Chris Suarez Contributing Writer
Several student and local organizations are hosting events supported by the VCU Office of Multicultural Student Affairs for Hispanic Heritage Month.
The Latino Student Association, Lambda Theta Alpha and Sigma Lambda Upsilon will host events throughout the month and OMSA will sponsor a few events hosted by off-campus associations. Hispanic Heritage Month will include a variety of presentations, workshops, salsa dancing lessons and other events both on and off campus.
“Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month is relevant to everyone, everywhere, especially in Richmond and at VCU,” said Vicki Yeroian, an OMSA graduate assistant. “We have so much diversity and so many people coming from different backgrounds. We definitely try to celebrate as much as we can.”
Hispanic culture will be displayed at The Richmond Folk Festival, which OMSA is also sponsoring. The festival is scheduled from Oct. 11 – 13 and will feature Hispanic arts, food, music, and dance in addition to various other cultures.
“Honestly, our student groups took a lot of initiative in this, all of our events are mainly put on by students,” Yeroian said. “I’m really proud of the presence our student body is taking with this initiative.”
Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968. It was originally only a week long until 1988, when the celebration was extended to a full month, starting Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The month-long observation coincides with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile’s respective independence days. Columbus Day, which is recognized as Día de la Raza in most of Latin America, also happens on Oct. 12.
Over the last decade, the Hispanic population in Richmond has boomed, increasing by 152 percent, with 7,729 new Hispanic residents since the 2000 Census.
In the 2012-13 school year, 1,567 Hispanic students were counted as degree-seeking undergraduates at VCU, according to the Office of the Provost, nearly twice as many as there were in 2008-09.
The increase in Hispanic student enrollment is visible, with two new Latina student organizations becoming chapter members of their respective sororities in the last two years. The two greek organizations, Lambda Theta Alpha and Sigma Lambda Upsilon, are hosting several of the events in collaboration with OMSA.
Ariana Lemus, chapter president of Lambda Theta Alpha, said being involved with a Latina sorority that helps the Hispanic community in Richmond is important to her.
“I was introduced to some women who were a part of this sorority and I saw the bond that they had was something I wanted too,” Lemus said. “And they were involved in politics and organizations that really got to me.”
The sorority, which became an official chapter last spring, does charity and social work in the city. They work with the Hispanic community by teaching English to adults and helping out with child care programs.
“We took a lot of pride in it, we helped a lot of people learn English and many people remember our faces when they see us,” Lemus said.
The sorority has also fundraised for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
Although the celebration of Hispanic Heritage is the focal point of the month, Lemus said it promotes a more diverse community at VCU and in Richmond.
“I think Hispanic Heritage Month, just like any other months dedicated to other cultures, are very important,” she said. “I think people should take the time to reflect on why it’s important to them and to other people.”