Multicultural Greek Chapters celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

The+Fiesta+De+Noche+celebrates+different+cultural+backgrounds+each+year.+Marquette+Wire+stock+photo

The Fiesta De Noche celebrates different cultural backgrounds each year. Marquette Wire stock photo

The COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for putting multiple events, businesses and traditions on hold, and now it is affecting how students are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

Beginning Sept. 15 and ending Oct. 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of the cultures of Hispanic and Latino Americans and their contributions in the United States. According to the Hispanic Heritage Month website, it is a month geared toward “paying tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.”

Stephanie Perez, president of the Sigma Lambda Gamma chapter at Marquette University, said this month of appreciation is meant to be far more inclusive than people may think.

“Hispanic Heritage Month is not solely about Mexican culture or the cultures predominantly present on campus or around people’s lives,” Perez said. “It’s about a lot of other cultures as well.”

Sigma Lambda Gamma is a multicultural, traditionally Latina-based sorority on campus. The Gammas, along with the brothers of the Sigma Lambda Beta, a Latino-based multicultural fraternity, celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month together by hosting their annual Fiesta De Noche.

Fiesta De Noche is a large party open to the campus community. It showcases cultural foods, music and dancing, and is a tradition on campus that has been around for over a decade.

“In this event, we invite everybody on campus, the Milwaukee community as well, to come. And everything is paid for, free food, free drinks,” Edar Mellin, a junior in the College of Business Administration and president of Sigma Lambda Beta said.

Perez said Fiesta De Noche has been gaining a lot of engagement in the past years which has increased funding for the event considerably. She said this extra funding would have enabled them to open the event up to the entire community this year.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic and related safety regulations and concerns prevented Fiesta De Noche from being held this year.

“Due to COVID, we were jumping through lots of hoops to see how we could still host the event somehow while keeping it socially distanced and safe for everyone attending,” Perez said.

For the sake of the integrity of the event, and to ensure the safety of the attendees, the celebration has been put on hold until at least next year. Perez said they have begun to plan for the Fiesta De Noche as if it will be held next fall.

Both Mellin and Perez said they find it disappointing that Fiesta De Noche could not be held this year, especially considering how its cancellation may negatively impact the community.

Mellin said not holding the event risks not having his voice heard. 

“We can’t really go out and express our traditions, our different ethnicities,” said Mellin. “Right now, we’re doing our best. We’re trying to hold events towards that aim, but with everything going on, it’s put on pause.”

The Gammas are also experiencing difficulties raising cultural awareness on campus through programming and events.

“(Thursday) we were planning on hosting a Get Ready with the Gammas event,” said Perez. “But with current developments of Schroeder Hall closing and some sisters having some concerns about it being a hybrid model, social distancing guidelines and all that, we decided it would be better not to risk it.”

Get Ready with the Gammas is a regular program held by the various chapters of Sigma Lambda Gamma that often involves fundraising for charities. At Marquette, this event had to be cancelled.

Nonetheless, the two Greek organizations are still actively searching for ways to celebrate cultural diversity in the community in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

For example, the Gammas will be hosting a virtual “Step to the Line Privilege Test” during their Gamma Week on Oct. 20. The goal of the event is to help participants understand the cultural barriers that may separate them from other members of the community.

“It’s an event we’re hosting to bring to light our own privileges as well as the privileges of other people in the community,” Perez said.

The Latin American Student Organization is also making efforts to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in a safe and productive way.

LASO is a student organization on campus geared toward building community and raising cultural awareness.

“We are here to serve the Latinx populations, but basically anyone’s welcome,” Stephanie Salas, a senior in the College of Health Sciences and the president of LASO, said. “We love new members no matter their ethnic background, everybody’s welcome and we want to be a big family on campus.”

Although COVID-19 regulations complicate programming efforts, LASO is still committed to celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

“This year I made it more of an effort to celebrate, I think it’s really important especially because we are a Latin American organization,” Salas said.

 To kick-off Hispanic Heritage Month, members of LASO handed out over 100 culturally-themed goodie bags Sept. 15.

“It’s kind of nice even for non-Hispanics to see that we’re celebrating,” Salas said.

Nicole Abalde, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Outreach Director of LASO, said in addition to candy, the goodie bags included some educational content.

“We were giving out goodie bags with a card promoting our first general body meeting,” Abalde said. “Also we had facts about Hispanic Heritage Month just to get more students informed about what this month is all about.”

Abalde said all general body meetings are open to the Marquette students regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. Meetings are held at 5:30 p.m. every other Tuesday and the Teams meeting link can be found on LASO’s Instagram page.

Additional to this first tabling event, LASO has more planned in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. This includes collecting donations for Centro Hispano Milwaukee, the first ever Latin-serving nonprofit based in Milwaukee, as well as an organized walk to Cesar Chavez statue in the south side, a largely Hispanic area of the city.

“That’s just to show students, especially new students, different businesses and just the murals that are showcased in the south side,” Abalde said about the walk.

LASO is making an effort to maintain a presence on campus despite any limitations that may be imposed by the pandemic.

“We’ve been active,” Salas said. “But it’s hard to do in-person events.”

The organization had planned on hosting a cultural show that would spotlight different Latin American cultures with cultural food, music, and dancing. But like Fiesta De Noche and many other large events on campus, it had to be cancelled for health and safety reasons.

Regardless of how difficult the COVID-19 pandemic has made it to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month Salas said it is an important practice to maintain.

“I think it’s important to bring awareness that this population exists in Marquette, and also outside of Marquette,” Salas said. “It’s a good way for (the general public) to explore and maybe learn if they want to learn more.”

This story was written by Charlotte Ives. She can be reached at charlotte.ives@marquette.edu.