Laura Quezada, a senior sociology major, is vice president of the Latin American Student Association. Quezada, whose parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic, and LASA President Isidro Castillo recently spoke to The Spectrum about the club and its members.
Since UB's Latin student organization Poder is "more of a political organization," LASA focuses on helping its members become involved in the university community.
"We try to help our members and educate them about the things that affect them, like the high pregnancy rates among young Latina teens, AIDS and other issues." The club tries to create bonds among its members at its first few meetings, "So [members] can learn about shared interests, so they can work hard together and gain a support group."
"Our executive board's main goal for the semester is to increase the member's participation with community service." The club works closely with the Herman Badillo Elementary School (300 South Elmwood Ave., Buffalo), a school with a large Hispanic population, where LASA members tutor students.
"We also try to bring in and help freshmen adjust to school here, and hold resume workshops for our members."
Castillo said that although there are some spots in Buffalo that reflect genuine Latin culture (such as the Niagara Caf?(c) on Buffalo's West side), "for most students, the university is really separated from everything else, and this is where most of them are living, so we try to get them together here."
"Even though a lot of members are from New York City," added Castillo, "we're trying to push them to be active in the Buffalo community."
Quezada said many of the members are from a mixed Latin-American background. "A lot of the students are from first- or second-generation families. Just like any other minority, their parents came here so they could do well in school here, and their parents meet other people from other countries."
Castillo: "Even though we all speak Spanish, there are a lot of differences in the cultures."
The Latin American Student Association will hold a meeting Oct. 11 in conjunction with Latina sorority Lambda Theta Alpha, titled "Black Skin Latino Soul." The club will also host a Latin art and film festival Oct. 27 in the Student Union Theatre.