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Ameer Phillips, ’17

Premio Ramiro Lagos, 2023
Primer Premio | 1st Prize
Segundo Premio | 2nd Prize
Premio de traducción | Translation Prize

Ficción | Fiction
Anyelly Herrera, ’24
Michelle Geiser Menz, ’18

Voces de | Voices of Abiayala
Francisco Huichaqueo (Wallmapu, Chile)
Roxana Miranda Rupailaf (Wallmapu, Chile)

Reimaginings | Reimaginaciones 
Éowyn Bailey ’26
Max Congdon, ’23
Mary Grace Kelly, ’25
Nadia Letendre, ’25
Elena Miceli, ’20
Brendan Robinson, ’26
Grant Ward, ’23

Jimena Bermejo (Theatre)
Ahana Nagarkatti, ’25

Poesía | Poetry
Éowyn Bailey, ’26
Colectivo Stein IV
Ahana Nagarkatti, ’25
Ashley Rodríguez Lantigua, ’23
Camiah Small, ’26

Agradecimientos | Thanks

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About us | Sobre nosotros

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Ameer Phillips, ’17
Idioma, cultura y comunidad

Each year, the Holy Cross Chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, invites a distinguished alumna or alumnus of the Spanish Department to give the keynote address the Society’s induction ceremony. The following is the address given by Ameer Phillips on April 27, 2023.

Ameer Phillips is Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Manager for the City of Brockton, MA

• • •

Thank you for the kind introduction. Let me start off by saying I’m a little nervioso, especially given that I was not inducted into Sigma Delta Pi. Each of you are already miles above where I was as a senior! Pero en serio, quiero decir felicidades a todos los estudiantes aquí. It is an incredible honor to be inducted into Sigma Delta Pi, and it is an accomplishment that each of you should feel proud of. Take a moment to really sit and appreciate this recognition. There were a lot of things you had to complete in order to get here: lecturas, ensayos, presentaciones, skits, lingüística, conjugations, pretérito, pluscuamperfecto, futuro… the list goes on! You each have done and accomplished so much since you first took that Spanish placement questionnaire the summer before freshman year. Clap it up for yourselves one time!

When I was first asked to come and speak about mi experiencia con el español and how it’s impacted and affected my life, I immediately thought of three temas that best exemplify my journey. Those three themes are Idioma, Cultura, y Comunidad (Language, Culture, and Community).

For context, I don’t come from a Spanish-speaking background, nobody in my family speaks Spanish, and when I first got to Holy Cross my plan wasn’t to major in Spanish (perhaps some of you can relate!). During my freshman year, I was placed in Español 202 con Profe Ramos, mostly because he had the perfect time slot, a la diez de la mañana. I was not one of those students who could do 8 am classes, so big props to those of you who were. Anyway, when I was placed in Spanish 202, I was initially not excited about the course and was mentally preparing to not put much effort into it; I was planning to just do the standard “Hola, me llamo Ameer, soy de los Estados Unidos, tengo dieciocho años, y me gustan papas fritas y hamburguesas.”  I wanted to get that language requirement completed and be on my merry way with another major.   

What ended up happening though while taking esa clase con Profe Ramos was that I began really enjoying Spanish as un idioma. I remember sitting in that class, un poco tímido, but still amazed specifically with how many different ways una persona puede expresarse en español, and how beautiful and suave it sounded. I especially loved learning about adjetivos and compliments in Spanish. Saying “I think you're pretty or beautiful” just doesn’t sound the same as “eres tan bella, hermosa, marvillosa, mi estrella, mi mundo,” etc.! I fell in love and decided to major in Spanish because of my experience in Spanish 202, y después de esa clase yo quería saber mas sobre culturas hispanas.

Now like I said earlier, nobody in my family speaks Spanish. My dad didn’t even want me to attend Holy Cross, he wanted me to consider business or engineering schools. So imagine his sorpresa después de mi primer semestre aquí, when I told him I was going to major in Spanish?! Fue como una telenovela en mi casa. There were lots of “¡Nooo, mi hijo, no me digas eso!” and “tú ‘tá loco.

Once I committed myself to majoring in Spanish, I began to understand and experience the second tema of cultura. I had incredible oportunidades to experience different Spanish speaking cultures both on and off campus. In the fall of my junior year, I had the chance to study abroad in Coruña, and got to visit cities like Granada, Pamplona, y Madrid during my time there. During the fall of my senior year, I got the chance to visit una comunidad indígena en Bolivia, as a part of the course Teología andina, which was taught by Father Reiser. On campus as a former co-chair of CASA and captain of Fusion, I learned a lot about latinidad (afro-latinidad to be specific) and participated in performances for groups such as LASO. This was also around the time I started listening to bachata, merengue, dembow, and watching shows such as La Rosa de Guadalupe, La Reina del Sur, y Caso Cerrado.

As I began to experience different culturas, one thing I noticed quickly was that my textbook spanish didn’t always translate across different cultures. Por ejemplo, I remember the first time someone called me tío in España, my immediate response was “Disculpa, pero yo no soy tu tío.” Tío to me at that point meant uncle, and I was like we are not related! In España however, tío can be an informal way of saying friend. I also learned palabras como vale for okay or guay for cool. When I went to Bolivia the following year and tried to use those same words, I was told that “chevere” significa “cool” and not guay

My understanding and experience with the Spanish language, and interacting with various Spanish speaking cultures, has led me to my final theme: comunidad. Spanish has been both una bendición y un regalo for me in my professional and personal life. Personally, I have friends who I consider to be family, and have been able to connect with people in ways that would not have been possible if I didn’t know Spanish. I’ve been invited to quinceañeras, Nochebuena celebrations, and even just general birthday events. I feel as though I have my own Spanish comunidad in my personal life.

Professionally, Spanish has been a part of my career as well. En mi primer trabajo post grad as a college counselor, I was able to use Spanish to not only connect with my students, but with their families as well. Being able to advise parents on college options and financial aid really set me apart in that office, and that experience directly helped me obtain my role at MIT as an Assistant Director of Admissions. There I used Spanish to not only connect with prospective students, but to also translate teacher recommendations from places like Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala, and advocate for Latinx students during selection committee processes.

Let me wrap up by saying this: Spanish will always be a part of each of you from this point forward. What you’ve learned in terms of idioma, culturas, y las communidades, is not something that will just fade away. El español ahora es un parte de tu identidad. How much you continue to water and pour into this aspect of your identity in post grad will be up to you.

My Spanish is far from perfect, and indicative of this speech, I use more Spanglish than anything nowadays. But again, this is a gift and I sincerely hope that you all will continue to grow and experience español in your post-graduate life. Thank you and ¡felicidades a todos!

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