Yashuri Del Rosario Rodriguez
(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University boasts racial diversity as one of its selling points to attract students, with 38 percent of the 6,000 student body belonging to non-white populations.
However, only 4.88 percent of Winthrop students are Hispanic or Latino.
Margarita Perez, a sophomore biology and Spanish double major, is one of many Hispanic students seeking to develop a stronger Hispanic identity at Winthrop.
According to Perez, the problem is a lack of representation on-campus for Hispanic students.
“The experience overall (at Winthrop) has been pretty okay, but as a Hispanic student, you obviously want more inclusion based on your race,” she said.
“It’s just good to see other people that look like you (and) do the same things you’re doing. It’s pretty hard not being able to see that on campus.”
Perez said has met the few Hispanic friends she has on campus through the school’s Department of World Languages and Cultures.
She said she has been able to connect to her culture and fellow Hispanic students through the Spanish classes she has taken.
Alberto Palomo-Sanchez, a senior Spanish education major, is one the friends Perez has met in the department.
From studying for classes together to enjoying tacos on Tuesday nights, the pair enjoy sharing stories about their heritage and bonding over their similar sense of humor.
“Taking Spanish classes exposes us to more Spanish speakers. Like, I know from experience, I’ve met more Hispanics by doing Spanish as my major than I have my whole time being at Winthrop,” said Palomo-Sanchez.
Victoria Uricoechea, a Spanish professor at Winthrop, is known on campus for being an advocate for Hispanic students.
“I think Winthrop has to go to the Hispanic communities around (South Carolina), the schools where there’s a lot of Hispanics,” said Uricoechea.
She is the former advisor for Voces, a club intended to promote awareness about Latin American cultures. The club went inactive in 2018 after its student president left to study abroad.
Since then, Uricoechea has been contacted by her students about the possibility of bringing a Latina-founded sorority to campus.
Perez has entertained the idea of establishing a Kappa Delta Chi chapter at Winthrop with the help of Uricoechea.
Kappa Delta Chi was founded in 1987 at Texas Tech University. Their mission is to “promote the values of Unity, Honesty, Integrity and Leadership.”
“I wanted to start (a chapter), but it was more so Hispanics can know — or Latinas in general — they could have like a place to, like, find where they’d be accepted,” said Perez.
“A place for them to connect and stay part of their culture and not forget, because a lot of Latino or Hispanic students, that do come, end up forgetting part of their culture just because they are drawn away from it for so long.”
The idea was inspired by a Kappa Delta Chi chapter that was founded at the University of South Carolina, which works toward empowering Latinas at the school.
Palomo-Sanchez said the sorority would also be beneficial for Latinos, not just Latina women.
“I do like when they have cultural events centered around Hispanic culture. That’s really the only time I feel like we are represented in a sense. So, if we had a Hispanic sorority and fraternity, there is a sure way to meet other Hispanics,” said Palomo-Sanchez.