WOOSTER, Ohio – For seven hours on Saturday, dozens of Wooster students labored under the guidance of Cleveland-based artist Hector Castellanos-Lara to create a work of art that will be gone in a week. Using stencils to form the desired images, they painstakingly built up layer after layer of brightly colored sawdust to form a rich but fleeting tapestry called an alfombra.
This traditional Guatemalan art form is more commonly used to depict religious imagery during Holy Week, but this time the theme, developed by the students of Proyecto Latino, the college’s Latino student association, in collaboration with Castellanos-Lara, was “Justice and Immigration Reform.” Consisting of five distinct segments or panels joined to form a cross, it depicts families on the move, doves symbolizing peace, and a road leading across a border to a distant cluster of homes, light shining from their windows. The words “Stop Deportation” figure prominently on two of the panels.
“The theme really speaks to us, it touches us,” said Eduardo Munoz, a sophomore from Atlanta and co-president of Proyecto Latino. “For many of us who have family members who are undocumented or who have been deported, this is a very emotional issue. We feel like those of us who are citizens have a responsibility to speak out.”
The students were introduced to Castellanos-Lara by Michele Leiby, an assistant professor of political science at Wooster, whom Munoz calls ““our backbone and advocate when it comes to the Latino community and civil and social justice.” Leiby had participated in the creation of another alfombra with Castellanos-Lara at the Immigrant Workers Project in Canton. Funding from the political science department made it possible to bring Castellanos-Lara to campus for the event, one of a dozen organized by the students of Proyecto Latino to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
Saturday’s event drew students from across campus to participate or simply to watch the creation, and to enjoy a meal prepared by members of Proyecto Latino’s executive board, who started cooking at eight a.m.
For Munoz and his colleagues, the hard work was well worth it. Student response to this and other events during Hispanic Heritage Month has been enthusiastic, “and that shows we are making a difference.”
Several more events are still to come, including a panel discussion on immigration this Thursday evening, and a screening of the documentary “Latinos in America” on Oct. 4.
“Justice and Immigration Reform” will remain on display on the first floor of Lowry Center until Friday morning.