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Latinx Heritage Month Honored at CU Denver

FOCUS ON CULTURE, LANGUAGE, AND IDENTITY

Mid-September always marks the beginning of the ever-so-colorful celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

This month is dedicated to celebrating and learning about the several distinct cultures that make up the Hispanic and Latino community. This year at CU Denver, students of all different cultures came together for the first Latinx Heritage Month Kickoff.

People from varying backgrounds flocked to the grassy West Patio of the Academic Building to participate in the festivities hosted by CU Denver Latin@ Student Services. A stage was built in one corner of the patio, and tables and tents surrounded the area. Although rain loomed over the festivities, the spirit of the attendees wasn’t dampened. At the start of the event, friends smiled and laughed together, and strangers began to mingle and talk about the event itself and what Latinx Heritage Month stood for.

A table running the width of the patio was lined with food and beverages. Qdoba catered the event—the tacos and burritos served were nothing short of delicious. The cake—a staple in any school-sanctioned event—drew the most attention and stood as a reminder of the celebratory event. Hip-shaking reggaeton music boomed from the speakers.

As everyone ate their food and enjoyed the music, the CU Denver Latinx community took advantage of having a public platform. They spoke on topics of social justice, language, and identity The speakers included members of Pi Lambda Chi, a Latinx sorority, and Dora Frias, Director of Latin@ Student Services. Pi Lambda Chi offered attending students the opportunity to join their sorority and urged those involved to give back to the community.

Dora Frias offered information on what she works on every day. “Today marks the first ‘kickoff event’ of its kind for the Latinx community here at CU Denver,” Frias said. “Our heritage month is from Sept. 15-Oct. 15. It is a chance to celebrate and recognize the history and values of our culture and allow for Hispanics and Latinos to be proud of who they are.”

She explained what Latin@ Student Services has to offer at CU Denver. “At Latin@ Student Services, our main goal is to offer support in any way that we can for students in the community,” Frias said. “It doesn’t matter if you identify as Latino or Hispanic, we want to see everyone succeed here at CU Denver. Our office is there to provide all sorts of services, from events and support to leadership for young Hispanic and Latino students in our community.”

Although the office is smaller than others, Latinos and Hispanics are still encouraged to stop by for resources. “We are a little bit smaller than the rest of the multicultural organizations on campus, but everyone is welcome,” Frias said. Their office is located in the Academic Building.

She elaborated on the different groups on campus that involve Latinx and Hispanic students. “We have the Latino Student Alliance, the Hispanic Engineers group, and the CU Dreamers group,” Frias said. “There are also fraternities and sororities that serve as a social way to get involved in the community.”

Daniela Gomez-Castro, a member of Pi Lambda Chi, was able to give information about the sorority’s goals and what it stands for. “We are a Latina-based sorority and a sisterhood,” Gomez-Castro said. “Our main goal is to empower Latina women at CU Denver and on the Auraria Campus. We enjoy working closely with our community and women to provide a better chance and future for education.”

The sorority has clear objectives for the Latin Denver community. “We want to push education and empower young Latina women so they know that they can succeed,” Gomez-Castro said. “Denver has a very high population of Latino and Hispanic men, women, and children, so for us it’s our number one priority to give back.”

The sorority also serves as a community for the young Latina women involved. “We’re all friends,” Gomez-Castro said. “We like to have fun and hang out together just like everyone else. We enjoy planning socials that are fun for students to come to, but we also know when to be serious and plan informationals. We’re having a conference that is going to be held next year, hopefully in April.”

The event was not exclusive for Latinx and Hispanic students. There were several young students in attendance who were of  Middle-Eastern, Asian, African-American, and Caucasian descent. The diversity of people who came together to support the Latinx Heritage Kickoff showed how communities of all ethnic makeups are able to transcend their own cultures to learn and celebrate another culture. It was
nothing short of awe-inspiring.

One student offered her experience at the kickoff. “It’s so cool that we’re having an event like this,” Danielle Jones said. “The food is great, everyone is friendly, and we get to talk with people of other backgrounds and learn something new about their culture.”

Latinx Heritage Month Kickoff and its festivities stood as a beacon of hope and remembrance for the Hispanic culture in turbulent political environments. The festival allowed for those who are Hispanic and Latinx a chance to celebrate who they are and be proud of their work and contributions to the Denver society and CU Denver community.

The ongoing presidential election has proved to be very oppressive to many, especially those who identify as Latinx or Hispanic. Denver has one of the highest percentages of Hispanic and Latinx people residing in the city limits. With a 31.2 percent Hispanic population, it is important to recognize that the culture of Denver is highly influenced and based around the Hispanic and Latinx population.

The Hispanic and Latino population has an integral role in pop-culture and a deep seated history in America, as many Latin people have been here since the Spanish Conquistadors settled. They have given the nation delectable staples of any diet, like tacos, burritos, and flan, as well as musical staples like Shakira and Selena. But they are more than just entertainment, as shown by the men and women who spoke at the CU Denver Latinx Heritage Kickoff Month event. The Latinx community on campus serves many students and is welcoming and warm. Fingers crossed for more festivities next year to keep the tradition going.

Ashley Bauler
Ashley Bauler

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