Sept. 15 marked the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, a national celebration of the contributions and influence Hispanic Americans have had on society.
For the Latino Student Union (LSU), an organization operating out of the Office of Intercultural Programs (OIP), this month has been the busiest in terms of the events they are pushing out.
For LSU co-presidents, sophomores Gustavo Davalos and Wendy Schmitt, preparation for the organization began last spring, and much of the planning for this special month took place over the summer.
Schmitt said that her main goal for the organization this year is not only to bring awareness of Latin culture to campus but to bring more students into that culture.
“Yes, our mission is to celebrate Latin culture,” Schmitt said, “but at the same time, being able to integrate it into campus and then just realize we are all created in God’s image.”
Hispanic Heritage Month is not only a recognition of the cultural impact that those of Latin heritage have made, but also a time to honor the many Latin American countries that gained independence around this time of year.
While LSU has already thrown events this month, such as the screening of Disney’s “Encanto,” they have a few larger events coming up.
On Sept. 30, they will host “Dreamers in the Shadows,” an occasion to recognize the unique obstacles that immigrant students face when trying to live out their dreams.
Even students who are not originally from the culture are excited for the upcoming events. Senior Joanna Vasudevan is originally from India but has spent extended time in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. She is now fluent in Spanish and jumps at the chance to celebrate Latin culture.
“It’s a very warm culture,” Vasudevan said. “Similar to my home culture. So I feel like I connect with people a lot quicker. And I’ve always loved the dancing, because literally you walk by and there is music on every street corner.”
Dancing is another aspect Gustavo and Schmitt hope to emphasize. On Oct. 7, Latin Heritage Night will feature favorite foods and hopefully a mariachi band to dance to.
Schmitt attributes the love of dancing and food to the collectivism that underlies Latin culture. While Schmitt grew up in Colombia, both were important because of the people involved.
“We have such a strong community-based culture. It’s very fun,” Schmitt said.
Davalos has a passion for making people feel like they belong and hopes to further this goal through the events he plans for LSU.
Davalos is passionate about his Mexican heritage, but he knows that many students don’t always grow up so in tune with their background.
“There's a lot of Latino students on campus,” Davalos said. “However, there's some of them that don’t acknowledge or are just not in touch with their culture as much. Our goal is to reach out to them and make them feel more involved with their culture, and maybe a sense of belonging on campus.”
Again, the LSU presidents want to stress that these events can be both a coming together of those who share similar backgrounds and a time to learn something new. Hispanic Heritage month is a time set aside for Taylor’s campus to unite and recognize something beautiful.
Schmitt and Davalos know it is a busy time of year but hope that students are able to come to at least one of their events. By coming, students can experience the familial hospitality that is central to Latin culture.
“We just want to make people feel welcomed,” Davalos said.