Spanish club, Mi Pueblo, aims to improve Spanish among students

By Izzy Murillo, Contributing writer

Each Thursday, students gather around a table with an orange “mantel,” the Spanish word for tablecloth, playing games and talking amongst themselves in Spanish in the Illini Union basement. 

These students are a part of Mi Pueblo, a student-run organization that promotes and encourages Spanish conversation. Members hail from various origins and backgrounds; some are native speakers while others have only begun studying the language.

Through board games such as Bananagrams, the group spells out words in Spanish. Some students find it easier to spell out longer words, while some build a series of small ones.

Though the point of the game is to win, there is constant verbal communication and assistance provided when the spelling of a word is questioned or a certain letter is needed. The warm and inviting discussion of the group pulls the attention of others in the room who cannot help but notice the vibe of Mi Pueblo.

The club is run by three co-presidents, Emily Davis, junior in AHS; Abby O’Connor, senior in Business; and Monica Saavedra, senior in LAS. They work together in creating lesson plans and events for Mi Pueblo and have all been studying Spanish in some capacity.

Each of the co-presidents have also been Spanish facilitators for at least a year. When speaking of their organization, their genuine appreciation and love for the club becomes present.

“You can join at any time. It’s like a conversational group,” Davis said. “You just come in and you talk for an hour, you play games, you read articles,  so it’s really easy to jump in at any moment.”

During the Monday’s group, they discuss studying abroad. On Tuesday and Thursdays they play games. Wednesdays are reserved for Hablando Culturalmente, where Hispanic and Latino culture is discussed. Finally, on Fridays, the more advanced Spanish speakers meet up and discuss current events, news, and politics.  

There is a meeting group for any type of interest and skill level. But interested members need not worry about their Spanish capability, because O’Connor assures that everyone is welcome.

“Honestly we take anyone who wants to come and join,” O’Connor said.

The co-presidents each have their own favorite moment or experience. Davis discussed how she used to have a high school student attend her group meetings.

“(The high school student) would always be late because it was when she was getting out of school, but I thought it was cool that she still wanted to come on campus even though she went to a centralized school,” Davis said.

Saavedra said she’s seen a lot of good friendships made because of the club. She explained that she had two freshmen who joined the group and loved it so much that they continued through the next year. 

Saavedra also said that through the group, she and the other co-presidents have had the opportunity to achieve more personal conversations and relationships. She reflected on how this opens up more possibilities to make new friends, particularly through Mi Pueblo.

O’Connor talked about members taking early Spanish courses, such as 141 or 142, and how she enjoyed watching them progress.

“It’s just cool to kind of see how people who practice get better,” O’Connor said. “I think that’s kind of what makes it so rewarding, for me at least.”

The need for community and language enrichment are only two of the factors that started Mi Pueblo. The club is home to individuals interested in studying the language, finding their place on campus or for those who are simply curious about Hispanic and Latino culture.

Many students may need extra practice outside of the classroom in an environment where they feel comfortable. A benefit of Mi Pueblo is that it is a no-judgment zone, as Saavedra explained, so there’s no requirement that one must speak Spanish perfectly.

The club’s name, Mi Pueblo, is a fitting title for the student-led organization. Translated literally, it means “my community.” The phrase denotes a picture of an invitingly humble community, and that’s just what this club is.

Davis, among her other co-presidents, highly encouraged students who are interesting in practicing Spanish and meeting new people to come stop by and meet the charismatic members of this club.

“You can just go and have fun,” Saavedra said. “It’s different from a class where you kind of have to be, or you feel like you have to be, on top of your game. Or you’re too afraid to talk and speak with other people, but here you can learn from others in a fun environment.”

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