USD’s Latino Student Organization (LASO) is hosting events throughout Hispanic Heritage Month to promote diversity and help students celebrate their cultures.
Karla Jamie, the LASO president, said the month is all about education and celebration.
“We like to further educate people on different parts of the world and different parts of Latin America and what we celebrate,” Jamie said. “So even if students are far away from home, they can still feel at home because we are including them (in our celebrations).”
Originally created as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon B. Johnson, Hispanic Heritage Month is now celebrated annually from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. The purpose of the month-long event is to celebrate culture and honor important figures in Hispanic culture.
The beginning date is significant because it’s the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Additionally, Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated on Sept. 16.
The difference between Latino and Hispanic heritage is that Latino signifies a person from Latin America, and Hispanic represents those who are Spanish-speaking. Hispanic Heritage Month is inclusive to all cultures.
“(Hispanic Heritage Month to) me means something to be a part of and celebrate,” said Pedro Martinez, LASO vice president. “It’s a way to express my culture and it’s a way to feel like home.”
Students don’t need to be Latino or Hispanic to become involved in LASO or to participate in the Hispanic Heritage Month activities.
“Hispanic Heritage month is basically a month where you celebrate all the countries in Central America and some South American countries,” said Gabriela Revolorio, LASO secretary. “It is basically independence month for all of those countries.”
As president of LASO, Jamie said her main goal is to educate the student body on diverse cultures and traditions. She said with the common misconceptions of different cultures, it’s now more important than ever to be proud of her heritage.
“We have spent so much time avoiding people because of their appearance and their race, why not unite people with education?” Jamie said.
Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to spread acceptance for different Hispanic cultures, Revolorio said.
“When it comes to this month in regards to what’s happening outside, I’d say it’s more of an awareness month for most people,” Revolorio said. “A lot of people think we’re bad people, but we’re not. If you just look at it in a human aspect, we’re all humans and we are here for the same purpose. I don’t look at the skin color of people — everyone is the same in my eyes.”
Cristobal Francisquez, a LASO board member, said he enjoys being a part of LASO and teaching students about his Guatemalan heritage, and how that differs from other Hispanic cultures.
“(Hispanic Heritage Month) is significant because (it allows me the) chance to tell everyone who I am and where I am from,” Francisquez said. “I love to tell my friends about my culture, my family and my traditions. I like to tell people about what I am about and why I am here.”
Martinez, is originally from Puerto Rico, and has been a part of LASO for the last two semesters.
“(Being a part of LASO) is a way to represent my culture and my heritage (at USD),” Martinez said. “It is a really nice way to teach people what Hispanics are and what Latinos are and teach the differences between heritages.”
LASO will be hosting a Latino game night Oct. 11 and its second annual Dia Del Los Muertos event Nov. 1.
“The purpose of LASO is to express Latino culture,” Francisquez said. “We’re not all the same obviously, but we all get to express where we’re from. You don’t necessarily have to be Hispanic or of Latin American origin. Our goal at USD is to promote more Latino heritage and get more people to join our team and show what it means to be Latino in the state of South Dakota. (We want to) showcase our culture, music, heritage and food.”