In October, Taylor University celebrated Latino History Month with an array of events. From the exciting rhythms of “Latino Palooza” to the delights of “Salsa Tasting Night,” the month-long festivities focused on bringing students, faculty and the local community together to demonstrate the importance of cultural awareness and unity on campus.
The festivities began with "Latino Palooza," a dynamic event that created a spotlight on the significant contributions of Latino students on campus. Junior Delani Rodriguez and junior Zurisadai Benitez, co-presidents of the Latino Student Union (LSU), curated a spread of Latin and Hispanic cuisine, including empanadas from Venezuela and sandwiches from Puerto Rico.
“Our main goal for [Latino Palooza] was to celebrate the accomplishments and cultures of people from Latin American or Hispanic countries,” Rodriguez said.
To further honor Latino cuisine, the LSU hosted a "Salsa Tasting Night," where the aroma of spices filled the air. This event brought together food enthusiasts, salsa fans and dance lovers for an evening of flavor and rhythm. The event not only celebrated a special facet of Latin American cuisine but also highlighted the diverse culinary talents within the campus community, Rodriguez said.
The LSU, catering to the diverse needs of Latino students on campus, has been historically known for organizing a wide spectrum of events and cultural programs. Meeting weekly to plan these events, the LSU takes a two-pronged approach by distinguishing between internal and external events.
Rodriguez explained that internal gatherings have a strong focus on the Latino community, embracing the culture through various internal celebrations. On the other hand, external events adopt a campus-wide approach, aiming to engage the entire student body and transcend cultural boundaries to create unity. Through these events, students from all corners of campus get to experience Latin American and Hispanic culture firsthand.
Senior Thiago Camacho, a sociology and global studies major and former LSU co-president, emphasized the power of campus unity and involvement in the diverse cabinets that Taylor University has to offer.
“I was never super in touch with my Hispanic family and heritage as much as when I came here,” Camacho shared. “I had to come to the middle of nowhere to discover a part of me that I wasn’t in touch with yet.”
Camacho went on to describe how Taylor's enriching and diverse academic environment played a pivotal role in helping him develop a stronger sense of identity through higher education.
Throughout the year, the LSU diligently works to connect Latino students with their heritage and extends an invitation to faculty and students to partake in these cultural experiences.
“We always appreciate when [students and faculty] come to our events,” Benitez said. “We always appreciate when they engage with our culture and express a desire to learn.”
Having a personal impact on students is one of the hallmarks of LSU's mission, Benitez said. Once students are invited to immerse themselves in a culture that may not be their own, it becomes an intentional and mutually rewarding experience for all participants.
Both Benitez and Rodriguez acknowledged the sometimes nerve-wracking yet highly rewarding process of planning events like "Con la Familia," where Latino students are encouraged to bring dates.
“It was way more intentional,” Benitez said. “It was our first event, so it was nerve-wracking and kind of stressful, but it was also the most rewarding. We got it done, and it was great.”
Latino Heritage Month marked the largest external outreach for LSU. As the year progresses, Latino students can anticipate a greater number of internal events. Despite the month-long celebrations coming to an end, the Latino Heritage Month programming aims to serve as a testament to the power and unity of cultural appreciation in the academic sphere.