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The campus-wide Latino Heritage month held its official beginning on Monday in hopes of unifying the St. John’s community.
An overflowing number of students from diverse backgrounds gathered on the fourth floor of the D’Angelo Center to take advantage of an event that Natalie Munoz, assistant director of Multicultural Affairs, described as “an opportunity to explore what it means to be Latinos.”
The event featured live performances by Latino student organizations, including a merengue dance by the Los Unidos Dance Group, along with introductory prayers, Hispanic food, music and dancing.
“I want to be able to reach out to not just the Latino community but the whole St. John’s community so we can come together and support each other as how diverse this school is,” said Jasmine Abreu, president of the Los Unidos Dance Group and vice president of Lambda Pi Upsilon.
Heads of organizations consistently brought up the push for unity this year, explaining it was difficult to accomplish in the past.
Erica Godoy, the co-chair of Latino Heritage Month and a member of the Membership and Retention Committee of L.A.S.O, said L.A.S.O is trying to become an umbrella organization so they can collaborate with others to unite the community.
“We are trying to make ourselves stand out because as minorities we are growing more and more,” Godoy said. “We just want Latino Heritage Month to be spectacular. We want people to feel our pride. We want people to be more united.”
She said she hopes that unity will allow others to continue the tradition.
Abreu said there is much more organization this year due to more student collaborations as opposed to relying only on the administration to reach out to students and the various groups.
Students who attended felt excited about the opportunity to become involved in Hispanic culture.
“Any student that has any type of cultural background should express it because there are values and traditions that you get from your culture that you wouldn’t be able to get if you didn’t learn or didn’t express,” said Samer Akroush, a sophomore from Jordan. “It’s in the heart.”
Ryan Goberdham agreed and appreciated the expression of Latin heritage. “I like the fact that there are young adults our age that are so into it and join clubs and actually put time to events like this,” he said.
Hispanic student Shalimar Azima said she was excited to learn more about her own culture.
“I am fascinated by culture in general and learning more about Spanish people and seeing more of it,” Azima said. “It helps me feel more familiar.”
Students were invited to the dance floor to enjoy the merengue, bachata and salsa, and even participate in a tostones-eating contest.
Sophomore Wilson Sy stressed the importance Latino Heritage Month to the University.
“It is important to St. John’s University because we are a diverse University and it is something Latino heritage students can be proud of – that the school represents all people and welcomes everybody even if you’re not Latino but a different ethnicity,” Sy said. “That is a special thing about St. John’s.”
Students can look forward to 33 programs throughout the month, both educational and fun, according to Munoz.
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