At Nuestras Raices event, Latino community remembers heritage



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Students and La Casa staff gather for “Nuestras Raíces,” which translates as “Our Roots,” Wednesday evening. Students were invited to share food, stories and jokes at La Casa Latino Cultural Center. Sam Oates Buy Photos

Members of IU’s Latino community sat in a circle in La Casa’s living room Wednesday night, all prompted to tell a story about their family.

“I don’t think I have a story,” one girl said.

“Everyone has a story,” another group member responded.

The event marked the annual celebration of “Nuestras Raices,” translating to “Our Roots,” an event set up by the Latino Graduate Student Association. About 15 group members ranging from freshmen to graduate students to staff members gathered to share stories of their families in the Latino community.

Stories varied from lighthearted, embarrassing anecdotes to teary-eyed reflections of family obstacles.

Many stories in Latino culture often are told through song, said Julian Antonio Carrillo, a member of La Casa. Carrillo wrote a song called “Casa” and shared it with the group. Although he said the song was written for a girl he met in Mexico, he based the lyrics off of his mother, an architect. 

Carrillo said that as a child, he began to take interest in architecture because of his mother. He also said he takes pride in how the Latino community comes together to construct buildings and houses.

“Many indigenous groups in Mexico construct things collectively as a community,” he said. “So if I was here in Bloomington and wanted to build a house, I would call everyone in Bloomington, and they would help me build it, and I would make food for everyone in return.”

Just as Carrillo did, many others spoke of their older relatives and the integral role they played in their lives.

Lillian Casillas, director of La Casa, spoke of her uncle who was affected by the earthquake that struck Mexico City on Tuesday and killed at least 200 people

“He always would take me to places like the pyramids and say, ‘This is where your people came from,’” she said. “He inspired me to learn more about my history.”

Casillas said that although her family was not injured in the earthquake, much of their property was destroyed. She said she was devastated, but her uncle referred her back to their history as motivation to stay strong.

She recalled his words for the group.

“Remember where we come from, the kind of people we are,” he said to her. “We will rebuild.”

As group members became more comfortable, they began to share stories of family hardships, whether it be rape, poverty or discrimination. 

In the end, every member shared a story about his or her family histories through songs and retellings.

“Seeing my family hit rock bottom and still keep going, it motivates me to do the same,” one member said. “They taught me to see my problems as very little.”

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