LFSA kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month with first virtual event

Fresno State Mariachi performance from 2017. (Tasha Turner/The Collegian)

La Bienvenida kicked-off Hispanic Heritage month Tuesday, Sept. 15, by welcoming new and returning Latino students and faculty via Zoom in its first virtual event. 

Prior to COVID-19, La Bienvenida was divided into two separate events: one for students and one for staff, according to Latina/o Faculty and Staff Association’s (LFSA) President Yolanda Doub. 

This year, both events were combined to show both groups what Fresno State and LFSA are about.

La Bienvenida previously featured music, food and performances from Folklorico groups. This year, however, the event was limited to a Zoom webinar due to the pandemic. 

The webinar showed videos of Los Danzantes de Aztlán’s dances, a presentation introducing various clubs students can join and a past performance from Fresno State Mariachi. 

LFSA was created in 2009 to offer a social and professional network to students and faculty while helping them also feel comfortable, heard, valued and supported. Its main goal is to “strengthen the bond of the latina, latino [and] latinx community,” Doub said.

Dr. Joseph I. Castro, Fresno State’s first Latino president, said the university is stronger than ever before. With this year’s entering class being the largest in history, over 63% of those students are Latino.

“I remember [visiting] to Fresno State myself and it being overwhelmingly white,” Castro said. “To think today, how far we’ve come together with so much hard work from so many of you couldn’t make me prouder to lead us in this very important time in our history.”

LFSA’s Vice President Estevan Parra was the first in his family to come to Fresno State which prompted his siblings to follow in his footsteps. 

Parra said even if you feel like you do not belong, you have a lot of people looking up to you, just as his siblings looked up to him.

“We are the present and future leaders of our great valley,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said. “[Every student] is meant to be here, at Fresno State; with all your gifts and all your talents, all of your leadership abilities of leading the present are also going into the future.”

Having immigrated from Mexico to California, Jiménez-Sandoval said he can relate to current Latino students. 

After graduating high school and moving on to UC Irvine, he said he thought about “to whom [he’d] be dedicating his degree too.”

He encouraged current Fresno State students to do the same.

“Also, think of who you owe thanks to for being here. Who had to work in order for [you] to be here. Those who had to get up really early, so [you] could be here. And those who had to sacrifice, so [you] could have an education,” Jiménez-Sandoval said. 

Jiménez-Sandoval also gave students advice for dealing with setbacks.

 “If you encounter defeat or challenges, bounce back. Reach out to those you decided to dedicate your degree to. They will help you,” Jiménez-Sandoval said. 

“Fresno State is your university,” said Jiménez-Sandoval. “Believe that you are here with us because there is a great future ahead of you. We all need you to graduate and become the incredible Bulldogs that you are and then incorporate yourself into the community so that others may follow you.”

Despite only showing a virtual compilation of clubs and organizations, Parra said he hopes it will encourage students to get involved by checking out all the clubs they can join.

Hispanic Heritage Month starts Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The Cross Cultural and Gender Center has put a calendar of 10 events to celebrate the Latino community and other minorities. 

Other Hispanic Heritage events will be happening soon, check out the full list here.

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