UNG Spanish-speaking debate team claims victory in 6th annual Great Latino Debate

The University of North Georgia’s Spanish-speaking debate team won the sixth annual Great Latino Debate on Oct. 15.

Students preparing for the Great Latino Debate. Photos courtesy of Beatriz Martínez and Yesenia Aguilar

The debate was hosted by UNG’s Latino Student Association (LSA) on the Gainesville campus. Students traveled from universities in Las Vegas, Miami and La Verne, California, for the debate.

To prepare members for the competition, LSA hosted a mock debate on Sept. 6 that was held in English. While the event was practice for members of the debate team, it also served as a recruitment tool to raise interest in debate.

Shayla Campos, left, Paloma Picazo, right. Photos courtesy of Beatriz Martínez and Yesenia Aguilar

LSA and the debate team continued preparation through September with training sessions. In October, they held practice rounds.

“We would get together, whatever days we could during the week and practice anywhere from 6 or 7 p.m. until midnight,” Shayla Campos said.

Although the mock debate was held in English, the Great Latino Debate was strictly in Spanish. The participants were penalized if they spoke any English during the competition.

“The most challenging part of the debate was not using Spanglish,” Campos said. Many of the debaters speak Spanglish, a combination of Spanish and English, often with family and friends.

UNG’s debate team consisted of 16 students pairing off into eight teams. In each round of debate, a team from UNG competed against four other teams. Campos and Paloma Picazo went through five rounds of debate and made it to the semifinals alongside seven other teams. Rodrigo Zavaleta and Wilver Yescas made it to finals where they competed against three other teams.

Yajaira Ramirez and Diana Vela-Martinez brainstorm before a debate. Photos courtesy of Beatriz Martínez and Yesenia Aguilar

The debate topics, which are referred to as motions, included discussing same-sex classrooms in public school and whether the change would be beneficial for students; Catalonia wanting to become their own country separate from Spain; and political concerns such as the American flag and its representation of the military. The final motion was Playboy and how the company set a precedent for sexualizing women.

UNG’s Spanish-speaking debate team beat 24 teams to claim victory. The team attributes their success to members’ competitive nature and dedication to perfecting the art of debating in Spanish.

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