LatinX students host kickoff event in Village Park

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Photo by Katie Williams
Students attend LatinX kickoff event at Villiage Park on Sept. 26.

Point Park’s LatinX Student Association hosted their first event of the semester this past Thursday. Village Park was filled with laughter and upbeat Latin American music as students danced and enjoyed each other’s company.

The LatinX kickoff event offered free food, music and small pins and stickers for students of any background to enjoy. The kickoff event also allowed students to participate in a raffle for a chance to win bottles of Jarritos soda, a popular soft drink in Mexico.

“This event is basically to kick off the year, and it’s also our first event on campus to let everyone know what our club represents and what we’re doing,” senior dance major and treasurer of the LatinX Student Association Stephanie Perez said. “It’s basically a fun time for everyone to get together and to listen to some Spanish music.”

Cecilia Benitez, senior dance major and Vice President of the LatinX Student Association, was an active participant in the kickoff event. Benitez greeted students at the front of Village Park as she scanned people in, danced with friends, served queso to other students and helped with the raffle for the Jarritos sodas.

“We just wanted everyone to come and learn a little bit about our culture, dance, eat a little bit and have fun,” Benitez said.

The kickoff event also allowed incoming freshmen to not only become aware of the club’s existence on campus, but to also encourage them to get involved.

“I’m a teacher’s assistant for a freshman class and I was really adamant about getting [the freshmen] involved and hoping that they would end up coming,” Benitez said. “Pretty much everyone on the board are seniors, and once we’re gone we really want the club to keep coming back, and we want it to be reestablished.”

Ailen Videla Ortiz, a senior double major in dance and psychology and the president of the LatinX Student Association, also explained the importance of freshmen participating in the club’s kickoff on campus.

“We actually had some freshmen sign up and say, ‘This is so cool,’” Ortiz said. “At school events, they don’t usually play Latin music, so [freshmen] just listen to it in their dorm rooms. But having it on campus kind of brings them together.”

Ortiz is responsible for starting the club at Point Park last year. Coming from California, Ortiz noticed that there wasn’t a club on campus for those who are from Hispanic or Latin cultures.

“Coming in, I did see that there are so many international students here that are from Hispanic places,” Ortiz said. “I started the LatinX club primarily to bring the Latin culture and community together on campus, but [the club] is not just for Latin and Hispanic people, but anyone who is involved in the culture or who wants to learn more about it.”

The kickoff event is not the only event that the LatinX community planned on hosting this year. In fact, the club already has two other events planned for the fall semester.

“For Día de los Muertos, which is in October, we want to watch “Coco” while drinking hot cocoa,” Benitez said. “We also have a salsa night planned where we’re going to teach a salsa class.”

Ortiz explained the importance of holding such events such as the salsa classes and the movie night on campus.

“[Take] Día de los Muertos, for instance,” Ortiz said. “People think that all Hispanic cultures celebrate it and we don’t, so I think it’s really important to educate people on that and explain that each culture within the Latin community is both different and unique at the same time.”

Perez explains that she is anticipating the upcoming events and the LatinX Student Association’s future.

“I’m looking forward to everyone connecting on campus and having them be more aware of what the different cultures are, and to make people feel safe,” Perez said.

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