The feeling of community and finding a place that welcomes one’s culture was repeated throughout the Latinx Heritage Month kick-off event on Sept. 15 in the Jolly Giant Commons at Cal Poly Humboldt. An event where Latinx individuals can find a place that gives them comfort knowing that there’s a community that recognizes them on campus.
“Events like this help spread our ethnicity and unite us in a caucasian county,” said Raul Roman, an attendee at the event. “Humboldt is getting more recognized now, so it’s going to get larger and larger. Having more events like this will make it feel welcoming to a lot of people.”
The event featured a keynote speaker Johanna Trouño, a queer Salvadorian street artist that believes public art is expression, inspired by her community and fights back social stigmas.
A number of tables were at the event from Centro del Pueblo, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, a club which focuses on helping students excel academically, celebrating and educating each other’s cultures and building a welcoming community for its members.
Also tabling, Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority and ¡Échale Ganas! (“Go For It”), a grant-funded program created in 2021 at Cal Poly Humboldt that’s designed to support hands-on learning and career advancement for Latinx students in science, technology, engineering and math.
Flags from various Latin American countries hung around the event walls. The smell of Mexican food filled the air from Los Giles, a local Mexican food truck with juicy, delectable tacos and more.
Mariachi de Cal Poly Humboldt came in full attire, with instruments in hand and performed a number of Latin American ballads. Later in the event, there was a dance ensemble provided by Danza Azteca students and its instructor.
“It’s been really good seeing everyone connecting, seeing everyone dance right now, it’s just very nostalgic and comforting,” said Atlas Muron, Cal Poly Humboldt student transfer from College of the Redwoods.
Muron had never experienced an Latinx event like this during their time there and hopes to have more events like this to feel more represented in the community.
According to Fernando Paz, El Centro’s Coordinator, “The main purpose of this event is to build community, to establish relationships, to help the organizations that self-identify as Latino or Latinx to get connected with each other and for new students that are coming in to get to know what’s happening on campus or the community, that’s cultural, that can help them feel a little bit like at home.”
Since 2019, El Centro hasn’t been able to host an Latinx Heritage Month kick-off event due to COVID-19. Last year’s kick-off was hosted through Zoom only. As of now, Cal Poly Humboldt is back to full-enrollment and events like this are made possible once again.
According to Paz, it took a number of different initiatives around being an Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI) that came together to make the event possible.
Cal Poly Humboldt is an HSI, meaning there has to be an enrollment of undergraduate full-time equivalent students that is at least 25 percent Hispanic students at the end of the award year immediately preceding the date of application, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
“We collaborated with other folks across campus and other organizations like the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We were able to get some money from La Comida Nos Une (“Food Unites Us”) or ¡Échale Ganas!” said Paz.
Paz explained that money for events like the kick-off, primarily come from their base funding. El Centro gets base funding from the University and then they leverage that with other organizations on campus to make events like this happen.
If anyone wants to support El Centro and events like the kick-off event, there is a donate button on El Centro’s website, https://lcae.humboldt.edu/
“Us being an HSI for the last ten years is huge, but we continue to make opportunities for students to build community and for organizations to flourish,” said Paz. “We are going to continue doing stuff like this.”