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Central American Disruption founder advocates for the disruption of disinformation

Sussan Garcia spoke on Thursday as a guest speaker of Central Americans for Empowerment at U.Va.

<p>Garcia focuses on having accurate information that everyone can access on her website in order to be more educated and informed about Central American culture.</p>

Garcia focuses on having accurate information that everyone can access on her website in order to be more educated and informed about Central American culture.

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Central Americans for Empowerment at U.Va. hosted Central American Disruption founder Sussan Garcia Thursday night for a discussion surrounding the issue of misinformation in the education system of Central Americans. CAFÉ at U.Va. is a student-run organization that seeks to empower Central American students through advocacy and cultural and political education. 

Garcia, who was awarded a Fulbright assistantship in 2020, founded Central American Disruption in July 2019 as an online space and resource for Central Americans for people to seek more information about specific events and cultures within Central America. Garcia was inspired by Central American Art and Beauty — @centam_beauty on Instagram —  a digital community that covers stories about different Central American cultures. While Garcia said she appreciated this space, she felt there were gaps in information that she tried to address with the creation of Central America Disruption. 

Garcia discussed her background growing up in a Central American community in Queens, New York City, where there were not a lot of white people and she was primarily surrounded by Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans. After then attending a predominantly white private school in seventh grade, Garcia said she faced discrimination and felt as if it was necessary to assimilate into white culture. 

Garcia specifically referred to an incident that occurred during her first semester at the school when she was having a discussion with a white classmate. 

“He started responding in English but with a Spanish accent, completely mocking, completely derogatory, kind of yelling in my face, and I was shocked and I got really angry,” she said. “Administration quickly reprimanded him, but you know, that still happens.” 

After facing many challenges surrounding assimilation and cultural reeducation, Garcia started to embrace the Latinidad community and gain an appreciation for its culture again. Through being a part of this community, Garcia said she was also able to learn about her own Guatemalan heritage through learning about specific events such as the Guatemalan Coup and the Palestinian Liberaton Movement. 

The lack of education about different cultures by the Dalton School, the predominately white private school that Garcia attended, led to Garcia launching the CentAm Collective. CentAm Collective was later renamed to Central American Disruption with more of a politicized framework and radical education. The goal of the website was to create a new community that would help provide historical information. 

Early on, while posting articles about topics such as the history of tortillas and cultural events, Garcia said that people visiting the site very quickly reached out to her and informed her that she was using wrong information. She said she was appalled by this because the information was received from academic articles, leading her to become frustrated by the education system. 

“Academia and mainstream media and such ... really has skewed the representation and information of Central America,” Garcia said. 

Garcia said that ultimately, she seeks to educate the world about Central American politics, economics and culture. She focuses on diaspora in the world, which refers to the widespread settlement of migrants beyond their homeland. 4.4 million Central Americans have uprooted and migrated to a new country — 18 percent of the world’s Central American population.

Garcia said she wanted more information about specific events, cultural history and politics to come from direct sources and the communities that were involved instead of from scholarly articles whose information was often incorrect.  

“[I hope] to disrupt the status quo of disinformation,” Garcia said.

Garcia focuses on having accurate information that everyone can access on her website in order to be more educated and informed about Central American culture. She gathers information from many sources, including the Committee in Solidarity with the people of El Salvador — an activist organization fighting for social and economic justice in El Salvador — and Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala, an organization that similarly supports Guatemalans in their struggle for justice and human rights. 

Moving forward, Garcia said her goal is to build transnational solidarity amongst many cultures and share many voices.