The Latinx Student Alliance is organizing events on Grounds for students, faculty and the Charlottesville community from now until mid-October to recognize and celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Hispanic Heritage Month, which is held Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, commemorates the diverse array of cultures and intersectionality within Hispanic and Latinx culture, as well as spreads awareness on the history and education of these cultures.
Annelise Miranda, a third-year College student and vice president of advocacy of the Latinx Student Alliance, said this nationally-recognized event allows students on Grounds to recognize the small yet impactful population of Latinx/Hispanic origin.
“Hispanic Heritage Month is a time when students and faculty can come together and talk about how we … are small, but we are powerful here,” Miranda said. “We look at Hispanic Heritage Month not just as a way to celebrate our culture, but also bring the community together and start the year off really strong.”
The Hispanic/Latinx community makes up six percent of the University , with a smaller percentage in at 2.8 percent, according to 2017 data from the University.
The Latinx Student Alliance gained CIO status in 2009, after merging with the La Alianza Coalition of Hispanic Latino Leaders. LSA strives to provide an inclusive and welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds on Grounds.
Kayla Dunn, a third-year College student and president of LSA, emphasized that she hopes those attending events throughout National Hispanic Heritage Month can learn and understand that Hispanic/Latinx is not made up of a homogenous culture, but an intersectional community encompassing diverse people from diverse backgrounds.
“For all attendees, regardless of background, where they come from, I think it’s very important that students at the University and community members learn that Hispanic/Latinx culture is not homogenous. That we are not the same,” Dunn said. “We comprise of multiple continents, and various cultures and traditions and backgrounds. And the beautiful thing about our culture is what binds us together is the shared history … that brings us together as a family.”
Their series of events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month began last Friday afternoon with Cultura Fest — a festival outside of the International Residential College to highlight diversity within the Hispanic/Latinx community — that was co-sponsored by both the Honor Committee and the IRC.
Miranda told The Cavalier Daily LSA began planning for Hispanic Heritage Month soon after the executive board gained their respective positions in April 2018, and this year they hope to implement new events as well as continue to host previous ones.
“In the past we have had different things that we’ve done every year,” Miranda said. “We do also have newer events, or the events that we are having we are trying to revitalize … Things like Cultura Fest that has happened in the past, now we are trying to make it a little more culturally relevant than it has been.”
Following Cultura Fest, University Dining Services will be sponsoring “Buen Provecho” at Observatory Hill Thursday, in which students and faculty can try different foods and cuisine unique to the Latinx/Hispanic community.
LSA will be hosting its LSA ball at Newcomb ballroom Sep. 29, a semi-formal event to feature Hispanic/Latinx music, food and dancing.
Latinx Student Alliance also helps with Fall Blast, an annual event where the University invites prospective students of Hispanic/Latinx heritage to learn about the organizations and resources offered to them on Grounds. The event is hosted by the Office of Admissions, however, LSA and other minority organizations help to invite incoming students and their families through volunteering, contributing to panel discussions and other activities of outreach.
Dunn said she hopes that students who visit during Fall Blast can see that, despite the small community of Latinx/Hispanic students on Grounds, LSA can provide a home for them.
“One of my major initiatives as president this year is to help improve the prospective student experience,” Dunn said. “We want to show prospective students that they do have a community that supports them and wants them to come to the University.”
Towards the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, LSA hopes to focus its events on educating the public on the cultural history of the Hispanic/Latinx community. One event in particular is an Oct. 15 open mic night titled “Siendo Latinx,” which will allow students and the Charlottesville community to share stories on what being Latinx/Hispanic means to them, and the meaning of their identity.
Hispanic Heritage Month has its origins in when former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration recognized Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968. The initiative became Hispanic Heritage Month in 1988 through the administration of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. The month-long celebration begins in the middle of September to recognize the anniversary of five Latin American nations’ independences — Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.