Kingsborough’s Student Life Coordinator Raquel Torres sees our world as troubled in many ways. She refuses to accept living with daily encounters of racism and discrimination. She strives to make a valuable change in this way of thinking. She wants to be the change.
Among her many talents are being a leader and a poetess. She has made use of her youth to give voice, empower and serve as an advocate for minorities, such as immigrants, women, members of the LGBTQ community. At 28 years old she has accomplished many of her goals and still endeavor to continue making her dreams come true. Such dreams aren’t egocentric, but benefit anyone surrounding her.
KCC WaveWire: Where do your parents come from?
Raquel Torres: My mother is an immigrant from El Salvador. She migrated here when she was about 12 years old. She moved to Perth Amboy, New Jersey and that’s where she met my father. My father was born in New Jersey, but his brothers and his parents came from Puerto Rico. So I am actually half Puerto Rican half Salvadorian, and I like to call myself salvadorequeña as a combination of two because is important for me to acknowledge both identities as a whole and not one or the other. I’m both at the same time.
KCC WaveWire: What was your major in college, and in what did you focus your education?
Torres: Even though I was born in New Jersey I went to High School and college in Texas. I went to the University of Texas at San Antonio for my undergrad as well as my master program; for both, I’ve majored in English. In my master, I focused on Latinx Literature, as well as women, gender and sexuality; Diaspore in Border Studies and feminism.
KCC WaveWire: Why did you choose as a research focus on diaspora studies, and please define first what diaspora is?
Torres: Diaspore is a term used when there is a large migration of individuals. To break down the word spora is a seed, like when you think about a dandelion, and the wind blows, all those little seeds start migrating, and they’re relocated into a different place. When we talk about diaspora, sometimes we talk about forced migration. My diaspora study focused on my Puerto Rican identity because there is a huge diaspora of Puerto Rican who had migrated to The United States, Whether voluntarily or forced because of the US government. When I say Border Studies because I was in Texas a lot of my studies come from Mexican-American and Chicanos.
KCC WaveWire: What made you move from Texas to New York?
Torres: I currently live in hometown Perth Amboy, but I work here New York. I’ve decided to come here because New York has such a large and diverse History within the Latino Community. Being from Texas, I learned a lot from the Chicano movement, Mexican-American Studies. When you come more to the East Coast you learn about the Caribbean Studies like Puerto Rican, Dominican History as well, so to diversify my research. I am really young. I don’t have a family, I don’t have children. It’s just me and me and my little dog. It also gives me the opportunity to be close to my family.
KCC WaveWire: What is your occupation, and what does it entitle?
Torres: I am the Student Life Coordinator at Kingsborough Community College. I am the person students come to talk about student leadership opportunities, to get involved whether in students organizations, students government, ambassadors. Our department holds multiple diverse programming for students. I work closely with my colleague Lauren Ferguson who is the diversity inclusion events coordinator. I’ve gotten to do dinner and dialogues events where Lauren and I’ve been speakers talking about different issues within race, sexuality, immigration status and just diversity in general. We have, also, done events for the Latino Heritage month and the LGBTQ History month as well; because I’ve multiple identities, so I do identify as a queer, salvadoriqueña or Latina.
KCC WaveWire: What is the YWCA, and what role did you play at this institution based in Texas?
Torres: Is the Young Women Christian Academy. It was meant for the empowerment of young women. I was one of the board members YMCA in San Antonio. That was on the West side of San Antonio, so it serves more Mexican-American, Chicano youth. We hold out fundraising events for programming that where for children who needed after-school care, after-school programming and the school couldn’t provide it; or any type of educational program for single mothers or elderly caretakers like grandparents that usually take care of the grandchildren when their children are working. We hosted VITA workshops which are Voluntary Income Tax Assistance. We also did vaccinations, and workshops on how to eat healthier.
KCC WaveWire: What is Mujeres Marcharán/ Women Will March?
Torres: I was one of the main community organizers for that organization. This is an organization by volunteers. Every year we held a march and a rally on the international women day (March 8th). We talked about more than women issues, because women issues can affect immigration, LGBTQ, feminism. This organization advocated for multiple rights like when it came to Dakota pipeline with water is life, we made sure we had a demonstration for that, as well as for the Blacks Life Matter movement, DACA, or ICE having raids.
KCC WaveWire: What is Puro Slam, and what did you accomplish in it?
Torres: Is one the nation spoken word slam venues. It is San Antonio’s version of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe or the Bowery Poetry Club. It has the reputation of being one of the rowdiest slam venues. I started doing poetry and competing in 2016, and that was the year I was able to compete for Puro Slam and represent San Antonio in Colorado and also North Carolina. In Colorado, our team came in third place for that year. In the poetry community there were not many latinas who would slam poetry, so to talk about my latina issues was a huge accomplishment.
KCC WaveWire: How do you plan to use your experience and enterprise to promote events on campus that foment the values that you highly regard?
Torres: I am part of so many communities. I’ve so many different identities, I am very lucky that I try to use all of these experiences and identities to locate and help students who might fall into one if my communities or one of my identities and really advocate for that. And to be open. It is necessary because I’ve so many students that maybe are questioning or identified as queer. When you see a faculty or staff that looks like you, might have the same identity as you is so important. Just representation is so important.