Campus organizations bring the Latinx community together
Updated: Dec 22, 2022
By: Anika Rudman 🇨🇺🇺🇸
The email header of Nuestra Comunidad, the newsletter produced by the Office of Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy's Latino Student Involvement Area.
Trigger Warning: This article mentions self-harm
The University of Maryland's Multi-Ethnic Mental Health Organization and other groups on campus have been working to provide special events and programming in order to bring Latinx students together during Hispanic Heritage Month.
At UMD, Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated not only to highlight the variety of cultures within the college campus but to recognize the contributions of these cultures to the American arts, literature, and culture.
MEMO has been working year-round to make people of different backgrounds feel more comfortable on campus, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month.
The main goal of MEMO is for multi-ethnic students to come together to discuss different the stigmas surrounding mental health and the experiences people have.
Ariela Ayala Cortez, a public health science major at the University of Maryland College Park poses in front of the Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy (MICA) office, MD November 10, 2022. (Baqee Sanni)
The coalition also explores why these experiences are unique in comparison to the predominant demographic according to the head of the MEMO council Ariela Ayala Cortez. UMD is a predominantly white institution (PWI).
Cortez said that “it is a common theme among multi-ethnic students to come to UMD and feel alienated when it comes to mental health.” She wants MEMO to be a place where students can speak about things they may not have spoken about in their communities at home.
She says that due to these possible feelings of alienation, it is common for students to experience suicidal thoughts.
These feelings may be brought to the surface during Hispanic Heritage month especially, where it is oftentimes hard to feel as though each individual culture is being recognized on such a large and diverse campus.
In order to help students cope with this, a representative from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provided educational information to MEMO members and students across campus on what to do if somebody is experiencing thoughts of suicide.
The coalition has definitely seen situations where people are not used to talking about mental health stigmas in different communities Cortez said.
“A lot of the stuff we do is working towards dismantling that so that these conversations become more normalized in minority communities.”
Similarly, the Chi Chapter of Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Inc. is a Latina-based sorority at UMD.
Leydi Hernandez, who has been part of the sorority for two years, says that the chapter is constantly trying to get the members to connect to their Latinx roots and to stay connected with other people of similar backgrounds around the world.
Over the course of Hispanic Heritage Month, the sorority facilitated two programs that were about immigration and worker's rights within the Latinx community.
Hernandez recalled the All American: The State of Citizenship program within her chapter which educated the sisters and others about how difficult the immigration process is and how unrealistic the exams they are required to take are.
“There are people who do not speak English as their first language, and… it was hard for us, we can't imagine how hard it would be for them.”
She also mentioned that since a majority of the construction workers around campus this year are Latino men, the sisters along with other organizations went and passed out flyers to them, letting them know about their rights and that there is a union for them.
According to Hernandez, there are three stages of the “worker’s rights series," which is a program created by the sisters in order to protect and advocate for the rights of the Hispanic men around campus. The second and third stages will be occurring over the next few weeks.
Even if you are not a part of a Latinx community here on campus, it is still easy to get involved and stay connected to your Hispanic roots.
Freshman biology major Sophia Kenigsberg (she/her) said she gets emails from different Latinx organizations at UMD, but has not had the opportunity to get involved yet due to the transition.
She plans to be more involved next semester.