|All Sources > Manitou Messenger (DA-MM) > The Manitou Messenger (1916-2014) > 1989 > No. 6, Vol. 103|
Olaf missing Latin American view
Author: Julia Kirst
One night during Fall Break my housemates and I were looking at the world map we have hanging on our living room wall when they asked me where exactly I come from. I pointed out my home town in South Brazil. Then I added, "I am the only student at St. Olaf coming from this part of the world," and I showed them the whole of Latin America. They were surprised that St. Olaf has only one representative from such a vast area of the world. I wonder how you feel about that.
Did you ever look carefully at a world map and actually realize the vast size of Latin America in a global context?
Did it ever strike you that there is more than the United States to the American continent? Latin America is the central and southern part of it. Latin America boarders the United States!
Did you ever realize that Latin America includes all the area between Mexico and Tierro del Fuego (South Argentina and Chile)?
Did you realize the importance of Latin America in the world market? Did you ever give a thought to the consequences of Latin America having the world's largest populated cities in the year 2000?
Students who are absolutely convinced that St. Olaf is supportive of diversity should know that although the college does have representatives of the African, European, and Asian continents, for some reason Latin America is excluded from St. Olaf's picture of the world.
Last year three of us were Latin Americans. Petra (a German raised in Brazil) was not really Brazilian but St. Olaf liked to call her so, to count three Latin Americans instead of two. Petra did not come back this year, despite her prior plans to graduate from this college. Those who knew her are aware of why she withdrew. No one particularly enjoys living in a community ignorant of the culture in which one grew up.
The other Latin American was Patricia, from Costa Rica. Patricia lived in the Spanish House and assisted the Spanish Department. She was an exchange student and, therefore, went back to her home country at the end of last academic year.
The Spanish House has traditionally been the home for a native Spanish speaker. This year a woman from Spain was chosen to assist the house. Spain-Europe. Certainly the United States is culturally much more similar to the developed European countries than it is to the Third World countries in Latin America. Once more St. Olaf has failed to promote the challenges of confronting tow radically different cultures.
When I realized my position as the single Latin American among the three thousand students at the beginning of this academic year, I went to the International Studies Office and asked them why this was happening. I was told that St. Olaf does not recruit. I agree that St. Olaf has the right not to recruit. However, would it be too much to ask students who go to Brazil or Mexico for a month, or Costa Rica for a semester, to take with them information about St. Olaf?
St. Olaf says the Catholics-the majority in Latin American countries--would not feel comfortable here. Again, why is St. Olaf avoiding the challenge of confronting different beliefs? Isn't it possible to celebrate our differences? Both St. Olaf and Latin America students would certainly grow by sharing diverse experiences.
I don't know is Latin American students have applied for the 1990-91 academic year. There might be a few. But in case there are none...just consider the flaw in an education which fails to expose YOU to the experience of knowing you continental neighbors.
Julia Kirst is a senior theater major from Porto Alegre, Brazil.