Elon University students, faculty and staff kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month Thursday evening on Medallion Plaza. 

The event, sponsored by El Centro de Español, is passionately organized by student planners each year and introduces the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to commemorate the independence of several Latin American countries.   

Alex Nettles | Elon News Network
Elon students pose for photos at the Hispanic Heritage Month Kick-off on Medallion Plaza Sept. 15, 2022.

In 2020, the event was held indoors and socially distanced, but this year, the Latinx community and all of those who attended could celebrate as vibrantly as before. 

Maria Jose Larrazabal, assistant director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education, was the primary organizer of the event. She expressed a wary enthusiasm about the celebration this year.

“We’re happy that it is back in normal person, but we are being cautious of COVID because it is still out there,” Larrazabal said. 

The event was a three-hour celebration of culture and featured traditional dance groups, food and face painting. Salsa music roarded proudly through the plaza.

Alejandro Mejia, a junior and student organizer, said the many events and sights of the kickoff were both as a celebration of Latinx pride and as an introduction to the community.

“It's a way of coming together as a family and celebrating together,” Mejia said. “My identity is very important to me and this is a way of expressing it and having confidence in my identity”

For Yholima Vargas-Pedroza, the director of the dancing group Huepa, the expression of Latin American culture and traditional dance have a special purpose. 

“Dance makes people happy,” Vargas-Pedroza said. “It is about happiness and healing. Art is a way of healing.”

The university will host a number of events to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month through Oct. 15.