It’s Hispanic Heritage Month! And UM’s Alliance of Latin American Students (@umiamialas) is ecstatic to collaborate “con Distraction” to celebrate our Latinx community! Over the next few weeks, we’ll be talking to multicultural individuals who are proud to be who they are and detailing their personal anecdotes and experiences.
Who is ALAS?
ALAS is a Multicultural Student Affairs organization promoting awareness of and enthusiasm for Hispanic and Latinx populations at UM. ALAS was created to represent the rich diversity of cultures present at UM. Through professional events alongside student-led initiatives, the org serves to unite and empower Latin American students as well as students interested in learning about Latin America and the Caribbean. During Hispanic Heritage Month, ALAS works closely with UM’s Hispanic Heritage Month Cultural Celebration Committee, coordinating activities and providing an outlet for the university community to relish in the achievements, contributions, history and influence of Hispanic Americans.
What is HHM?
Now lauded as the biggest Latinx celebration in the U.S., HHM first emerged as National Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and expanded into a month-long commencement in 1988. HHM’s dates — running from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 — were selected to include the Independence Day holidays of seven LatAm countries as well as Día de la Raza (Columbus Day).
Distraction interviewed some of ALAS’s zealous team members who hail from Puerto Rican, Argentinian, Nicaraguan, Mexican and non-Latin descents! We asked them why they’re proud to be Latinx, what HHM signifies to them and how ALAS has shaped their experiences at UM. Here’s what they had to say.
María Isabel Cummings, ‘22
ALAS Public Relations Chair
I am proud to be Hispanic because I was blessed with being part of such an amazing culture, language and people. Hispanics are such kind, loving and united people that anywhere in the world they’ll treat you like family and be there for you. They’re proud to be Hispanic and show it every day. HHM is important to me because it serves to highlight Hispanic culture for an entire month, allowing for Hispanics to celebrate their history and culture in the U.S., especially because Hispanics are the largest minority group in the U.S. I love being in ALAS because it’s a community of people from various Hispanic/Latinx countries from all over the world, so you get to learn about different cultures but also find people that are like you and have things in common like the language.
Something that is special to me is El Viejo San Juan in Puerto Rico. I’m Puerto Rican and El Viejo San Juan in PR’s capital is one of my favorite places. “Fiestas patronales” happen here most popularly. “Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián,” a massive street festival, takes place in January of every year. Also, El Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or El Morro, is one of my favorite places as well — a beautiful place with so much history and an icon of Puerto Rico.
Camille Devincenti, ‘22
ALAS Social Chair
I am proud to be Hispanic because I am a part of a group that has so many different subcultures among Latin America and Europe and treats their people like family. In addition, HHM is meaningful to me because it represents the voice of Latinxs who are not usually represented in the mainstream conversation. ALAS has shown me how diverse the term Latinx is and that every culture is celebrated. Being in ALAS has proven to me that we do not need to be from the same country to be able to relate to one another and get along. The diversity of interests in our organization continues to disprove Hispanic stereotypes and demonstrates our unique backgrounds.
Something that is special to me from the Argentinian side of my family is that we always have Argentinian food at family gatherings even when we are celebrating traditional American holidays like Thanksgiving. Here is a picture of heart-shaped alfajores my aunt made! ♥
Annette Rizo, ‘21
I take pride in being Hispanic mostly because of the hard work and sacrifices my parents, as well as the rest of my two families made, to provide greater opportunities for me and the other first-gen Americans within our families all while explaining the rich culture of the motherland. HHM allows me to share my Nicaraguan pride with others who aren’t familiar with the country more than the usual while celebrating with fellow Latinxs, celebrating the pride they hold for their country/countries.
Being the first in my family to have a college degree from a two-year college is an honor. Being the first in my family to attend a four-year institution is a privilege. Though it is tough breaking these barriers, nothing gives me greater joy than the idea of graduation and telling my mom, “Mamí, two degrees down, one more to go.” Joining ALAS has certainly provided moral support when I feel like I’m not doing my best knowing we are there for one another just shows how much of a family we are overall. ALAS has shown me the importance of supporting one another for greater representation in all professional fields after graduation.
Jacob Esquivel, ‘23
I am proud to be Hispanic because I am a part of such a rich and diverse community. My Mexican community shares many commonalities in terms of food, culture, music, language, dance and many other aspects. Intertwined with those commonalities also exist many variances that make me excited to learn something new every time I interact with other Hispanic cultures. HHM is meaningful to me because it is a month-long celebration to highlight important figures and events that have influenced Hispanic history. It is also an opportunity to appreciate the up-and-coming artists, authors and scholars of our time as history is forever being made. Becoming a member of ALAS has taught me that the Latinx community does not have a common image. In a community of intersectionality, we learn that the Latinx community can come in different colors, races and backgrounds. Although we might all look different, we share our core values in the Hispanic community and that is special.
Rasul Rahman, ‘23
ALAS Recruitment Chair
HHM is important to me because it brings the different cultures together and not only informs others about them but also celebrates the different aspects that are presented. Although I am not of Hispanic descent (or don’t know of at least), being in ALAS has shown me diversity among individuals and also inclusiveness within a community. I feel a part of the community within ALAS and what they have created, especially being on E-board, despite me not having anything in common but being college students. ALAS has also shown me the diversity of the term Latinx and how each culture is celebrated especially with HHM. The uniqueness of our e-board and general body shows how ALAS proved we don’t need to be from similar backgrounds to be able to relate to one another.
Devin Wade, ‘22
ALAS Outreach Chair
ALAS has done an amazing job of uniting UM students from all sorts of backgrounds. Whether you’re an international student, an immigrant, from an immigrant family or just a student interested in Latin American culture, ALAS is an amazing source of community for UM students. When I first got involved in ALAS my sophomore year, I always felt welcomed with open arms. Since my first meeting ALAS has done a great deal to shape my view of the Latinx community as a group united by so many cultural similarities. It is important for us to celebrate HHM to demonstrate this common cultural heritage.
Keep an eye out for ALAS con Distraction on Instagram, and in the meantime go check out ALAS’s profile to learn more about their upcoming events involving HHM and how you can (virtually) show your spirit. Got a story to tell us? Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
words_camila munera, gianna milan & alas photo_alas e-board design_daniella pinzon