Latino Student Union to start first event of year

Jon Stinchcomb and Jon Stinchcomb

Today, communities from all across the nation will begin festivities to mark the start of the 30-day celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month.

The events in Bowling Green will be a little different, but for a good reason.

“In Bowling Green, we actually call it ‘Latino Heritage Month’ rather than ‘Hispanic Heritage Month’ because there was an actual mayoral proclamation declaring that,” said Ana Brown, coordinator for diversity and retention initiatives at the University.

Brown is also one of the faculty co-advisors for the Latino Student Union. She said LSU was instrumental in getting that proclamation for BG, which is one of the few places that makes the distinction.

While the word ‘Hispanic’ refers specifically and exclusively to ancestry of a Spanish-speaking country, ‘Latino’ is more inclusive, referring to heritage of all Latin American countries, even those that don’t speak Spanish.

“There is this misunderstanding that Latino is a race, or that everybody is Mexican,” Brown said. “And while I’m not down playing that, it’s important to be proud of your heritage, but Latino encompasses a lot.”

Being inclusive is very important to LSU. While one of the organization’s goals is to promote Latino culture, it is open to everyone, said Mayra Lopez, president of LSU.

“We want people to come in and learn more about our culture, learn more about us as an organization and realize we are more alike than we are different,” Lopez said.

The organization also looks to help members academically and emotionally, providing a support system that makes everyone feel comfortable, she said.

In addition to embracing students from all walks of life, academics is another aspect that LSU places a great deal of importance on, like organizing regular study tables.

“We know everybody has something to study,” said Xiomara Hernández de Marcelo, the organization’s vice president. “And while we also have some breaks where you can socialize a little bit, we’re really at the study tables for academics.”

“We’re all here to graduate with a degree,” Lopez said.

This organization of student scholars promoting Latino culture often refers to themselves as “La Familia.”

Tonight, the University’s “La Familia” is holding a Latino Heritage Month Kick-Off Event in room 228 of the Union starting at 6 p.m. There students can get to know more about what it’s like to be Latino and why the next 30 days are celebrated in the community. Activities will include dance lessons, games, music and more.

It is the first of several Latino Heritage Month events planned on campus. LSU will have a calendar available soon.

Festivities start on Sept. 15 because it is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Others are shortly after, such as Mexico’s Independence Day tomorrow and Chile’s on Thursday.

“It’s just a great way for students to get exposure to what it means to be Latino,” Brown said. “We’re helping students understand it’s campus-wide and not just the Latino community.”