Hispanic-Latino Association kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month

Jennifer Baggett, Contributing Writer

The University of Alabama’s Hispanic-Latino Association celebrated Hispanic Heritage month at their La Gozadera kickoff event on Sept. 15.  

Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched the nation and society.  

Sept. 15 is the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Additionally, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18.  

The Hispanic-Latino Association was originally founded on campus in 2016 and was officially re-established as an organization in the spring after starting the process in fall 2021. The organization’s focus is to unite all students on campus along with faculty and staff of Hispanic or Latino ethnic backgrounds, as well as those who have an interest in Hispanic-Latino culture. 

Marcella Martinez, the president of HLA and a senior majoring in economics and political science, sees the benefit of having a social aspect within the organization but also the opportunity for building a community. 

 “It’s important to have a community on campus and have that family you can connect with that has the same experiences, similar backgrounds, and love for a specific culture,” Martinez said. 

The event included traditional food and music, games, photo opportunities and dancing.  

“We really wanted to highlight local businesses in Tuscaloosa,” Martinez said. The main meals came from Antojitos Izcalli, the pastries were from Mi Casita Bakery, and the traditional popsicles are from La Real Michoacana. 

“We started planning for the event in March and spent a lot of time promoting the event throughout the dorms and academic buildings, social media through University Programs, the interfraternity council, the Intercultural Diversity Center, along with the DEI officers within each sorority,” Martinez said. “Almost 400 people came to the event;, it really shocked us and made us really happy that it had such a large turnout.” 

University Programs supported HLA through the Event Resource Request Process.  

“This process was established to assist student organizations with their events to build inclusive programs on campus,” said Paige Acker, director of University Programs. “We believe that student-led events are one of the greatest opportunities to collaborate towards these goals.”  

Beatriz Garcia, a junior majoring in political science, is an HLA member that finds the organization a great opportunity for mentorship and connection.  

“It’s great that different groups can have months throughout the year to represent their culture and community,” Garcia said. “We can start conversations and opportunities for representation on campus.” 

Eddie Hernandez, a sophomore majoring in creative media and advertising, and Alyssa Araujo, a junior majoring in creative media, both found the event a great kickoff for Hispanic Heritage Month.  

“It’s really great to get to celebrate the culture,” Araujo said.  

“It’s currently a small community on campus and we don’t really get this in the south so it’s great to get together,” said Hernandez. 

Bella Olvera and Sidney Todd, both freshmen majoring in creative media, came out to the event together. Todd enjoyed the opportunity to attend with her friends, see Hispanic culture and absorb the environment.  

“I wanted to connect with more Hispanic people, and I thought this would be fun. I’m very proud of being Hispanic and I love that people are getting to come out and experience this. This is Hispanic culture, […], it makes me feel like I’m at home,” Olvera said. 

Megan Skelton, a sophomore majoring in psychology, and Julia Dominguez, a sophomore majoring in political science and psychology, noted the friendly, welcoming atmosphere.  

“We don’t have to educate others about Hispanic culture or environments, you can come out and experience it. I think that’s great,” Skelton said. 

Dominguez agreed, “[It] really allows for a connection and the ability to have shared experiences. There’s nothing like it when you have the chance to do that.” 

Other organizations like the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers had members in attendance at the HLA event. 

“I 100% think having both organizations have been really good for [the University] and Latinos here,” said Rachel Alemany, the SHPE president and a senior majoring in civil engineering.  

Alemany said it’s exciting to see the Hispanic-Latino community grow.  

“Through SHPE and HLA, we are bringing in so many more members. This will hopefully help make the Latino community in STEM bigger also,” Alemany said. “I think it’s being seen that [the University] is becoming a more diverse school and inclusive to anyone who is a minority.” 

The opportunities on campus continue to grow for Hispanic and Latino students on campus.  

“It’s great to have a way to have a social aspect with HLA and then professional development and academic organizations on campus. The more people supporting the Latino community, the stronger we can be,” Alemany said. 

The Intercultural Diversity Center has more upcoming events throughout Hispanic Heritage Month.