By: Katie Porter
Groups of students huddled around booths displaying cultural artifacts while bonding over shared
experiences, talking about relatives back home and trips to their birthplaces.
For Latin Heritage Month, the Associated Student Government held an event recognizing the vast
population of Santa Ana College students with Latin backgrounds.
“One of the key things ASG focuses on is celebrating diversity – it’s in our mission statement.
Today with our booths we represent not just Mexico, but the wide spectrum of Latino cultures,” ASG
President Jorge Sandoval said.
Booths in the quad celebrated heritages, representing countries including Brazil, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Colombia and Cuba. They featured hand carved wooden instruments and heirloom tools native to their cultures. Students gathered and listened to folktales and legends, while munching on Latin cuisine.
The food aspect of the event was a huge success. Local businesses involved were happy to help engage in a community effort to honor Latino customs.
Those with a student sticker enjoyed packages of Takis chips, washing them down with Jarritos, which donated more than 300 bottles of bubbly Mexican cola. For about $500, Sodexo provided catering of authentic street tacos.
A panel of faculty and alumni spoke to a small crowd about experiencing college as a Latino. Sharing personal stories, they encouraged listeners to overcome the challenges that come with being a minority in education.
“All of us have our own cultural heritage that we appreciate. We come from different places and different races. As Latinos we are very different but we need to band together to survive,” said
Cynthia Diaz, director of Upward Bound, a program that helps low-income students graduate.
Born in Mexico, she immigrated to the United States at seven years old and was forced into a school system where she had to learn English. She insists that the hardships of being a minority is what pushes her to not accept excuses from other Latino students about why they can’t get a degree. Traditional familial obligations interfering with educational goals contribute to Latino students lack of advancement in college.
“We need to work on open conversations with parents because sometimes they don’t know what its like to be a college student. They feel disconnected with what we do at school,” Donato Martinez said.
Juan Ortiz, a student checking out the festivities with a group of friends, has parents with little education, but says they push him to go further than they did.
“My mom only went through eighth grade. My brother and I are the first in college and my parents are nothing but proud,” Ortiz said.
A Sacramento State University study found that 70% of community college students drop out. To change these discouraging statistics, it’s important make connections through culture, and ask for help when it is needed. Sandoval stressed the many student services offered that helped him get through challenges and stay in school.
“We are Latinos and we exist. Life is hard. Help us, develop us,” he said. “Because we want to succeed.”