Canada’s Latin American community is growing and universities need to improve teaching about the region

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Last October marked the fourth annual Latin American Heritage Month in Canada. The month recognizes the social, economic and political contributions of Latinx people in Canada and the vast demographic changes underway.

Data from a recent census shows that the number of people identifying as Latinx in Canada is growing rapidly. In British Columbia, the number of Latinx has increased by almost 50% since the 2016 census. In cities like Hamilton, Ontario. the Latinx diaspora is one of the fastest growing immigrant groups.

These results signal a greater need for Latinx studies in Canadian universities. At McMaster University, we have introduced an interdisciplinary minor in Latin American and Latin Studies to provide new insights and perspectives on the peoples of the region.

As Latinx and Latin American communities continue to grow, universities need to improve how they teach students about Latin America as well as Latinx communities in Canada.

Students are interested in learning about Latin America in a non-extractive, interdisciplinary way that examines the material histories of colonialism and their influence on contemporary experiences.

As ethnic studies scholar Lorgia García Peña says, Latin studies can help decolonize the way we teach students about the world. The field also uses interdisciplinary approaches to examine the histories, geographies, migration patterns, and racial intersections that inform the diverse experiences of Latino and Latino peoples who live outside of their homelands.

Fields like Latinx Studies can help us understand diasporic communities and the impact of colonial histories on current inequalities.
(Shutterstock)

Understanding Diasporic Communities

The Latino population in Canada is a relatively new immigrant community compared to communities in the United States. However, it is essential to understand how underrepresentation and inequality affect communities in Canada.

Toronto Public Health found that members of the Latinx community were seven times more likely to contract COVID-19 than white Torontonians.

In the area of ​​education, research conducted in 2008 showed that Latino and Latino students face barriers to graduation from the Toronto District School Board. More recently, a 2021 report from the Peel District School Board showed that Latino and Latino students, as well as Black and Indigenous students, were two to five times less likely to graduate within five years. compared to the average Peel student. Additionally, Black, Latino, and Latino students were underrepresented in applied-level courses.

Systemic issues at the high school level have been shown to carry over to post-secondary education. Some Canadian universities have attempted to address this problem by creating programs and pathways to correct the underrepresentation of Latino students. The University of Toronto, Western University and McMaster University have all developed programs in response to this crisis of representation and visibility.

A map showing the countries of South and North America
Students want to learn about Latin America in a non-extractive and nuanced way.
(Shutterstock)

Increase equity, diversity and inclusion

Over the past few years, we have seen many commitments made to equity, diversity and inclusion, with varying degrees of success. As this work expands across many universities, Latin and Latin American studies can play a key role in EDI research and teaching.

At McMaster, our new minor program connects students and scholars with diverse ties to Latin America through research and teaching, across faculties of humanities, science, and social sciences. By offering valuable global perspectives from different branches of knowledge, fields like Latin and Latin American studies can help challenge colonial histories and narratives.

In our own interdisciplinary research, we have focused on understanding climate change in South America, incorporating the perspectives of black and racialized peoples, medicinal practice in ancient communities, cuisines and dietary habits, and human- environment.

Through our work and that of other scholars, we find many synergies between Black, Indigenous, and Latin Studies. These ties emerged from the common colonial history and lived realities of different communities and groups in Latin America.

This region – which includes North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean – is populated by approximately 150 million people of Black and African descent. It is also populated by more than 58 million Aboriginal people belonging to at least 829 different nations and communities. As these peoples continue to establish diasporas in Canada, there is a growing need to center histories, discourses and research on important topics such as race, racialization and ethnicity.

Teaching and research are enriched and enhanced when Latin and Latin American studies connect with other equity-seeking groups. Fields like Latinx and Latin American studies are as significant as they are essential. As García Peña notes, these fields can be:

“A critical and anti-colonial site of knowledge production, learning and teaching. Thus, it offers students, faculty and the communities from which they come an intellectual home as well as a connection to the historical and social events that shape these community experiences: colonialism, wars, migrations and social movements. »

It is imperative that this interdisciplinary work continues to grow, as it contributes to a fairer world through teaching, scholarship, community outreach, and student support.

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