By James Matheson
For The Diamondback

The University of Maryland Office of Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy along with the Coalition of Latinx Student Organizations hosted a cookout on McKeldin Mall to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 16.

Last year’s Latinx Heritage Month Kickoff Cookout was held on the Nyumburu Cultural Center patio, but transitioned to a larger and more flexible space this year to represent the community’s goals.

“I think for students, it’s also a really big moment of claiming space in a really central portion of McKeldin Mall … Having 250 or so Latinx community members in that kind of central location on the mall is just a huge thing,” said Alex Mullen, graduate coordinator for Latinx student involvement at MICA and a student affairs graduate student.

The theme for the month is “Oye Mi Voz! Un Cuento de la Vida,” which translates to “Hear My Voice! A Tale of Life.” The theme further encourages the community to expand its fingerprint on a campus where it makes up just less than nine percent of the student population.

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“That seems like a small number but it’s a great community here on campus … I would say there’s a lot of love, and that’s what this month is about, it’s about building that community,” CLSO President Matias Cacheiro, a junior government and politics major, said.

The community is using this month to show its presence at the university and in College Park.

“As a historically underrepresented community on a predominantly white campus, it’s really important for students to feel like they have a space at the University of Maryland, for Latinx students to feel like they have that space,” Mullen said.

CLSO, MICA and many other Hispanic and Latinx student organizations help provide that space, especially during this next month.

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While the DJ’s booming upbeat Latin music and the smell of traditional foods might have attracted passersby to the event, it was the community and celebration of cultural tradition that kept them there.

This culture led sophomore neuroscience major Raquel Chaupiz to embrace and discover her culture. Chaupiz grew up in an Americanized household and did not truly discover her heritage until becoming involved in the Pa’Lante Latin Dance Company.

“It really helps me find that passion I have for dance and Latinx culture,” Chaupiz said.

The community will continue to amplify its voice and attempt to reach a larger community for the rest of the month. The celebration, speeches and cultural education span from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

“Latinx Heritage Month is just a time for folks to celebrate themselves in their community, and also share with others that they’re here and share their culture,” Mullen said. “Having that cross cultural moment and showing other people what the community really looks like is really important too.”