Pitt Latinx clubs celebrate, reflect on Hispanic Heritage Month


Romita Das | Senior Staff Photographer

The executive board of the Latinx Student Association.

By Madison Dean, For The Pitt News

Mati Castillo, president of the Latinx Student Association, sees Hispanic Heritage month as an opportunity for club members to unite and share pride for their cultures. 

“To the organization, for us, it’s a chance to get to celebrate our heritage and to really share all the things that make us unique,” Castillo, a senior anthropology and Spanish major, said. “So this is kind of our chance to get attention, to get resources, to remind people that we’re here year-round, and just bring attention to our community on campus.” 

National Hispanic Heritage Month, which takes place from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15,  recognizes and commemorates the traditions and history of people with ancestry from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. For the various Latinx student organizations on campus, such as LSA, the Puerto Rican Student Association and the Latino Medical Student Association Plus, this month is an opportunity to foster community and celebrate and honor their cultures through different events.

Castillo said LSA hopes to create a positive impact on the Latinx student population at the University. 

“Basically, we’re there to provide students who are Latino, Latina, Latinx on Pitt’s campus with a sense of community,” Castillo said. “It’s about community, it’s about motivating one another, celebrating our heritage, advocating for ourselves, educating on important issues within our community.”

LSA will commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month with a kickoff festival in Schenley Quad on Sept. 24 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The club is also partnering with campus Greek life organizations to host a fundraising event on Sept. 25 to raise money for Casa San Jose, a local immigrant resource center in Pittsburgh. 

The Puerto Rican Student Association, a new club on campus founded this semester, provides students of Puerto Rican heritage with a special community to educate others about their culture. Camila Aguayo, president of PRSA, said Latinx clubs bring value to its members. 

Aguayo said when she first came to Pitt as a first-year, she felt lost and found it difficult to make friends, and joining Latinx organizations helped her find her community. 

“I think it’s extremely important to have organizations where incoming, not only freshmen, like sophomore students or anyone can just find a group of people where they feel like they fit in, they feel like they belong,” Aguayo, a senior history of art and marketing major, said. “They feel like they can be themselves and not feel any type of social pressure.” 

Pitt’s Latinx clubs also expanded to the medical field last semester with the creation of LMSA+, the Latino Medical Student Association Plus. The undergraduate pre-health club focuses on providing its Latinx members with resources and networking programs through professionals at the medical school. 

Danielle Buleje, vice president of LMSA+, emphasized the significance of dedicating a club to Latinx students pursuing a career in the medical field. Buleje said there is a smaller percentage of Latinx doctors in America and the club hopes to alleviate the stress that Latinx students may feel when applying to medical school. 

“Our club focuses on getting people on the right path,” Buleje, a senior neuroscience and sociology major, said. 

Buleje said it’s nice to have a month dedicated to honoring her culture. 

 “It’s honestly just like nice representation,” Buleje said. “It’s like a time where everyone is just excited to kind of celebrate that culture that we all share.” 

The Latin American Law Students Association, located in Pitt’s graduate School of Law, gives Latinx students a chance to connect with each other and the larger legal community in Pittsburgh. Brontë Arreola, president of LLSA, said there’s especially a need for a supportive community in law. 

“I think it’s important for people to see that they’re represented in the fields that they’re in, and to help build those connections so that they can continue to get further along in their own legal careers,” Arreola, a second-year law student, said. 

Veronica Vivero-Condon, vice president of LLSA and a third-year law student, agreed with Arreola’s statement. She said only 5% of attorneys in the U.S. are Hispanic according to the American Bar Association, and that it is crucial for law students and prospective law students to have mentors they can relate to. 

“A lot of the Hispanic law students are first-generation law students,” Vivero-Condon said. “So having people who’ve gone through it just to kind of be there as mentors is huge.” 

This year, LLSA plans to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with activities like a movie night, eating at a Hispanic restaurant, hosting a salsa night and closing the month with a panel of Hispanic attorneys. 

Arreola said this month is an important time to increase awareness of the organization, letting others know how they can support Latinx groups. 

“I feel like Hispanic Heritage Month is probably when we do the most as an organization,” Arreola said. “The point of the club is for people of all backgrounds to come and appreciate the culture, so I just feel like you can appreciate the culture and engage in it even if you aren’t necessarily Hispanic or Latino.”