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  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

Arquitectos unidos: Latino students leave a foundation on campus

Escrito por: Alexa Figueroa 🇸🇻


E-board for Latinx Architects United at their first general body meeting at the School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation on March 4, 2024. (Alexa Figueroa)


Irving Bravo was speaking with his mentor Juan Sempertegui about the new organization, Latino PreLaw Society, when he realized that there wasn’t a club for Latino architects on campus. This prompted a text message that fueled the creation of the Latinx Architects United (LAU) organization at UMD. 


Irving Bravo, Salma Gonzalez-Ramirez and Giuseppe Gordillo-Terreros are all co-founders of LAU, an organization whose mission is to celebrate and promote Latinx contributions, perspective and representation in architecture, according to the organization's mission statement.


“I’m gonna graduate and all I am gonna have is my diploma…I’m not gonna have my name engraved on like a brick out there, by the alumni center, or like a building named after me. I want something to say I started this, I helped start this, in the history of it, were the founders,” said Bravo, president of LAU.


Salma Gonzalez-Ramirez, vice president of LAU, had no representation of people who looked like her growing up as she attended predominantly white schools.


“I think it's really important to create a space where people are able to see people that look like themselves in positions of leadership and spearheading movements like this because it's going to encourage them to also want to be a part of something like this,” said Gonzalez-Ramirez. 


Bravo says that one of the organization's goals is to implement a “no sabo course” which will teach younger architecture students how to utilize different software, including  SketchUp and Autodesk Revit, modeling software used in different classes for the major. 


“I thought of it as, what if  I came in again, into the program, how would I approach things differently? I’d probably want to seek out someone who can use these programs, knows how to use these amenities, I can’t rewind time but I can leave a foundation,” said Bravo. 


Similarly, Giuseppe Gordillo-Terreros, the treasurer for LAU grew up in the Eastern Shore where there were very few Latinos, being one of five Latinos that graduated from his high school. He is looking forward to helping other students learn the necessary software for their classes.


“Sometimes we kind of are afraid to ask for help. So I feel like if you have that connection with somebody that's around your same ethnicity or something like that, you're more easy to go up to them,” said Gordillo-Terreros, “and just outside of just a greater sense of community, it just helps you learn, they're probably going through the same path as you are.”


Claudia Aguillon-Rivas, the organization administrator for LAU, says that when she transferred to UMD, she only met a few Latinos. Still, as she pursued her major, she realized a broader community of latinos existed. 


“There's still the underrepresentation of us. I feel like we are the minority, technically, we just kind of want to be representative in this community,” said Aguillon-Rivas. 


Women in Architecture (WIA), is another organization that focuses on connecting minority students on campus. Jennifer Mangandi-Sibrian, vice president of WIA and external affairs officer for LAU, says that the organization strives to establish a safe space for female architecture students and to create a network for them. 


“I just want to make a difference…let's support women in the field…I did a research topic about how women are just so impacted by male-dominated fields, and we should change that, I would like to change that,” said Tracey Molina, undergraduate outreach representative for WIA.


Mangandi-Sibrian says she joined LAU because she has Latino friends at the architecture building, but they never had a formal space to call their own. This new space is close to home for her. 


“Talking to all these people here inspired me to join the organization and expand those parameters for everyone and in comparison to the broader community making priority for the smaller knit communities around the campus,” said Mangandi-Sibrian.


The organization also plans to create a community mural made up of mini canvas’ that will be given to the School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation as a gift. Bravo says that the idea was inspired by mini models that are displayed at the school of architecture but no one knows who made them or when. 


Mini modals displayed at the School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation on March 4, 2024. Its origin is unknown. (Alexa Figueroa)


“Our idea for a community mural, we can donate it to the school. We can encourage Latino art or colors, anything that when people see it, they're gonna be like, oh, yeah, Latinos made that, they're present in this school,” said Bravo.


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