Tony Galdamez ’24 was born and raised in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, home to one of the largest Salvadoran populations in the United States. His parents met in the U.S. after leaving El Salvador in their teens.
When asked why they came, Galdamaez said, almost matter-of-factly, “civil war.”
More than 1 million (about a fourth of the Central American country’s population) were displaced by the Salvadoran Civil War of the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands sought safety in the U.S., and more than 200,000 Salvadoran Americans now live in the metro area around Washington, D.C.
“Many of my cousins live in Virginia and Maryland still,” said Galdamez. “A lot of my extended family are there. Only a few stayed in El Salvador.”
Staying relatively close to his family was one priority in the student’s college search, and he knew what kind of academic environment would work best for him.
“I was looking all around the East Coast for some place I could call home for four years,” he said. “I knew from high school that I prefer small classrooms where I could get one-on-one time with the teachers. And one of my friends’ mothers went to Furman, so I just gave it a shot, and then it worked.”
SEEKING DIVERSITY, FINDING COMMUNITY
Coming from one primarily white institution to another was not too much of an adjustment for Galdamez, who was one of only three Latino students at his Episcopalian college prep school in the northern Virginia suburbs.
“I’ve been used to this since middle school,” he said. “I’ve gotten used to my own skin. So I act the same way with everybody.”
Nevertheless, when he arrived at Furman, he was still hoping to connect with peers from diverse backgrounds.
It wasn’t long before he was introduced to some of the members of the Hispanic Outreach and Latinx Awareness (HOLA) student organization, which he now serves as vice president. He has savored the experience – in more ways than one.
“Just being able to talk about and try each other’s foods – it’s great,” said Galdamez.
He has also volunteered with Mosaic, a group of students dedicated to creating a more diverse and inclusive student body by sharing their Furman experiences with high schoolers, and is co-president of Furman’s club basketball team.
As a health sciences major in the pre-health program, Galdamez interned in the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in Surgery at Prisma Health. The aspiring physician assistant spent months shadowing surgeons and continuing his research into cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) data.
‘IT’S GOOD FOR ALL OF FURMAN’
During Hispanic Heritage Month, Galdamez, who visited El Salvador during spring break this year, is looking forward to the many events he is helping to plan as a member of the HOLA executive team.
“It’s not just for us in the Latino community,” he said. “I believe it’s good for all of Furman to connect with multiple races and ethnicities.”
After growing up in Alexandria, Virginia, where Salvadorans are the largest Latino group, Galdamez acknowledged occasionally feeling “like a minority” among Furman’s other Hispanic students. But he has still found a community he can relate to – mostly.
“The one thing that separates us is when they play music I don’t like,” laughed Galdamez, a fan of the classic Salvadoran songs he heard back home as well as the modern electronic sounds of reggaetón popularized in Panama and Puerto Rico.
Source : Furman