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UNC chapter of AMEXCAN founded to offer space for Mexican community

Senior political science major Jonathan Cortez, senior biology major Aislin Sanchez, and senior psychology major Christian Rendon are the leaders of UNC AMEXCAN.

Before Sept. 6, there weren't many spaces for Mexicans to gather and to know each other at UNC, said senior Luz Garcia Lara.

Now, Lara is a member of UNC AMEXCAN, a chapter of the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina, Inc. that works to promote active participation of Mexicans in their communities and encourage appreciation, understanding and prosperity of Mexican culture.

Senior Jonathan Cortez is the founder and co-president of UNC AMEXCAN. He said one of the main reasons he founded a chapter of the organization at UNC was to ensure representation on campus of groups affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling in UNC v. Students for Fair Admissions, which eliminated race as a factor in university admissions.

“I believe that it’s very important to have to make people feel like they are still important here,” Cortez said. “For the future generations, they can look it up and be like, ‘Oh, look, there’s an association here that tailors to me, despite barriers being placed and not allowing me to succeed in the best way at these higher institutions.'" 

Aislin Sanchez, co-president of the chapter, said the club is needed at UNC for two other reasons: to provide resources for first-generation Mexican American and Mexican students and to have a designated space on campus for Mexicans. 

“That's the main goal — to empower, build and give them the resources so that one, they can excel and two, they can look back and bring [the resources] upon those who don’t know,” Sanchez said. 

Sanchez said that many first-generation Mexican Americans are less aware of the network of resources available within higher education and because of this, may not have the confidence to explore some professional tracks. 

The club will specifically focus on providing resources for students studying pre-med, pre-dental and pre-law to aid their University experience. UNC AMEXCAN Vice President Christian Rendon said these resources include panels, involvement opportunities on campus and networking with other students. 

The club creates community by celebrating Mexican culture and creating a space for Mexicans to share their experiences with each other. 

“It was so hard finding people with our similar shared experiences,” Lara said. “So even just having us all in the same room, or in the same group chat, would be so different for us to kind of share classes or share experiences, especially since most of us are first generation.”

Sanchez said that since the Mexican population is very large within the Hispanic community, some voices can overpower others.

“In the clubs that I have been in, in my four years at UNC, there's an effort to kind of hold back on our culture and to kind of hold back our voices,” she said. But AMEXCAN provides a space where Mexicans get to be as loud and cultured as they want, Sanchez added. 

Cortez said that there is a high appreciation for Latino cultures on campus, for which he credited the Carolina Latinx Center.

The center works to support UNC’s Latinx communities and educate the campus through engagement, scholarship, cultural awareness and public service, according to its website. Marcela Torres-Cervantes, the associate director of the CLC, said that the physical space of the center works to promote Latinx culture every day of the year, not just during Latinx Heritage Month.

She also said that, while CLC helped coordinate campus logistics, networking and advising for the new chapter, Cortez took the lead on bringing AMEXCAN to UNC.

“Having an area year-round really means that there gets to be a sense of community, identity exploration and advocacy year-round,” she said.

Torres-Cervantes also said that she hopes community forms between members of AMEXCAN and Mexicans all throughout the Chapel Hill community.

“I see AMEXCAN having that opportunity to really build a bridge with the Mexican community here in Orange County, and again, wherever they're from, to invite them to campus in a more intentional and caring way,” she said.


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