latinos and it is good for us to learn from our past and learn from our mistakes.”

The conference also included two plenary sessions where panelists discussed diversity, immigration, education and the cultural presence of Latinos.

Meyling Ruiz, a representative from Adelante Community Partners, said the conference is a good way to become connected to the community.

“We are going to a panel about immigration,” she said. “It brings up big issues that our community faces.”

Guisselle Mendoza, also from Adelante Community Partners, said that the community does well at making everyone feel welcome.

“When people hear Latino they think it will only be for Latinos,” she said. “BG has a way of inviting the whole community, to make everyone feel welcome.”

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