September 15th marked the start of a national four-week cultural celebration known as Hispanic Heritage Month.
Founded in 1968, as National Hispanic Heritage Week, it was later expanded into a full month observation dedicated to the history, cultures and achievements made by the Hispanic and Latino American groups in 1988.
In light of this national observance, students and organizations across Florida A&M University’s campuses such as the Hispanic American Law Student Association, located on FAMU’s law school in Orlando, kicked off their celebrations with hopes of shedding light on the contributions that the Hispanic and Latino cultures have brought to the United States.
Professor Maritza Reyes, LL.M, serves as the faculty advisor for HALSA and is currently the only tenured Latino law professor on the law school’s campus.
“It is important for us to celebrate our culture as a part of who we are and what our culture has and will continue to bring to the U.S.,” Reyes. “We put together several events on the law school campus and we’ve joined other professional organizations such as the Puerto Rican Bar Association, to celebrate.”
Reyes further explained that the organization commenced their celebrations with a “Culture Day” on campus informing students about different Latin American Countries and has plans to showcase a documentary, and to host a Latino forum centered on issues regarding Latinos in the upcoming election.
Kayla Aviles, Vice-President of HALSA, says the organization will continue to host events in order to bring awareness to the Hispanic and Latin American cultures that so many individuals, including herself, embrace on a daily basis.
“It is important to me because it shines light on the positive contributions that Hispanics and Latinos have made in this country,” said Aviles. “It is a way of preserving the values and traditions that have been taught and passed down to me by past generations.”
Here on FAMU’s main campus students are also celebrating. The Psi Beta Chapter of Sigma Lambda Gamma Sorority Inc. (SLG) has teamed up with FAMU Unidos, a Hispanic Organization on campus to have a combined movie night and to host other cultural events around campus.
Architecture major, Jomarie Santiago is a member of both SLG and Unidos. Born in Puerto Rico to a Cuban mother and Puerto Rican father, she says Hispanic Heritage Month keeps her close to her roots and is a reminder of home.
“As being a part of both SLG and Unidos, we try our best to bring out the Latino community as much as possible,” said Santiago. “It inspires me to be proud of roots and culture, and it ties me even more to my family and where I come from”.