Honoring Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month
Written by: Tammara Quevedo
My name is Tammara Quevedo and I am a senior studying Kinesiology and Disability Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I am studying to obtain my Master's in Prosthetics and Orthotics and perhaps pursue a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. I am a current varsity member for the Illinois Rowing Team where we do our training at Clinton Lake in Farmer City, IL.
I started rowing my freshman year of college and I have fallen in love with the sport ever since. In celebration of Latinx and Hispanic Heritage month, I am honored to have JL Racing invite me to the conversation about what it is like to be a Latina in the rowing community and celebrate my culture. I would like to thank JL Racing for promoting diversity and inclusion in the world of rowing because it has not been a sport that underrepresented communities typically participate in. Representation lacks due to the disparities that come with the sport such as: cost, awareness of the sport, and access to facilities.
Both of my parents immigrated from Mexico and that has inspired me to always search for new opportunities as well as represent my culture in every race I participate in. I swam competitively for 5 years but in my senior year of high school, I suffered a tear in my left rotator cuff and tendonitis which put a stop to my swimming career. I was able to start rowing my second semester of freshman year, after COVID-19 settled. I was trying to get back into swimming, but I had a friend who convinced me to go to “rowing tryouts” with her even though I told her I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t want to join. However, the more I got into it, I realized I could be a competitive athlete again. This opportunity allowed me the chance to still be an athlete pain free, and pursue my passion for bodies of water. Although I am 5’4”, a height that is not preferred in the sport for a competitive rower, I have worked hard on building my fitness endurance and improving my rowing technique on the water.
I am very grateful to have resources that help support me on campus as well as my teammates. One of my favorite places to go on campus is La Casa Cultura Latina. La Casa is a cultural center on campus that is dedicated as a space for all students, but specifically Latinx students to be welcomed and participate in events steered towards making college life easier while supporting us at a predominantly white institution. The staff always cheers me on and loves learning more about rowing since it is a sport that is not dominated by Latinx community. My teammates have always been very open-minded individuals that love listening to Spanish music in my car whenever we drive to the lake. This support helps me feel accepted for who I am as a Mexican-American and never feel inferior because of my background.
Two of my favorite races that I have been blessed to participate in have been Head of the Charles and American Collegiate Rowing Association regatta. I love the atmosphere that is in the air at these races. I also love seeing the boost of diversity over the last three years through the increase in regatta tent booths that promote diversity and seeing other Latinx rowers competing with their respective college teams. I am ecstatic to see tents such as Rowing in Color in these types of regattas because it shows the growing efforts to continue advocating for diversity in rowing by expanding the sport of rowing to all over the country and reach audiences that have never heard of the sport.
I hope to empower other communities of color to give rowing a try and continue advocating for an increase in diversity in rowing through efforts of expanding rowing across the midwest. One of the efforts I would like to use to expand on is to talk about my experience as a Latina in rowing through various social media platforms and hope to reach other communities not represented in the sport of rowing. I hope to be an example for other Latina/o/x/e that may be intimidated by trying out this sport, and encourage them to give it a try if they are in the slightest bit interested. Rowing is a sport that you can always improve on and there is no limit on the new things you can learn or practice. It makes the sport so rewarding because you are always accomplishing new challenges. My goal is to continue rowing as a hobby and advocating to various communities through a master’s rowing club program to try the sport or find ways to transport individuals to lakes/rivers so they have awareness of the world of rowing. Something I would tell younger underrepresented groups is to never back down from a challenge and to always be open minded to brand new opportunities. It may be scary trying things where there isn’t a lot of diverse representation but to be the change you want to see in the world by participating in activities that make you happy!!