Voz Latina (Voz meaning "voice") comprises a group of Latina Wesleyan students who host social events, weekly meetings, and community service initiatives in order to inform and educate others of the many Latin American traditions and cultural riches of being a Latin American woman.
In 2017, Paloma Velasco Rios '21 came to Wesleyan with hopes of living in a diverse environment where her Hispanic heritage could be represented and celebrated. "With Wesleyan being such a diverse campus, I came in my first year expecting to see a lot of Hispanics. I was excited about this because I didn’t have that kind of diversity growing up. But when I got here, only 5% of Wesleyan students identified as Hispanic," said Paloma.
While attending Wesleyan's 2017 International Dinner hosted by the international student organization AXIS, Paloma noticed the small number of students representing Latin American countries and became determined to have more representation the next year. Enthusiastic support from other students pushed her to track down a traditional Mexican dance choreographer in the Macon community who taught her and others a few dances that they performed at the 2018 AXIS event.
In 2019, Paloma joined forces with Jessica Ángeles '20 and introduced Voz Latina as an official student organization to host events that share their culture and to be a resource for undocumented and DACA students. "I was a DACA student and the struggles were extremely hard. I wanted there to be a support group where other DACA students could feel like they were not alone," said Paloma.
The club is now a thriving student organization responsible for supporting, sharing, and celebrating Hispanic/Latinx heritage with Wesleyan. During this year's Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, September 15 - October 15, 2021, Voz Latina hosted several events open to all students.
Cafecito y Chisme translated loosely to "coffee and small talk" was an event where students were invited to share their personal stories, songs, poems, and cultural mementos that reflect their heritage and identity, while reflecting on their experiences of being Latinx in the United States.
The club saw a big turnout for their salsa-making event, where students could follow various traditional recipes and take home a jar of their homemade salsa.
¡Bailamos Wesleyan! held in Oval Hall, provided students a fun way to learn popular Latin American dances such as bachata, salsa, and merengue.
Thanks to more inclusive admissions recruiting practices, Wesleyan's Hispanic student population has almost doubled since 2017. Today, Paloma is an admissions counselor at Wesleyan. She and Spanish-speaking Assistant Director of International Recruitment Yasmin Pineda Segura have recruiting materials that have been translated to Spanish to hand out at high school college fairs.