Sydney Middleton, Guest Writer

University of Missouri St. Louis- A great kickoff to a very important and prideful month took place on Sept. 16. Many students passing through the patio of the Millenium Student Center had never heard of the Hispanic Latino Association (HSLA), but when they left they had a better understanding of what this organization was and what they were about. 

On Monday from 11:30am to 1:30pm, the Student Involvement Office partnered with HSLA to bring awareness to Hispanic and Latino culture and Hispanic Heritage month, which takes place from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. 

The event included music and food from different countries within the culture. To understand this event it is important to know some of the history behind this heritage month and why it is important that it takes place. 

The event was created in 1968 to recognize the long standing population of Hispanic and Latino people, as a way for people of that culture to take pride and share their culture with others. It is also important to understand that there is a difference between being “Hispanic” and “Latino.” 

The demonym Hispanic refers to people from Spanish speaking countries or descendants from Spain, where as Latino refers to Latin American and Caribean countries with a more mixed population. However the HSLA President Francheska Cruz believes in celebrating both those cultures and bringing them together regardless of the demonym used. 

“Bringing our Hispanic population together and getting them involved, as well as others outside of the culture and allowing them to learn about our culture and the issues that we face is very important,” Cruz said. 

The purpose of Hispanic Heritage Month is to allow people outside the culture to listen and learn about a minority group and their issues when they don’t always have a platform to speak about them in the public eye. 

This is not the first year that UMSL has had this event on campus, in fact, this celebration has been taking place for ten years. Dr. Ashlee Roberts, senior assistant director of Student Support Services for UMSL, explained, “Part of my job is to coordinate events for groups that aren’t always highly visible such as Black History Month, LBTQ Pride, and other groups like this one to shed light on their issues.” 

Many people outside of the culture also decided to join HSLA to learn more and to be an ally to them in spreading the word about issues that they face like immigration. One of those allies is board member Nick Windchester, who got involved after attending an event. 

“One day I just came in to an event and started talking to people and now I recruit others to meetings, I just like to be social. I don’t have Hispanic heritage but, it’s a good way to learn about it and be involved,” Windchester said. It is outside effort like this that also helps HSLA with their mission of spreading the word of Hispanic culture. 

I spoke to one student that was very interested in what this event has to offer and would also be returning to their other events not only for the delicious food, but for the insight it gave her on the culture. “The event gives a peek into Hispanic culture, that you might not get otherwise see,” Mya Horn, a sophomore student, said. 

Some of the featured foods included Gelatina from Mexico and Budin from Puerto Rico, both popular desserts. HSLA seemed to have effectively drawn more attention to their organization, as many students plan on attending their other events.