Salsa, studying and strength: Hispanic Heritage Month in the time of coronavirus

LASA promotes Hispanic excellence and culture through month-long virtual programming

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Last year, dozens of the Latin American Student Association's roughly 300 members gathered in the flag room during Hispanic Heritage Month to dance merengue, salsa and bachata. This year, students carried on the tradition, but danced at home in front of their computer screens instead. 

Despite the ongoing pandemic, LASA is committed to hosting weekly events commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month. Although the club’s members, who call themselves lasañeros, must move their dance and cultural programs online, they remain focused on promoting representation and awareness of UB’s LatinX student body, educating students about Latin American culture and supporting ispanic student excellence.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a national observation which celebrates the culture and contributions of Spanish-speaking people, particularly Latin Americans, and their descendants. 

The observation begins Sept. 15 and ends Oct. 15. The month’s starting date is particularly meaningful because it commemorates the Independence Day of five Central American countries: Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica and El Salvador. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence days within the same 30-day period, on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively. 

LASA President Kathleen Leite, a sophomore exercise science major, says Hispanic Heritage Month makes her “proud to be Latina” and inspires her to work even harder to make online events engaging until lasareños can return to hosting “the events LASA is known for” in person.

“This time of year makes me grateful to be Latina and also motivates me to become successful and represent my culture in the best possible way by showing the world what our community is capable of,” Leite said. “We are having very similar events via zoom, all while keeping in mind the extra effort needed to maintain everyone's attention. We also want to inform our new and current members about our usual events to excite them and encourage them to stay with LASA in the future.”

One well-known LASA event, the Annual Heritage Banquet, will not be held this year due to state health department restrictions on large gatherings. Although disappointed, Leite and other lasareños don’t intend to “ignore” their heritage during the pandemic. 

“This year would have been our 16th annual event, but due to COVID we are unable to do that. However, we refuse to ignore our heritage which is why we [continue] hosting these events.” 

This year, e-board members are working especially hard to host engaging virtual events with educational components, offering programs for anyone who has an interest in Latin American culture.

“We want to celebrate with not only those who share our culture, but to teach those who may not know too much about the Latino community,” Leite said. “We are trying to encourage participation and engagement during this pandemic by expressing the same open arms we are known for in person.” 

Sept. 23 at 5:30 p.m.: “Dig Into Our Roots: Hispanic Heritage”

LASA members will dive into the historical and cultural roots of the Latinx community through multimedia presentations and discussions of what it means to be Hispanic.

Presenters: Olivia Garcia, Alex Cuatlayo, Kathleen Leite, Anais Puentes, Juan Rosa, Laura Rivera, Chey Aponte, Nia Richardson, Rafael Contreras, Samantha Zavala

Sept. 30 at 5:30 p.m.: “Acing it with LASA”

LASA members will discuss their favorite study tips and share popular stress busters to help members tackle their online course loads. A dance session will follow the discussion.

Presenters: Olivia Garcia, Alex Cuatlayo, Neyda Colon-Dimaria, Kathleen Leite, Anais Puentes, Juan Rosa, Laura Rivera, Chey Aponte, Nia Richardson, Rafael Contreras, Samantha Zavala

LASA will also offer special Hispanic Heritage Month programming on Oct. 7 and 14. The topics for each date are TBD. 

Elizabeth Napolitano is the senior news editor and can be reached at elizabeth.napolitano@ubspectrum.com or on Twitter @LizKNapolitano 

ELIZABETH NAPOLITANO


Elizabeth "Liz" Napolitano is the senior news editor for The Spectrum. She's an optimistic pessimist who found her love for journalism in Ecuador. She likes late night walks and reading Twitter threads in their entirety.