Illustration by Angelina Hu
“Let’s head over to Manzanita!”
As the last note of the bell rings, students pour out of second period, rushing from buildings across campus to the cafeteria. Chatter fills the air as a long column forms in front of upper school dining hall, spilling out underneath the archway adorned with the words “Manzanita Hall” stylized in bold black cursive. Nearly everyone on campus speaks the cafeteria’s name daily, and in doing so, they are referencing an aspect of Hispanic influence present on campus. The word “manzanita” originates from manzana, the Spanish word for apples.
Fresh Mex, a station in the Auxiliary Gym, offers popular and beloved meal options inspired by Latin American cuisine that Harker students consume by the platefuls daily. Influences from the Latinx heritage of the Bay Area, and California in general, pervade our campus life.
Both Hispanic people, those who speak Spanish, and Latinx people, those of Latin American ethnic origin, have deep roots in California, starting with Spanish colonizers who imposed the language to the native population in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Starting in the 1990s, migrant workers from Central America poured into the U.S. to work farms and bolster California’s rich agricultural sector; the community is well-established today.
According to July 2021 census data, 39.4% of Californians, or 39.2 million people, identify as Latinx and 25% in Santa Clara County identify as Hispanic. Yet Harker’s student body and faculty do not fully reflect this statistic. Only 30 of 1,926 students, or 1.3% of the student population, across all three campuses identify as Latinx or Hispanic, according to Admissions Director Jennifer Hargreaves.
“You could count on one hand probably how many Latinx students we have in the school, and for faculty, I could probably name them,” said Modern and Classical Languages Department Chair Abel Olivas, who identifies as Latino.
Despite their small number, Harker’s Latinx population continues to display the rich layers of their culture. Through hosting events such as La Noche Cultural last month and celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 with special dishes at Fresh Mex and paper decorations on bulletin boards around campus, they’ve allowed the larger Harker community to sample the vibrant art and accomplishments of Latinx and Hispanic people.