By Jay Roberson
Hispanic Heritage Month, an annual celebration that takes place from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, sheds light on Hispanic cultures in a number of ways, with the university joining in on the national observance.
On Sept. 21, Colorful Connections, hosted by Rider’s Latinas Unidas, was held in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion to bring together Hispanic faculty and students in celebration.
Latinas Unidas role on campus
Maria Villalobos-Buehner, professor of languages, literatures and cultures and faculty adviser for Latinas Unidas, spoke about the club’s role on Rider’s campus.
“You’re going to see Latinas Unidas involved in maintaining multiple identities because this group of students are very involved not only socially, but also through the community,” said Villalobos-Buehner.
Senior secondary education major Vanessa Rivera, president of Latinas Unidas, emphasized the pride she had in being a Hispanic woman and wanting to spread that through her role.
“I am very, very, very, very proud of being a Hispanic woman. If someone asked me, ‘Oh, what’s your background?’ I’m Puerto Rican and Honduran, no doubt about it, I’m not quiet,” Rivera said. “Having the opportunity to be a leader for a club like that, I want everyone to be happy about their identity. You are who you are, so embrace it.”
Latinas Unidas educates and includes Latinx students, but also welcomes individuals who are Chicanx and Hispanic. Ashley Perez, a senior chemistry major and secretary of Latinas Unidas, spoke about the crossover of different cultures.
“There’s a few of us who are Mexican and [from] other cultures, so we try to incorporate our own culture with their culture in recognition and to learn from each other,” Perez said.
A colorful culture
Throughout the event the attendees celebrated with music, dancing, socializing and enjoying empanadas.
Elizabeth Carrion, an executive assistant to the dean, explained why she loves her culture.
“We’re a group of very colorful people right? But I think we’re colorful people in the sense that we love to showcase what we do. We love to showcase who we are. We love to showcase our foods and share our music. So I love that people are so vibrant and proud of that,” Carrion said.
She also spoke about the ways she hopes to ensure comfort for all Hispanic students at Rider.
Carrion said, “I know there is a level of comfort that they’re [Hispanic students] not feeling. I am Hispanic, so I can totally relate, even though it wasn’t always on my forefront as to why I was having the issues. I know there’s a need, how can I address that need at my level and what I do?”
Hispanic students feel seen
Coming to Rider, which is a predominately white institution consisting of 53.6% white students and 20.1% Hispanic students, can be a different experience for students of color compared to their white peers.
Rivera said, “Once I got to college, I realized all the old school music my peers were listening to growing up was nothing like what I was listening to. My parents first language was Spanish, so I grew up listening to old school Spanish music and eating the food. It’s just a big part of who I am.”
“Latinos in College” was a year-long program brought to Rider in 2021 to create more comfort for Latinx students by giving them the opportunity to network and professionally develop.
“We had students who were selected to be a part of the New Jersey governor’s Fellows Program, which is a very lucrative program. It’s a summer internship where they go through eight weeks of working in the field, as well as training at companies like Bloomberg,” said Corrion.
The night was led with a sense of pride and belonging as students and faculty members, Hispanic and non Hispanic, celebrated the culture. Rivera explained the way it feels to lead her club.
Rivera said, “It’s rewarding, honestly, because I get to see that especially at a PWI I get to see all the other Hispanic girls, boys and non-binary people that are just happy to be here and in a safe space whether they’re Hispanic or not.”