La Alianza and the Latino Student Union, the two major Latino community organizations at the University, are in the process of merging into a single student group, the Latino Student Alliance.
The new organization will keep the structure of La Alianza, which serves as a coalition of the presidents and representatives of various Latino student organizations on Grounds. LSU will become one of the organizations represented by LSA under its new name, Cultura at UVA.
La Alianza Chair Carolina Ferrerosa said LSU served as an umbrella organization for several specialized Latino student organizations, such as the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers. Ferrerosa said these groups, however, dispersed themselves throughout the University community and did not effectively communicate with each other.
“That’s why Alianza was formed, to create a community around those organizations,” she said. “It currently acts as the voice of the Latino community. The Latino Student Union suddenly had an identity crisis in terms of what it was meant to do.”
She added that students had a hard time differentiating between the two groups, adding that she believes the new organization will help get rid of any confusion.
“We wanted to address that problem and find a better way to address that concern and find a way to tackle the problems,” she said.
Ferrerosa said as of late, La Alianza was becoming less and less effective.
“Suddenly it seemed now its only role was social programming, not political work. It wasn’t the voice of the community anymore and it wasn’t representative,” she said.
Latino Student Union President Chris Blank worked together with Ferrerosa to create the new organization.
“Basically, it was something that I recognized as a weakness in both organizations,” he said, noting that La Alianza focused too much on event planning and not on advocacy, while LSU had difficulties maintaining membership because of the nature of the Latino community at the University.
“There was no unifying factor because the Latino community at U.Va. differs so much in skin color, class, socioeconomic background [and] what country they come from,” he said.
Peter Rios, president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, said while he believes the merger of the organizations will help unify goals and plan events, it does not address all concerns of the University’s Latino community.
“I think that our biggest challenge is not necessarily our structure,” Rios said. “I think our biggest challenge is engaging our Hispanic underclassmen and incoming first year Hispanic students and encouraging them to take leadership roles. If this structure is conducive to helping with that then I support it.”
Blank said the LSU executive board would become the executive board of the new Cultura group. He also noted that the new organization is not yet official; it is, rather, an experiment.
“It’s very possible that in the next few years that the structure could change again, although not in such a historic way,” he said.
Ferrerosa also noted the historic nature of the merger.
“Without a new name, we weren’t sure the message would get across that this is such a historical shift,” she said. “We wanted to bring the meaning of Alianza into a name identifiable by the broader community.”
Alianza means “alliance” in Spanish, she said.