Prince George’s County high school students Alexa Figueroa and Dennis Martinez made history as they won Harvard University's first debate tournament in Spanish.
The Northwestern High School seniors had only previously debated together in English tournaments. But with this win, they said they feel comfort and satisfaction from being able to compete in their language of origin.
“I feel proud, but at the same time very happy because it is something big for the Latin community," Martinez told Telemundo Washington. "I would like other Hispanic students to see that it is possible to participate in programs like this."
Figueroa and Martinez form part of the Washington Urban Debate League. Its director, David Trigaux, said that debating in Spanish is a new concept in the U.S., but that Dennis and Figueroa managed to defeat students from other states that have larger Hispanic populations than Maryland, and who have more debate experience.
Trigaux said Figureora and Martinez debated in support for the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)— a subject they were passionate about as children of Salvadoran immigrants.
“We wanted to speak on human rights and what happens when we have a racist institution like ICE,” Figueroa said in Spanish.
Both students said they hope to encourage more Hispanic students to debate in Spanish.
“I feel very excited and very proud that we've been able to accomplish this victory, but I'm also very excited to see the growth of Spanish debate in our community,” Martinez said.
To other Hispanic debaters, Figueroa said she encourages them to participate in these activities because “you can debate in Spanish” and “you can win”.
To see Telemundo Washington's story, go here.