Western’s Latino Student Alliance (LSA) has planned several events for Hispanic Heritage Week. LSA members Fernanda Rios-Merodio, Julie Ishimwe Alphonse, Cecilia Ovalle and Abigail Garcia recently helped promote their RSO at Bronco Bash 2022.
KALAMAZOO, Mich.—From flavorful food and colorful celebrations to lively music and dancing, National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, celebrates the vibrancy of the Latino community in the United States. Western Michigan University’s Latino Student Alliance (LSA) aims to share that excitement with the campus community through Hispanic Heritage Week.
The series of events includes lessons on making tortillas from scratch and the history behind them; a virtual meeting of the Grassroots Leadership Development Program, which connects students with Hispanic leaders in the local community; a night of dance instruction from Western’s Latin Dance Club; and a Hot Cheetos and cheese fundraiser. LSA will also make appearances at the Office of LBGT Students Services’ Fall Fab Fest and the University’s Multicultural Meet and Greet.
“The upcoming events are a great way to appreciate a culture and not appropriate a culture,” says Jackie Chavarria, LSA secretary. “What I hope the Western community takes away from Hispanic Heritage Week is that if they’re willing to learn, we’re willing to teach.”
“I want the community to know who we are but not just label us … Hispanic. That’s just the start; look more into our work ethic, what we believe in, what we do around the community,” adds Nayeli Guandique-Benítez, LSA’s Western Student Association representative.
LSA is one of more than 300 Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) on Western’s campus. It welcomes all students—regardless of their heritage—to join and share their culture. The group both aims to raise awareness of the Latin and Hispanic communities at Western and provide supportive social, academic and cultural programming for its members.
“It feels like home away from my physical home with my family,” Guandique-Benítez says.
“I didn’t really have a huge Hispanic or Latino influence growing up,” adds Chavarria, who moved around quite a bit as a child. “I’ve always felt like I’m a bit disconnected from the rest of my community, but lately I’ve learned to be proud of who I am.”
For Abigail Garcia, LSA president, that pride comes with the promise of a brighter future. She grew up working alongside her family in farm fields, picking strawberries, cleaning cherries and sorting bell peppers.
“I just want to share with everyone the hard work ethic of the Hispanic and Latino communities,” she says. The first in her family to attend college, she knows the sacrifice her family made to ensure a better life for the next generation. “We are here to help our communities and strive to be better.”
Western’s Office of Diversity Education (ODE) is also promoting programming and resources for Hispanic Heritage Month. It includes a presentation by Anthony Perez, assistant director of admissions for multicultural recruitment and outreach at WMU. A first-generation college graduate from San Antonio, Texas, he first joined the Bronco family as a graduate student in the educational leadership program. His talk, “Owning My Identity, Own My Space,” is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 10 a.m. in the Multicultural Center in the Trimpe Building.
ODE also offers regular diversity training workshops. A full schedule is available on the ODE webpage.
LSA will wrap up Hispanic Heritage Month with a Latinx student art showcase. The event, planned for Thursday, Oct. 13, will feature the work of seven artists, ranging from 2D and 3D art to a projection display. More details will be available on the LSA Instagram account.
Learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month and the impact of Hispanic Americans through the WMU Libraries research guide.
For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.
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