As this year’s monthlong Latinx Heritage Celebration returns to in-person programming after hosting virtual events last year, organizers said they’re hoping to inspire students to learn about historic Latino traditions and values through social and educational events.
The Multicultural Student Services Center launched the celebration Sept. 15, featuring educational sessions, panel discussions and social events to highlight this year’s theme – “Honoring our Roots. Embracing our Future.” Leaders from student organizations involved in the celebration said they hope events will help students in the Latino community reflect on their roots through group discussions and help students across campus learn about their cultures.
The MSSC organized an advisory committee, composed of student organization leaders, faculty and campus partners, to help plan the celebration’s events. The center provides “logistical support” for Latino organizations to promote awareness through their events, according to its website.
Junior Claudet Miranda – the president of GW Casa Blanca, a student organization creating a safe space for students belonging to and interested in the Latino cultures – said the organization will hold multiple social events throughout the month including, “Conchas con Cafe” last Wednesday, which featured painting, hot chocolate and traditional Mexican sweet bread.
Miranda said the organization will host a game night Thursday, where students can enjoy food and drinks while playing games like Lotería, a Mexican game similar to Bingo. She said events like these will allow other students interested in the Latino community to learn more about their cultures and get to know other students with similar interests.
“Anyone who wants to learn about our culture is welcome to come and enjoy themselves and get to know the importance of this month and what it means to us,” Miranda said.
She said she hopes the Latinx Heritage Celebration events remind Latino students that they have a “safe space” on campus through outlets like Casa Blanca’s affinity housing in District House. Miranda said she hopes to highlight resources, like educational events, that the organization plans to provide during the celebration.
“I want them to understand that they always have a place to come, and I want them to meet other people, build solidarity within the community and spread that to other orgs as well,” Miranda said.
“We want to close that gap between any discrepancies that there may be within our community and really try to build a strong presence here at GW,” Miranda said.
Karla Madera Tejada – the event coordinator for Alianza, an organization that promotes the sisterhood and togetherness of Afro-Latina women – said members helped organize a vision board event at the celebration, where students could visualize how they could grow at GW and embrace their cultural roots to reflect on their Latino identity. Tejada said students gathered in person at the University Student Center Thursday to create their vision boards on Canva and listen to Latino music.
“Anyone should attend these events, even if it’s not Alianza’s events,” she said. “We would love for anyone to be there, not just Latinx students, but I would recommend for everyone to join in to learn about our culture and our beliefs.”
She said the Latinx Heritage Celebration helps Latino students meet one another and discuss issues they face at the University, like the lack of Latino professors. Tejada said Latino students struggle to visualize themselves in a collegiate faculty position when they attend a predominantly white institution like GW.
“LHC is very important, especially for your Latino community here at GW because we’re so small,” she said. “Being here at a PWI and away from home is a very good way to get together, find a community and be able to relate to the struggles and the problems we face every day.”
Veronica Castillejo – the president of Lambda Pi Chi, a Latina-based but not Latina exclusive sorority – said the organization is hosting events that will address topics like life as a first generation student in line to keep with this year’s theme. She said Lambda Pi Chi hosted a virtual event Tuesday called Latinas of Excellence, which featured a panel of chapter alumni to speak on navigating college life as a first-generation student.
“Latinas of Excellence allows undergraduate students to gain insight on the experience and knowledge of alumni as it pertains to specific fields and themes,” she said in an email.
Castillejo said Lambda Pi Chi will also host Real Conversations, a series of yearly discussions about humanitarian conditions at the U.S. southern border, in the MSSC Tuesday. She said she hopes the events will provide a space for students to think critically about national issues facing members of the Latino community and reflect on their own life experiences.
About 15,000 migrants settled at the southern national border in Del Rio Texas last week, setting up camps surrounded by border agents and state troopers, illustrating the growing humanitarian crisis where migrants were seen sleeping in the dirt without food and water.
“Real Conversations gives all those interested the time and space to participate in meaningful discussions surrounding the most prevalent issues,” she said. “These events and Latinx Heritage Celebration in general underscore and honor the different cultures, achievements and excellence of our communities.”