Our Alums in Their Spaces: Krista Cortes- Director, La Casa Latina

Thursday, January 11, 2024
Krista Cortes posing for photo

Krista Cortes’ book-filled office on the top floor of the ARCH Building on Locust Walk is quiet, cozy, and full of golden, autumnal light. But the director of Penn’s La Casa Latina—the campus hub for Penn’s Latine community and Latin American culture—is more often found posted up in La Casa’s bright, bustling home on the garden level, chatting with students, organizing programming, and welcoming people into the space.

How a space is organized and outfitted for optimal learning and inclusion is important to her. After finishing her two master’s programs at Penn GSE (in teacher education and language and literacy), Cortes earned her PhD in education at the University of California, Berkeley, where her dissertation explored how Afro-Puerto Rican mothers create learning environments for their children that center Blackness.

“That’s what I’m trying to do in my work here,” said Cortes, who is also teaching “Applied Linguistics in Education” at GSE this semester. “It’s really important to me to bring Afro-Latinidad into conversations in a Latine cultural center. . . . I want us to really think about the multiplicity within our understanding of Latinidades. How do we do that, not only through programming, but how we do that in our interactions with students? How we do that in the ways that our space is designed?”

That care and intentionality is obvious throughout her office and at La Casa. She gave us a tour of everything from the personally meaningful art she’s hung on her walls to the snack closet she keeps stocked with condiments—Valentina hot sauce, Tajin chili-lime seasoning, adobo seasoning—to remind students of a taste of home.