Every year, the Latin American Student Union (LASU) at Binghamton University picks a theme for its events during Latinx Heritage Month. This year’s festivities for Latinx Heritage Month, which occurs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, center around Afro-Latinx, or Afro-Latinidad, identity.
The Afro-Latinx community has always existed, but has often been ignored and devalued, even within the broader Latinx community. According to Marcela Garcia, treasurer for LASU and a junior double-majoring in human development and psychology, focusing on this community is an effort to stand in solidarity with the people within it while educating others about the concept of Afro-Latinx identity.
“Ultimately, I’d like for us to challenge our mentalities about being Black and Latinx in order to dismantle stereotypes and remove the ignorance that is imposed on one’s identity,” Garcia wrote in an email. “This month should serve to support Afro-Latinx individuals in finding their roots and accepting their identity.”
During the month, LASU will host a series of workshops twice a week with different cultural, political and social themes. Workshop topics will include “Decolonizing My Body,” “Black Latinos in the U.S. Census” and “Stepping Into My Afro-Latinx Identity.” The first workshop, “Azucar! What It Means to be Afro-Latinx” took place on Sept. 13 and served as an introduction to the discussion of Afro-Latinx identity. Rounding out the month will be LASU’s biannual spoken-word poetry event, “Palabras,” which imitates the style of the historic Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City.
Beyond the theme, Latinx Heritage Month allows for the open celebration of many distinct Latinx cultures. More than that, though, it facilitates an opportunity to spread knowledge of the histories and struggles of Latin American countries that weren’t taught in school growing up. Garcia said that understanding the historical context can give students a new perspective on modern issues concerning these countries and their citizens.
“I wish the broader community would be more knowledgeable in the history of the United States and its foreign affairs in Latin America to better understand the circumstances that many Latinx communities confront today and further understand why they may take such extreme measures to improve their standard of living,” Garcia wrote.
Though the events are about the Latinx community, Garcia noted that the workshops are beneficial to non-Latinx students as well. For people who call themselves allies of the community, these open events are an invaluable way to get a real glimpse into the cultures, experiences and contributions of their Latinx peers.
As an organization, LASU has served as a home base for many Hispanic and Latinx students looking for a sense of community at the University, which is a predominantly white institution. This welcoming nature is what inspired Jennifer Roman, a co-public relations chair for LASU and a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, to join in the first place.
“They definitely provided me with a ‘home away from home’ feeling that I was definitely missing my first year in Binghamton,” Roman wrote in an email. “I wanted to provide others with the same feeling LASU gave me, and I was driven by the many political and social talks given by them.”
Garcia expressed a similar sentiment, highlighting LASU’s ability to provide comfort not typically found in other places.
“I appreciate LASU for being a space where I don’t have to defend my existence or the existence of my people or have to explain to others why my community deserves respect and equal rights — that is simply a given,” she wrote. “I can exist unapologetically.”
LASU’s Latinx Heritage Month workshops are held in University Union West Room 310 at 8 p.m. every Monday and Thursday night.