Harvard’s Colombian Student Association gathered to share in traditional food and good company last week for the first time since the club’s reestablishment.
COLSA co-presidents Manuel A. “Manny” Yepes ’24 and Anthony Morales ’24 were motivated to revive the organization in response to a lack of Colombian student engagement on campus in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When we asked around, we couldn’t really find any information on it,” Yepes, a Crimson Editorial editor, said. “So we reached out to Tomás [Guerrero-Jaramillo], who was a previous president, and he basically told us why it kind of fell apart and gave us all the resources we needed to bring it back up again.”
With the group’s revival on campus this semester, previous board members like Manuela Arroyave Monsalve ’22 watched the College’s next generation of Colombian students take the reins.
“It felt a little bit like passing the baton,” Arroyave Monsalve said. “We played a role in kind of guiding them towards reestablishing.”
Other COLSA members echoed the sentiments of Yepes and Morales.
Elisa M. Gonzalez ’23 said she wanted to connect with other Colombian students at the College.
“As someone who is Colombian, I obviously wanted to get to know other Colombians on campus,” Gonzalez said.
Arroyave Monsalve said she did not have the opportunity to engage with other Colombians in high school and hoped Harvard would be different.
“It's something that I didn't get to have in high school — there weren't any other Colombians in my high school — so that was something that I definitely wanted to have here,” she said.
The group can feel like a home on campus for Colombian students, Gonzalez said.
“Whether it be speaking in Spanish, getting to try some foods that feel like home, it's always just kind of great to have something that's very comforting to your soul and your spirit,” Gonzalez said.
Morales said last week’s inaugural meeting reenergized members about the group’s future.
“We had around 10 to 15 people there, and just seeing that many Colombians in one spot was very nice,” Morales said.
Gonzalez and Morales said they look forward to holding more programming at Harvard and beyond.
“In Cali, there's usually a big salsa festival, so obviously, we're not going to fly to Cali to go to that, but recreate a smaller version with food and drinks and kind of the same celebratory nature,” Gonzalez said.
“We want to become very much involved in the Colombian community here at Harvard, but also in the greater Boston area,” Morales said. “We also want to maintain ties with our homeland, and just preserve that tradition.”
Looking to the future, the group hopes to expand its membership.
“We just want members who are devoted and dedicated to give Harvard a little taste of what Colombia is like,” Morales said.
—Staff writer Ella L. Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ejones8100.
—Staff writer Monique I. Vobecky can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @moniquevobecky.