Hispanic Heritage Month: SOMOS PITT!

When I was growing up, I don’t remember celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. I don’t recall ever having my teachers in grade school make an announcement or having a lesson on Hispanic history and culture. I don’t really recall anything that made mention of the month at all, except maybe a few extra episodes of Handy Manny on Disney Channel for about a week. Maybe it was because there weren’t that many more people aware of the growing population of Latin-Americans within the U.S. However, the game has clearly changed. As of 2015, there are an accounted for 56.6 million Latin Americans in the United States, and the culture of Latin America is making itself even more prominent in mainstream American culture. There is a new sense of pride in our Latinidad, and it is showing up in amazing spaces.

The Latinx Students Association is a relatively new club on campus; it’s only been fully organized and operational since the spring semester of the 2017-2018 school year. Even so, LSA has been making moves on campus and within the city. From speaking at rallies in downtown, to giving other Latin American students a space to feel a part of a community. In the very first meeting, there were over 40 students, with backgrounds extending all through Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. LSA is already seeing huge successes in its growth as an organization, and it can be projected that they’ll only keep growing in its outreach and attendance.

If you visited the Hispanic Heritage Month Kick-Off this past Saturday, you know it was a party. Everyone has their red shirts shouting out their pride, having their voices carry out and onward from the front of the Union. People were all over the driveway dancing, talking, hanging out, just having fun in our culture and everything it symbolizes. What was so touching was the amount of faces that were there. There were so many people of different backgrounds and ages. So many people who were proud to represent their culture, and to share it with anyone who wanted to stop by. The months that LSA had taken to plan and organize this event had been made fruitful and resulted in a beautiful display of diversity and acceptance. Ana, a sophomore here at Pitt, expressed how happy and proud she was to be around people who shared a similar identity and upbringing to her. She found herself surprised to meet people she had seen on campus, and realize that they shared her vibrant culture. She remarked, “I already feel a better and more inclusive connection with our school.”

So why is this important? Why is it so spectacular that LSA has had success, and is making an incredible effort to make Hispanic Heritage Month a very visible celebration during this month? The University of Pittsburgh’s Latinx demographic makes up approximately 3.7% of the population. And while there is such a movement to make the school more inclusive, it can be difficult for minority students to move through classes, and not see people who look like them. When you come from seeing your family every day and being immersed in your culture, to suddenly coming to an area so different from your own, it can be so so difficult. To hear people make assumptions and comments on your people, and feeling afraid to speak out against it, because you are seemingly the only one in the room. It can be petrifying to be alone. It’s groups like LSA that reminds us that we aren’t alone, that we are a part of a bigger community. That there are people who look like us, that know our experiences, and know how to have pride in your culture. To have a group of people to fall back to and ground yourself back to your culture when you think you’re losing yourself is crucial to succeeding in university.

As Pitt students, we are incredibly lucky to attend a school which puts such importance on the ideas of diversity and inclusivity on campus. In a climate which seeks to divide us, it is comforting to know that the University of Pittsburgh creates a safe haven for those of us that are far from home. And it is groups like LSA that makes the underrepresented feel represented. It makes them feel at home in such a big and populated academic arena. I myself am excited to see all the work that LSA is going to do, and I can’t wait to keep celebrating my heritage. 

Photo Credits: Pitt Latinx Student Association Facebook Page

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