El Centro revival: space reopens for Latinx students


Students and faculty gather in Martin Hall for the re-opening of El Centro on April 16. Graduate student Samuel Morales-Gonzalez led the effort to revive El Centro, a place where people who identify as Latinx and allies can gather.

Mike Brown

El Centro’s revival was a celebration of community and new beginnings, filling the space in Martin Hall with people and conversation.

El Centro has been revived as an affinity space, an identity-based area where students who share a cultural background can build community and foster relationships and friendships based on these similarities.

El Centro began as the Hispanic Resource Center (HARC) in 1992 as a space for Latinx students to hold meetings, socialize and learn about the resources and options available to them on campus.

Over time the HARC was renamed El Centro and was moved to different buildings until it settled in Martin Hall. It had become a meeting place for Latinx student organizations, who eventually outgrew the space and converted it into storage.

Guests were met with complimentary food as they entered El Centro, including Jeff’s Pizza, a fruit and vegetable platter and desserts.

On the table in the center of the space were pencils and questionnaires for those in attendance to give their thoughts on El Centro’s future as a space and how it should be used as well as changes they felt should be made to the space going forward.

Ruxandra Looft, academic advisor for world languages and cultures, believes a space like El Centro is vital to the education and experience of students at Iowa State who may be interested in learning more about Latinx culture.

“The learning that happens outside of the classroom is always a lot more meaningful,” Looft said.

Topics discussed for the future of El Centro and the space attendees wanted to see it become well represented and promoted to students on campus and be a place where students can socialize but also learn more about Latinx student organizations on campus.

Diversity and Inclusion Project Director in Hispanic/Latinx Affairs Liz Mendez-Shannon hopes to see El Centro continue to bring people together and build community in the same way the opening event filled the space.

Mendez-Shannon hopes for El Centro to become a place where both students, as well as staff and faculty can continue to collaborate and build relationships and community. Mendez-Shannon also hopes El Centro can come to feel like another home for Iowa State’s Latinx population on campus.

Graduate hall director Samuel Morales-Gonzalez, graduate student in education, headed the revival of El Centro and spoke to those in attendance, thanking all those who came out, the Department of Residence and the Multicultural Student Affairs staff for their collaboration in reviving El Centro as a space and addressing his hopes for the legacy and development of El Centro in the future.