National Hispanic Heritage Month started in mid-September, and students at Mississippi State University have been eager to bring the nationally recognized month-long holiday back to campus.
As the second most diverse school in the Southeastern Conference behind Vanderbilt University, Mississippi State is home to many Hispanic students. With the addition of new events, National Hispanic Heritage Month is becoming more prevalent on campus than in previous years and allows both Hispanic and non-Hispanic students to appreciate the various cultures that many members of the student body identify with.
Thanks to MSU’s Holmes Cultural Diversity Center, National Hispanic Heritage Month started strong with the annual Salsa in the Streets event Sept. 15. The popular event, which took place at the newly built YMCA plaza, featured salsa dance lessons and music for the public.
Additionally, Mississippi State’s Latino Student Association is responsible for coordinating many other events for National Hispanic Heritage Month. For these students, the month-long event on campus is more than just about having fun; it strengthens the community and allows Hispanic students at MSU to feel at home.
Even outside of the celebratory month, the Latino Student Association has made strides in making Latino students feel welcomed at the university. Senior Michelle Trejo Acevedo said LSA was one of the major reasons she decided to attend MSU.
"I came to the Latinx Preview Day, which they hosted in Fall of 2018, and it was basically a preview day aimed for Latinos. I just felt really at home," Acevedo said. "They made an effort to target something for Latinos, which was more than other schools that I was looking at at the time."
Acevedo, who now serves as an LSA co-president, said that being in the organization as an MSU student has allowed her to connect with more Hispanics than she could in her hometown.
"I feel that I have met more Hispanics here at MSU than I ever have on the coast," Acevedo said. "I’m Mexican, but aside from that, there are people from so many places here that it’s crazy to connect with not just my culture, but with other peoples’ culture."
Despite a prominent and growing Hispanic community at MSU, Hispanic students still many face unique day-to-day challenges. When asked about places Latino students can go to make Hispanic friends, Agustin Ascencio, a junior biochemistry major and co-president of LSA, said there are not many.
"There are really not many places besides Holmes (Cultural Diversity Center), and even in Holmes, we are a minority," Ascencio said.
Ascencio also said he and other Latino students on campus often feel excluded and looked down upon on campus.
Another student, Christopher Rivera, a junior accounting and finance major, said he can thank some of MSU’s student organizations for helping introduce him to the university’s Latino community.
"Immediately, making friends was very hard as a student, especially as a student of color," Rivera said. "It’s very clique based, and the clique does include people that are similar color or backgrounds. Immediately, I was out of place, and it was hard to get over. But, joining different organizations such as Diversity Dawgs helped me break that barrier."
Due to many groups and organizations' participation in National Hispanic Heritage Month, many Hispanic students, like Rivera, feel more welcome on campus and become encouraged to learn more about their heritage and culture.