‘Connection You Can Cling To’: Harvard Celebrates Latinx Graduates at Affinity Event


Harvard Law School Professor Andrew M. Crespo ’05, the first tenured Latino faculty member at HLS, urged graduates to remember the contributions of their families during a Latinx affinity graduation celebration Tuesday morning.

The event — one of several affinity celebrations organized by Harvard’s Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging — was attended by nearly 1,000 students and family members from across the University.

“The special importance of commencement is perhaps uniquely felt by families that cherish education not just as a means of ensuring intellectual growth or civic engagement or professional security, but who also recognize it’s one of our best tools of intergenerational advancement,” Crespo said.

Crespo’s speech also seemed to reference the 20-day encampment in Harvard Yard that resulted in the suspension of five undergraduates and the probation of 20 others just days before Commencement.


While Crespo did not directly mention the encampment, he highlighted “brave actions” – including the 2001 encampment in Harvard Yard for a living wage and student movements demanding Harvard divest from fossil fuels and South African apartheid — that “changed Harvard policy and our University’s engagement with the world.”

Several other speakers also referenced the war in Gaza in their speeches.

Cristela Guerra, a journalist at WBUR, said she hopes graduates can find “connection you can cling to when you feel isolated and alone.”

“Friends who gather and fight against oppression, white supremacy, bullshit,” Guerra said.

“Friends who uplift your liberation, friends who protest genocide,” Guerra added, to animated applause from graduates.

Sabrina B. Castillo, a Graduate School of Education student who focused her speech on the importance of resistance, ended her speech saying “qué viva Palestina libre” — Spanish for “long live a free Palestine.” Castillo was also met with overwhelming applause from the audience.


Several speakers also focused their speeches on feelings of self-doubt and exclusion among Latinx graduates.

Julia S. Casas ’24, the former president of Fuerza Latina, a pan-Latinx organization at Harvard, described overcoming initial feelings of “guilt” and “privilege” for attending Harvard.

“We are not the problem,” she said. “This idea is enforced by systems of racial and cultural discrimination that have led to centuries of Latina underrepresentation in higher education.”

“We do not have to prove to anyone that we belong at Harvard,” Casas added.

Guerra, a fellow at the Neiman Foundation for Journalism, shared a personal story of facing homophobia and racism in “white newsrooms.”

“I was made to feel that if I cover communities to which I belong — Latinos, immigrants, or queer folks – I would be unable to approach these stories with the necessary journalistic rigor because of a perceived bias,” she said.

“I hope that young journalists’ ethics are not questioned because they want to report on what they understand better than anyone else,” Guerra added.

During his address, Crespo struck a hopeful tone, saying that the Class of 2024 was uniquely capable of balancing intellectual diversity with advocating for change.

“At that buzzing, unstable point — where those two ideas meet each other and try to stay in balance — is where public life lives at its best,” he said.

“And if you, the Class of 2024, have taught all of us here anything, I think it is that you are well on your way to living that life well,” Crespo added.

—Staff writer Dhruv T. Patel can be reached at Follow him on X @dhruvtkpatel.