Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 marks Latin American Heritage Month, where the culture of Latin America is celebrated across the United States. Illinois State University has multiple registered student organizations that cater to the Latinx community, one in particular being the Association of Latin American Students, with the month being very important to the organization. While the heritage month may be coming to a close, ALAS is continuing to celebrate the Latinx community.
“It’s basically a month-long celebration for us,” Ximena Sanchez-Ramirez, ALAS’ secretary said. “A lot of Latin American countries won their independence during this month, but there’s also a lot of symbolism in it for us.”
According to their Redbird Life page, ALAS has several goals, such as “foster[ing] a better understanding and appreciation for the cultural diversity of the Latinx community,” and “assist[ing] the university in the recruitment, retention and graduation of Latinx students.” However, due to COVID-19, the organization has hit a roadblock in planning events.
“We can’t plan any in-person events to celebrate, unfortunately, but we have been working to try and celebrate virtually,” Sanchez-Ramirez said. “We’re working to encourage Latinx students to vote, given that in the upcoming election Latinx people will be the largest ethnic minority eligible to vote. We’re also trying to plan events that are based around conversations that are generally hard to have within the Latinx community, like with a recent event we did regarding mental health.”
While their Redbird Life page does not yet have any listed events at the time of this article’s writing, those interested in celebrating the occasion or their heritage on ISU’s campus will likely have some virtual events from ALAS to look forward to. However, what’s most important about Latin American Heritage Month is the people, and that’s not limited to just the ISU campus.
“I think being a Mexican American I get so lost in focusing on American culture that I often forget about my Mexican culture. This month reminds us of the beautiful cultures our families' countries have. To me, Latin American Heritage Month is about embracing and celebrating where you are from/where your family is from,” Sanchez-Ramirez said. “Like in Chicago where many people gathered to celebrate the independence of Mexico. It was a beautiful event to see because people are not embarrassed to be Mexican. To our organization, this is the month where we celebrate unity. We have members from all different countries, but we get to celebrate how proud we are of being from those countries.”