November 19, 2009

Viviana Santiago, Part Two

Now that I’ve kept you in suspense for a week about the story of the giant banana, it’s only fair that I finish it. Viviana, a few friends, and I recently went to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh, NC. It is truly an experience that each Duke student should have...even if getting there via public transportation is a bit tiring.

It was while walking in awe through the fairgrounds, amidst the cotton candy, rides that will kill you, and fried Oreos, that Viviana spotted it…one of those rip-off fair games with larger than life prizes.

Fortunately for her, it was a gigantic fruit that she instantly fell in love with and had to have. After lending her $20 in pursuit of the prize, she finally won it, then almost got into a fight because she hit a girl with it. It was a stuffed disaster waiting to happen. Luckily, we made it out okay, and even the banana was unharmed. Just a day in the life with Vivz.

Ahem. Now onto serious business. Our dear stuffed-prize lover was born in Caracas, Venezuela but now lives in Gainesville, FL. Her all time favorite things ever are: Law and order, pigeons and penguins, Mean Girls, The Devils Highway, Party in the USA, Halloween and Diet Coke. All of us who go to BDU meetings regularly are privy to the infamous “Awkward Icebreakers,” which begin each of our sessions. I won’t give away the secrets to Viviana’s wonderfully absurd methods of calling order when we’re all speaking at once, but trust me they’re effective. As another teaser, they can involve: moustaches, trumpets, awkward turtles, and exceptionally awkward hand turkeys. You should come to our meetings, and meet other cool people.

One thing I think we’ve all noticed is Viviana’s rise to leadership. I know she is proud of herself for being a leader, and I would agree that she is a shining BDU president. Although she can be soft spoken, and definitely isn’t what one would consider a ‘typical student leader,’ her efforts this semester for our student group have been amazing.

She often speaks with pride of her mother, as well. She tells me about the new English words her mom is learning and employing in conversations. Her mother is also taking classes, has joined a bowling league, and volunteers at the public library. I don’t think talking about parents is trite and I think it’s important to watch how Viviana talks about her own. Clearly, she loves her mother and looks up to her and expresses pride in her mother’s ability to step outside her comfort zone. I know we’ve all seen Viviana do that herself and rise up to lead us in our programming this semester.

Viviana is a self-described 1.5 Latina. I encourage you to ask her yourself what that means to her. This identification has made her feel “in between” but makes it her goal to “[help] people feel like they belong … because [she] never really had a group.” The point of these Thursday bio blogs is not to just give profiles, but to push my readers to really get to know the individuals I feature. I bet you didn’t know that Viviana plays the flute and almost went to a music school before choosing Duke. I also bet you didn’t know that she’s writing a thesis on eco-feminism and spirituality. Ask her about it. Start conversations. There is more that connects us beyond the LGBT Center. We should all step outside our comfort zones and find out what makes other people get up in the morning.

Want your story featured? Would you like to help others see beyond the LGBTQA label? If you would like to volunteer yourself for me to conduct an interview with you, or would like to nominate another individual, please post a comment or contact me at or Thank you!

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