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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with the Latinx Student Union

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with the Latinx Student Union

As touches of Latin celebratory culture sprinkle through platforms and cities alike, the presence of Hispanic Heritage Month comes to the forefront. At Stetson, the Latinx Student Union welcomes the month with the organization of several events that not only celebrate Hispanic culture, but also welcome all ethnicities and identities. Swaying music and bright colors took over Stetson as these events continued to spread throughout the month. Though LSU fosters a welcoming environment for Steston’s Hispanic and Latinx community year-round, this special time of the year readily recognizes the contribution and history of Latin culture for the Stetson community to understand and enjoy. 

 

“We’re creative, we’re colorful, we’re a lot of things. And I want the community, students, staff and faculty members to be able to come in and hear what we have to say, hear what’s going on in the community and be a part of it,” said Mary Gonzalez 24, president of Latinx Student Union. 

 

Flashes of Latin History and Stetson Statistics

 

Traditionally, Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual celebration split between two months. As always, the event lasts from September 15, 2023 to October 15, 2023. During these weeks, Latin communities are honored through jubilance and festivities that exhibit the contribution, diversity and history that the culture has achieved in past and present times. The Census Bureau reports that the start date of Hispanic Heritage Month is significant because it marks the anniversary of the independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and 18, respectively. Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate people from diverse backgrounds and become educated about the Latino community.

 

With intercultural competence being specifically highlighted in the Stetson values and mission statement, Hatters are sure to cultivate a festive atmosphere during Hispanic Heritage Month. During this special month, the Latinx Student Union collaborated with multiple groups on campus to properly represent the Hispanic and Latino campus community. 

 

Gonzalez explains, “The whole goal for LSU is to make sure that everyone feels connected. I want to appreciate and highlight the different cultures [Afro and LGBTQ latinos] that were derived from them later on.”

 

Here at Stetson, the need for cultural representation is higher than ever as demographics show that 500 undergraduates of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity enrolled in Fall 2022. Compared to the 592 Hispanic students that enrolled in Fall 2020, this could possibly signal Stetson failing to project a welcoming atmosphere to the Hispanic and Latino community. These statistics create even higher incentives for organizations like LSU to continue advocating for Latin and overall cultural representation on campus. Not only are these organizations safe spaces for students of Latin culture to congregate, but it also offers students of any ethnicity and identity to understand the importance of intercultural community. 

 

Emphasizing the L in LSU

 

Needless to say, there is a special reason as to why the Latinx Student Union is called LSU. Though they could have named it Hispanic Student Union or Latin Student Union, the term ‘Latinx’ goes beyond the categories of race. ‘Latinx’ is used as a gender-neutral or nonbinary alternative to Latino or Latina. In doing this, LSU talks the talk as they further emphasize their greater awareness of Latino culture and general representation at Stetson. 

 

“I want us to feel connected,” said Gonzalez.  “There’s a lot of people who come in with questions about LSU – can they all be accepting of XYZ? And the answer is always going to be yes, we can.” 

 

Culture, family and community are essential to the livelihood of the Latinx Student Union. It is an organization on campus where students of any identity can feel free to be themselves and celebrate the beauty that Latin culture has to offer as a whole. LSU walks the walk through their collaborations this Hispanic Heritage Month, collaborating with Kaleidoscope, Black Student Union (BSU) and the Environmental club. Allying with multiple organizations that each feature a different type of diversity shines a brighter light on these events for all students to appreciate. 

 

Erin Bentley ’24, president of Kaleidoscope, echoes this sentiment. “I felt it was really important to me and my E-board that we help shine a little bit of light on groups that do exist – like their voices deserve to be heard. And, like, we value them as a part of our community.”

 

And, Let the Festivities Commence 

 

‘Dancing under the Stars’ was the first event that marked the beginning of celebration here at Stetson University. On September 20, located at George’s Place and hosted by LSU, K-Scope and BSU, students and faculty alike danced the night away as Latin music thrummed through the festive atmosphere, teaching whoever came in about the basic dances of popular genres of music in Latin America. The three-hour event featured LSU members teaching fellow students the dances bachata, merengue, salsa and samba.

 

Stetson graduate student Melissa N’Diaye ’27 emphasizes, “Dancing was awesome! It was a great way to showcase all the different cultures’ popular dance styles.” 

 

Moving forward, the Latinx Student Union also collaborated with the Environmental club to host ‘Exploring Environmental Justice’: a painting event that displayed the importance of redlining in the community and how it affects us today. The event offered a cultural credit to students who attended, playing as a further incentive for students to come and paint their vision of an ideal world. 

 

Finally, LSU finished their week-long celebration with the Hispanic Heritage Festival, which was renamed to The Latin Patio Festival at Stetson. Changing the festival name was a means to further reiterate the openness of diversity that LSU, BSU, K-Scope and Environmental club offers. “We talked within the organization and we were like, you know, should we keep it to Hispanic Heritage Festival or Latin Patio Festival? Because patio? We’re in the back of Libby Lawn, and that’s where the bands usually play. It’s literally kind of like a patio so why not? And then ‘Latin’ because I know we want to embrace Latin culture,” Gonzalez explains. 

 

The Latin Patio Festival took place on September 28, on the spacious greenery of Libby Lawn. A big salsa band came and played not only salsa, but a bit of Colombian and merengue as well. BSU and K-Scope once again partnered with LSU for this event, as well as the Multicultural Student Council. The Latinx Student Union and other student-led organizations encouraged all students to come to these events as they are, and to delve into the family and community that organizations at Stetson are presenting now and in the future.      

 

“I think it just exposes everyone to a different culture and make them more knowledgeable about different Latin cultures,” said N’Diaye. 

 

It’s important that students walk away from these events having fun, but hopefully they take away a few lessons as well. Regardless of the background or identity of a student, these events are intended to ignite warmth, compassion, but most of all, acceptance. Hispanic Heritage Month especially highlights this importance as student-led organizations aim to garner students and have everyone celebrate a culture that accepts everyone with open arms. 

 

“I want to see everyone celebrate. I want to see everyone bring out their cultures because it’s something beautiful. I don’t want people to feel silenced somewhere – I want people to embrace their culture,” Gonzalez reiterates.

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