by Carmyn Gutierrez
The Latin American Student Organization (LASO) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, hosted several events over the past few weeks in celebration of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month.
Daniel Dominguez, coordinator for Multicultural Student Life and advisor for LASO, worked with members of the group to showcase their culture through events such as VolAvenida, a block party that kicked off the month of celebration.
“It’s been cool to see students create their own sense of cultural identity,” Dominguez said.
VolAvenida and other events, including a painting night at the Frieson Black Cultural Center, networking with members of the Latino Alumni Council, and a game night, served as ways for Latinx community members who had not previously known each other to connect.
Annie Duran Perez, junior child and family studies major and secretary of LASO, said one of her favorite events was the HoLa festival. The festival was organized off campus at World’s Fair Park but had a lot of participation from UT students. The festival was celebrated in person this year after being virtual last year because of COVID-19.
“Being back in person made me feel good, and it made me feel like I belonged again,” Duran said. “It was also nice seeing all of the people that I knew and hadn’t seen in a while.”
For the first time this year, LASO involved the campus community to help create exposure for the month of celebration. The organization worked with Student Life Communications to create their own brand and flyer template which included colors and bright vibrant pieces that encompassed different Latin American cultures.
Most of the events hosted by LASO were virtual last year, which made it difficult for members to meet and make connections. Many students chose not to turn on their videos during Zoom events, which forced LASO members to look at black screens.
“The transition from virtual to in-person has been great because you can actually see people now,” Jacqueline Gonzalez, senior neuroscience major and vice president of LASO, said. “Especially for freshmen, it’s so much easier for them to make connections, and it’s so great to see those relationships grow.”
“Last year I felt really alone, especially with everything virtual,” Duran said. “This year, I don’t want to be like that anymore, and I feel like a lot of people also have that mentality. They feel more motivated to come to the events and campus and meet more people because everyone is looking for that sense of belonging and community.”
Hopeful of continuing to collect and collaborate with other student groups, like Students for Migrant Justice and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences, LASO’s student leaders look forward to even more representation of Latinx communities on campus.
“With the new incoming class, we have more people coming in who are like us and look like us so just seeing that and watching our numbers grow is really something,” Gonzalez said. “Someone once told me we’re little but we’re mighty, and that’s us.”
The celebration of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month on campus concluded with FiestaVol on October 14. The event is hosted by the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life in collaboration with student-led Latinx organizations like Latino fraternity Lambda Theta Phi and sorority Lambda Theta Alpha.
Check out the UT calendar for a full list of previous events hosted by LASO.