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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

HLA hosts annual La Gozadera event to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month

CW / Hannah Grace Mayfield
Big Al leading a dance line at the HLA Kickoff event.

The Hispanic-Latino Association hosted its second annual La Gozadera event Thursday to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. 

Hispanic Heritage Month coincides with the dates that many Latin American nations celebrate their independence days. On Sept. 15 alone, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua all celebrate independence. 

“My home country’s Independence Day is Sept. 15. And so, I feel seen as well, but then celebrated by the rest of the campus,” Eddie Hernández, an HLA member and junior majoring in creative media and advertising, said.  

The event featured music from DJ pair Dynamic Duo and food catered from Antojitos Izcalli, La Real Michoacana and Mi Casita Bakery 

“We did the first one last year and it was so successful that we were like, ‘We’re just going to make it an annual event,’” HLA President Mariana Rios Nava, a senior majoring in psychology, said.  

According to Rios Nava, HLA membership has drastically increased over the course of the past year.  

“There were about 15 of us at our first meeting,” Victoria Aguilar, an HLA member and junior majoring in musical audio engineering, said.  

Now, there are 610 members, and Rios Nava said almost 300 are subscribed to the group’s newsletter. 

According to the University’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, in fall 2021, the number of UA students listed as Hispanic or Latino was 2,138. 

Rios Nava said the increase in HLA membership is partially due to the group’s outreach efforts and relationships with UA recruiters.  

“We knew that we would have a lot of incoming freshmen who already knew about HLA and would be looking for us,” Rios Nava said. “And then the first full week of school, we had four events back-to-back to table and recruit.” 

While HLA accepts members from all backgrounds, many Hispanic and Latino students said the organization has provided a welcoming environment for them. 

“When I joined spring of ’22, I found this new Hispanic family,” Hernández said. 

Several members said HLA allowed them to find other students from similar backgrounds. 

“I’m from Nicaragua, and before I came here, I didn’t know if there was any Latinos on campus,” said Luciano Carrion, director of community service for HLA and a sophomore majoring in management and finance. 

Many students with no previous connection to HLA also attended the event. 

“I like that I get to see different cultures and be around different people,” said Tikeria Jones, a freshman majoring in public health. 

To continue its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the HLA is planning an event for Oct. 5 with University Programs and the Women and Gender Resource Center that will feature painting, trivia, karaoke and lotería, which Rios Nava described as “Latino bingo.” 

These activities reflect the organization’s emphasis on active participation and community at its events, an approach that Rios Nava contrasted with straightforward teaching.  

“Our whole thing is not to teach. It’s just to be,” said Rios Nava. 

Many members look forward to upcoming events, tailgates and service projects. 

“HLA is just a welcoming family and a community, and we’re excited to see it grow exponentially throughout the years,” Aguilar said. “And we’re excited to see what comes in the future.” 

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