29th Unity Dinner brings together Cornell's Latinx community

On October 21st, Latina/o/x students, faculty, staff, and alums celebrated community and culture at the Clark Atrium in the Physical Sciences Building with a catered dinner by Cornell Catering, performances by students/student organizations and keynote address.

The 29th Annual Unity Dinner is an important event for students, faculty, and alums, not just because of the ability to share culture but also the ability to see growth and progress from generation to generation. Keynote speaker, David Sandoval '99, emphasized that the event was "amazing."

David Sandoval and family
David Sandoval '99 and family Credit: Melissa Montejo '23

"A lot of the thoughts that I shared were reflected back to me by so many insights that these young people had. I'm really not that great at all, it's these kids, this generation, they're the great ones, they have this potential in front of them. It's so amazing to see this potential and all this energy and all this unity in one place, this is the place that made me," Sandoval articulated.

Maria Lima Valdez
Maria Lima Valdez Credit: Daniela Wise '25

Sandoval's point proved to be correct. Maria Lima Valdez '25, A&S performed an original spoken word piece that articulated what it means to be anything other than the norm at a place like Cornell; "We share the same sorrow; we know how it feels to be treated as an outsider. We wipe each other's tears, we share each other's happiness, and we empower each other. We say levántate, ¡tú puedes hacerlo! to each other when we are about to give up." 

Yessica Martinez, MFA lecturer, Department of Literatures in English at Cornell, performed another reading. She read a poem that described "a girl who lived two degrees of separation from Prince Royce, his friend cursed Jeff Sessions outdoors. He was a small man under a small umbrella. We kicked the snow, said "let's go home" under our caps, those migrant roots below."

Speaking of unity and working together, the event had many moving parts. The dinner was emceed by Arlenny Taveras '24, ILR/LAL Co-chair and Sylver Garcia '24, A&S/LAL Co-chair, with opening and closing remarks by Vilma Santiago-Irizarry, Director, Latina/o Studies/Professor of Anthropology/Latina/o Studies. This event was coordinated and organized by Latina/o Studies staff and student interns, and the Unity Dinner Planning Committee.

Flower vase, cake, fruit bowl, and plates

Carolina Montejo '25, CALS, Latina/o Studies student intern and Unity Dinner attendee, "I remember sitting at the desk and overhearing the Unity Dinner Planning Committee meeting, and going to the event and seeing it come together. I think it went well and all the people involved did a really great job. I remember going to my first unity dinner in 2021 and not knowing all the work that had to be put into it, and seeing the work put into this years, it kinda made me appreciate all the work that we do as a Cornell] community."

The event also featured a theatrical performance by Ana Florencia López Ulloa, a short monologue from her play "Diamantina Rosa" alongside performances from Teszia Belly Dance Troupe, Salsa Pa'lante, Cornell's Caribbean Students' Association Dance Ensemble, and Sabor Latino Dance Ensemble.

LSP student interns pose for a group picture during the Latinx Unity Dinner
Latina/o Studies/Latine Student Success Office student interns: Carolina Montejo, Olivia Ochoa, Daniela Wise-Rojas, Melissa Montejo, Sherla Zhagnay, Enrique Cruz-Amigon (not pictured: Xavier Figueroa, Emilia Ceniceros, Shaunjae Moz Suarez).

The event was successful because of the hard work of various people and groups, showing people who feel like they don't have a community a new home. Lima Valdez stated, "this is our community, our home, our power, everything we created together is ours because we decided to reclaim our power, the power that they took away from us years ago." Through inspiring generations of brilliance, Sandoval remarked on the need to "plant the seeds of your own future. Sembrar futuro."

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Man speaking into a microphone
David Sandoval '99, Keynote speaker Photo credit: Daniela Wise-Rojas '25