By JAI-LEAH GARCIA
September 15 through October 15 marks Hispanic Heritage Month, a time which commemorates the Latinx/Hispanic culture and celebrates the community as a whole.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, UMW’s Latino Student Association (LSA) has prepared a collection of events in order to celebrate the month. These events aim not only to make Latino students feel included, but also to allow other students to learn more about the culture. For this reason, LSA calls the month-long event Latino Identities Month so that every student feels included in the celebration.
“We created these events to showcase culture authentic to Latino Identities Month. We really just wanted to create a welcoming atmosphere where everyone had the opportunity to take in Latinx/Hispanic culture,” said Natalie Vazquez, president of LSA.
Last week, LSA hosted their kickoff event– a maraca workshop where students were able to learn about how maracas were made and to make their own maracas. To end the week, LSA hosted Bailemos, an event where students could learn some traditional dances.
Students who attended these events said that they had a good time and felt the events were a good way to relax after a long day of school. One of the biggest events that students enjoyed was Bailemos.
“I think it’s a really good representation of Latino culture as well as a way to have fun,” said Shanthi Gnanasekaran, a junior psychology major.
Students were able to learn typical dance styles of Latino culture such as bachata, salsa and merengue. At the end of the night, students had a free dance period where they could show their new dance skills and hang out with friends.
Faculty members also enjoy the Latino Identities festivities.
Eurena Castaña-Nuñez, a Spanish professor, said, “This is an opportunity to meet people and to listen to the songs that I like and to dance to the music that I like.”
For many faculty members from Latin America or Spain, these events are a way for them to enjoy their roots and to feel as though they are home.
“When I was in Spain, I danced every week,” said Castaña-Nuñez. “Here in the United States, it’s very hard for me to find a place to dance and enjoy the music that I like.”
Vazquez puts hard work into creating these events with the members of LSA. “I wanted to be a part of something, something that I felt represented who I am and what I stand for,” said Vazquez.
“These are events that past e-boards before us have created and added to the Latino Identities Month celebration. We kept them because, apart from them being super fun and festive, we like to pay homage to our roots and build on the foundation of those who came before us,” said Vazquez.
Vazquez explained how the celebrations change year to year.
“When it comes to making our events, the e-board works closely with Dr. Stanford. If we want to add or alter an event, we always collab or seek her input,” says Vazquez. “Our theme for Latino Identities Month changes each year, so we try our best to cater to it and have the events be specific to it as possible. For ideas, we also look to our members, we like to hear what the members liked or didn’t like about a certain event and we use those as pointers on where to improve.”
Upcoming Latino Identities Month events include a performance called “Music: The Latin Touch” on Sept 27. On the same day, keynote speaker Delicia Molina Sanchez will be telling her story and her mission to fight human trafficking and abuses against the LGBTQ community.