Celebrating community and culture

Latino Heritage Month to reach campus and beyond

In preparation for a yearly celebration at UW-Eau Claire, Ashley Salas recently took a trip to La Misma Luna, a local Mexican supermarket, not to shop, but to pass out maps extending an invitation for community members to visit campus.

Salas, a senior and vice president of the Student Organization of Latinos, said this year’s Latino Heritage Month will gather both students and those in the Latino community in Eau Claire. SOL is sponsoring several events over the rest of September and the beginning of October to focus on Latino cultures.

“I think it’s really important, along with all the other heritage months that go on throughout the year,” Salas said. “Because it’s a good way to be able to understand other cultures.”

Latino Heritage Month sheds light on the uniqueness and diversity of Latino heritage, Raul Tapia, a senior in charge of SOL, said. He said Latino includes many cultures and people from different countries and backgrounds.

At the welcome reception on Tuesday, students could try food from different cultures, participate in activities, and listen to speaker city councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle share her life journey as a Latina woman.

Salas said the events throughout the month will help people learn about a variety of experiences from people that they may not have been aware of.   

“It’s good for students to hear about what’s it’s like to be a Latino here in Eau Claire or in Wisconsin and how it’s different for each person,” she said.

SOL is dedicated to finding a place for students to continue to learn about  Latino heritage and to come together in a community, Salas said.

Although the organization has been inactive in the past, she said this year she and Tapia hope to keep it running strong so it can be a place for students to continue to feel a sense of connection.

As a student from Peru, Tapia said SOL has been a place for him to meet people and bond with other students who are from different countries.

“I get to share my experiences and culture with other people who understand,” he said.

Tapia said the group is not just for Latino students, but any student who is interested and wants to get involved. Last year the group had around 20 regular attendees and Tapia said he hopes they grow this year.

This semester the group will participate in social events as well as campus events like the International Folk Fair.

Salas said SOL is considering starting a big brother, big sister program to promote continuing education and to demonstrate leadership for young students in the area.

As the group continues its activities on campus, Alice Hampton, SOL’s adviser, said Latino Heritage Month is important so students and community members can explore the Latino culture.