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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Friday, June 14, 2024
The Echo

Thiago Camacho: A journey of identity, belonging, and leadership

Senior Thiago Camacho has a compelling story that reflects the challenges of cultural identity, the power of finding a sense of belonging and the influence that leaders can have.

His journey began in Montevideo, Uruguay, where he was born. At the age of one, his mother made the courageous decision to move to Indianapolis, Indiana, in order to escape a difficult situation back home. They came to live in Indianapolis, as Camacho’s aunt and uncle lived there. 

The switch wasn’t easy and involved many sacrifices. His mother left behind a career in teaching music and her degree in psychology to ensure that Camacho had a better future. 

“She had a blossoming career in our country, and she gave it up for me so I could have a better life,” Camacho said. “And I'm eternally grateful for that.”

Growing up in the city, Camacho struggled with his cultural identity. 

As a South American who grew up in predominantly white institutions, he often felt left out and unsure of where he belonged. 

“While my neighborhood in the inner city was pretty diverse, the places where I hung out with (people) weren’t,” Camacho said. “And so I often felt kind of left out or kind of unsure of where I belong.”

He said it was a constant struggle to reconcile his heritage with the environment he was in. Camacho's mother, who had intentionally chosen to forget her negative memories of Uruguay, did not pass on much of her cultural traditions and values to him. Despite this, Camacho recognized the trauma his mother had faced and empathized with her choices. 

However, everything changed when Camacho enrolled at Taylor University. 

A majority of Taylor's student population is white. Only 20% of the student population is not white, according to Taylor's website. However, it was at Taylor that Camacho was able to discover more about his identity as a Hispanic man. 

He said that exposure to people from various ethnic and racial backgrounds enabled him to gain a broader worldview.

“I've intentionally reached out and been invited and included in the community of diverse international people and really felt included here and really found my identity in that,” Camacho said.

Through these experiences, Camacho said that he realized the importance of embracing diversity and drawing from different cultures to learn about the world as a whole. This is mirrored in his majors — sociology and global studies.

Moreover, his involvement in leadership positions at Taylor has played a significant role in shaping his college experience. Starting with the Office of Intercultural Programs (OIP), Camacho discovered a community that allowed him to thrive. 

He became the president of the Latino Student Union (LSU) as a sophomore and has served in various cabinets in the OIP and Taylor Student Organization (TSO).

These experiences not only bolstered Camacho's confidence as a leader but also helped him realize his potential to make a difference. 

“The OIP and Act 6 really found me as a leader. It was not really something I had considered too much before, I didn't really know that I could lead,” Camacho said.

Today, Camacho is the secretary in the Student Body President's office in TSO. He is thankful for the position, as he is able to represent the Hispanic student population, work with the TSO Executive Cabinet on student programming and grow as a leader through the various learning opportunities. 

Camacho said that he wants to bring awareness to representation issues, cultural issues, diversity issues and student concerns through his role. 

“Having voices like mine be elevated is important, because those perspectives I think, have often been missed,” Camacho said.

Camacho's journey is a testament to the transformative power of education, community and leadership.  His experiences at Taylor have not only shaped him as an individual but also served as a motivation to make a positive impact on the world around him. The importance of cultural identity, the power of finding a sense of belonging and the need for growth and inclusivity have been hallmarks of his life. 

“Thiago will always shoot you straight,” junior Simeon Popa, a friend of Camacho, said. “He loves to pump people up, and see them succeed.”