Across three decades, Amigos members have salsa danced, rode roller coasters, marched for cultural diversity, and made lifelong friendships.
When Amigos started 30 years ago at Emerson College, only a small group of students gathered for the earliest meetings. Through the years, Amigos has grown by leaps and bounds, and today, Amigos has more than 160 active members participating in one of the campus’ most popular organizations.
Amigos celebrated its 30th anniversary with a gala in late January.
“This celebration not only marks 30 years of friendship within the Amigos community, but also the positive impact it has made on the wider intercultural community at the college,” said Juanma Suárez Teissonniere ‘23, former vice president and current student advisor for Amigos.
“The gala is a great way to show the importance that we’ve been active for 30 years and we’re an important organization within the community,” said Richard Lugo ’24, current president of Amigos.
“I myself am an Afro-Latina, and advising Amigos also gives me a piece of that community on campus. I love coming to their meetings and helping them plan programming or events,” said Elisanett Martinez, Assistant Director of Intercultural Student Affairs for LGBTQIA+ Services.
Dancing, Riding, and Marching
Early Amigos generations created Otra Perspectiva, a literary magazine that later turned into Raíz Latinoamericana Productions. Amigos members have taught English-as-a-Second-Language classes to Emerson workers, led celebrations of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Carnival, and participated in community fundraisers such as World AIDS Day.
Other events throughout the years have included literary readings with Latino/e authors, open mic nights, movie nights, trips to Salem, Massachusetts and Six Flags amusement parks, and many dance classes/nights featuring salsa, merengue, bachata, and capoeira. And in the early 2000s, Amigos hosted an annual boat cruise.
The group’s participation in the March for Cultural Diversity led to Amigos being awarded the Phi Alpha Community Service Award at Emerson in 1996.
For many members, Amigos was a place to embrace their identity, even when they felt pressure to do the opposite.
“My parents immigrated to this country, and at the time were like ‘Don’t speak Spanish,’ and kind of telling me ‘Push back your Latin identity’,” said Myrna Toledo ’96, former president of Amigos. “Being part of Amigos definitely reawakened my culture.”
Toledo remembers celebrating Posadas before Christmas with Amigos. Everybody would bring food representing their culture and sing songs.
“[During Posadas] people go around house to house singing carols and bringing in the holidays, so we tried to replicate that but in the Student Union,” she said.
“It’s amazing that it’s lasted this long and I’m so happy that it’s still there for students of color,” said Toledo, who added that the bonds she made with the Amigos family are still strong, and she is still close with some friends from the group.
Being Amigos with Emerson Organizations
Amigos emphasizes intersectionality within the community and has frequently collaborated with Emerson’s Black Organization with Natural Interest (EBONI) through the years, as well as with other Boston area college Latino/e organizations to hold larger events for students across campuses.
One of the most important Amigos events is the simplest – every Tuesday Amigos hosts an open space for group members to gather.
“It’s a place where you can be Latino freely,” said Amigos member Andrés Hernandez ’23. “You’re trying to find somebody that can relate to your culture or your language or your gender, or whatever it may be, it’s a place where those people unite and find these things in common so you can share together.”.
“I find it really heartwarming that we’re still around because I think one of the worries that many of us coming from other countries, or even from the U.S., is coming to another place that we’re not used to, trying to find people like you who make you feel at home – and Amigos was that for me,” said Teissonniere.