OPINION: The accidental erasure of ‘hispanidad’ culture on Tulane’s campus

Miranda Teresa Fitz, Contributing Writer

Getting my grandma onboard with my move to New Orleans was a hard sell. There was no part of her that wanted me to leave home and live in a culture that, as far as any of us knew, was not even remotely similar to South Florida’s.

The day I arrived with her for the first time and took her to the French Quarter, she started laughing. “This looks like Havana, you’ll be fine.”

She was right. You look around and the Spanish stucco buildings are similar to the faded neon pinks and oranges that line Havana’s historic district. There’s a good reason New Orleans and Havana are considered sister cities. Yet, with these shared aesthetic languages, it is hard to find someone who can recognize the Hispanic influences down here. 

Part of it seems to be a very particular monoculture that New Orleans has created for itself in which many of the influences on the city’s history and culture are not acknowledged. Afro-Carribean culture inspired many of the iconographies we associate with Mardi Gras, Haitian and Jamaican immigrants helped shape the New Orleans vernacular, and the trade developed by Cuban and Dominican immigrants helped shape the city’s current economic institutions.

What’s happened is that all these components have been placed under the monocultural umbrella of “New Orleans” rather than being credited to each culture as each are due.

Unfortunately, Tulane has decided to take the lead in shaping this monoculture. We’re all “Tulanians.” Yes, Tulane is trying to be a diverse, inclusive campus, but in the end, we all have to conform to the white-dominated monoculture of Tulane. And there’s a similar issue that arises when it comes to Hispanic representation being erased on campus when talking about the implicit whiteness all around us.

Czars Trinidad | Layout Editor

Representation is something that can’t be proven, but has to be seen. It must be shown through those that identify and believe in their culture. Those who are being represented will understand it implicitly, yet the general population won’t always understand unless spoon-fed the obvious. 

So, proponents of representation have to cater to the audiences they are seeking to educate. Tulane’s goal at the moment seems to be to attract students but aim at eyes of those that need to be educated.

Visibility to others is not inclusive to all. Whereas some people can be visibly assumed to be Hispanic, others must explicitly state their heritage. When you imagine a Hispanic student, who do you imagine? Someone who is short and tan with long curly black hair? Someone who is tall, blond and pale? Are you  convinced that only students who look like that could be Hispanic? 

Tulane has taken a very particular stance on this issue that is more in the vein of avoidance than genuine effort. Rather than uplift Hispanic inclusivity, Tulane has taken an easier route: ignorance. Rather than reflecting the Hispanic population at Tulane amongst other diverse students, this university strives for an easy visual cop-out by exploiting ethnic ambiguity and allowing the audience to assign ethnicity. A Hispanic student could look like anyone, but if you are looking with an untrained eye, who is going to be able to tell?  

Yes, there are Hispanic students on campus. I am sure no one is going to argue otherwise. But when it comes down to it, Tulane is proving that it is far too hard to show off its 8% Hispanic population, because being Hispanic is not as visible. Sure, you might not think it is erasure, but Tulane is really taking New Orleans’ lead: Yeah! We’re diverse, but don’t ask how. Just trust us. 

Leave a Comment