Nuestras Voces Promotes Latinx Creativity

Amanda Lopez Peralta ’27 explores the history and significance of Nuestras Voces, highlighting how it uplifts the creative voices of Amherst’s Latinx and Spanish heritage speaking students.

Nuestras Voces Promotes Latinx Creativity
Nuestras Voces, an annual event organized by Senior Lecturer in Spanish Carmen Granda, creates a platform for Latinx expression at Amherst. Photo courtesy of Gabriel Cisneros Enriquez.

Nuestras Voces, (“Our Voices”), an event organized by Senior Lecturer in Spanish Carmen Granda as part of her course LLAS/SPAN205: “Finding Your Bilingual Voice,” took place for the third consecutive year on April 24 in Ford Event Space. The event aimed to uplift the creative voices of Latinx and Spanish heritage speaker students.

The event, which I had the pleasure to both assist with and participate in, consisted of students expressing a component of their Latinx identity through various mediums. Performances varied from slam poetry to singing and playing instruments.

Nuestras Voces “requires students to be vulnerable,” Professor Granda shared. “[It is] something that we have been doing all semester in class by sharing our experiences as Spanish heritage speakers. It is an opportunity for the Latine community on campus to share their identities, experiences, and struggles.”

The inaugural Nuestras Voces event occurred in the spring of 2022. Granda’s inspiration for organizing the event stems directly from the space she makes in the classroom for heritage Spanish speakers.

“The course is called ‘Finding Your Bilingual Voice,’” Granda explained. “It was important to me that students not only discover their voices but also that their voices are heard. The event allows students to share their voices and embrace their full linguistic repertoire: Spanish, Spanglish, and English.”

Although Granda planned the event for her students, it was open to the rest of the Amherst College community. Amherst’s bilingual and Latinx communities were welcome to celebrate their culture, regardless of whether they were enrolled in the course.

“My hope is that by performing their works for an audience, students feel a sense of pride in their cultural heritage and a sense of belonging, and they will feel empowered to use their voice to affirm their bilingual identity in a receptive and supportive space,” said Granda.

Michelle Cruz ’25 has witnessed the event evolve over its past three iterations. During her freshman year, Michelle was a student in “Finding Your Bilingual Voice,” and during her sophomore year she was chosen to be the teacher’s assistant for the course. This year, she cheered for performing students with her former peers from Granda’s class.

As the course’s teaching assistant last year, Cruz told The Student that she “helped [Granda] change up the structure” of the event. Cruz and Granda decided the course would encourage more creativity and expose students to many genres and modes of Spanish writing. Though the core concept of Nuestras Voces has mainly remained the same, new ideas have been implemented to allow a broader display of creativity.

Granda stated: “Students have been incorporating different modes and creative elements, like music or digital narrations, to showcase their pieces over the years. Last year, we projected images of students’ self-portraits (another class project) or photos on a PowerPoint slide displayed during each student’s readings. Last year, we also started ‘Nuestras Voces,’ the journal on campus for Latine students, staff, and faculty.”

Granda created a spin-off publication of the same name as the event, including works featured during it. Photo courtesy of Gabriel Cisneros Enriquez.

The journal was a collaboration between Granda and another one of her students. Cruz explained that “Entries were first made by students from the class, but they were also opened up to anyone on campus. The journal is a space for Spanish speakers to be able to write creatively and have a place to be recognized for that.”

This year, the journal’s second edition was published. It included pieces by students in “Finding Your Bilingual Voice,” original works by other Latinx students on campus, artwork, and interviews with various Latinx faculty and staff, including Lucia Rivas de Amaya, who works at Valentine Dining Hall, and Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Iván Contreras.

Fran Torres ’26, who participated in the event last week, recited the opening lyrics for the anime “Dragon Ball Z” for his performance. Though he acknowledged some nerves, he added that “everyone I knew was going to share something intimate, so what was there to worry about? Everyone is vulnerable in this space, but people are here because we are vulnerable.”

Granda shows incredible appreciation and humility for those who helped her throughout the process, including the campus departments and organizations that provide administrative and financial support, and especially the students who participate in and attend the event.

“Nuestras Voces would not be possible without the participation of the students — those currently enrolled in the course, but also those who come each year to show their support for the Latine community — many of whom are former LLAS/SPAN205 students,” said Granda.

By hosting Nuestras Voces, Granda has created a lasting community among heritage Spanish speakers on campus and encourages them to make their Spanish voices heard on campus.

“For students to find their voice, they have to do more than just write. They have to practice listening to the sound of their voices,” said Granda. “For many Spanish heritage learners, this course may be the first time that they use their Spanish in an academic setting. In general, once students share something they have written with an audience, especially something so personal, like a narrative or a poem, it takes on a deeper meaning.”