El Centro welcomed the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month at a kick-off event in Medallion Plaza. 

The student-planned surge of culture marks the beginning of the celebration Hispanic Heritage Month on Elon’s Campus. Hispanic Heritage Month is a national celebration of Latinx and Hispanic culture that includes the independence days of many Hispanic countries, running from Sep. 15 to Nov. 15.

The event’s planning was spearheaded by a group of passionate student coordinators, including sophomore Cristina Mariné. Mariné said she started volunteering with El Centro because it gave her a reinforced sense of identity. 

“My first year it was hard for me to find a place because I was too shy and I didn’t want to do anything with any of El Centro’s activities,” Mariné said. 

Mariné said El Centro created spaces that helped bridge a gap between two sides of herself. She said she didn’t feel Latina enough when she was in her hometown Miami, while also feeling not American enough at Elon.

“This is my favorite event because it gives community, live music and vendors. It gives an awesome atmosphere and environment,” Mariné said. 

Leading up to the kick-off, Mariné said volunteers lined colorful flags from their respective countries. Student organization tables and vendors from local businesses and organizations flanked both sides of the plaza. The music and cuisine of the countries stirred together in the middle of Medallion Plaza.

Dance troupe Huepa! performed Afro-Colombian dance and the group Ballet Folklorico gave a rendition of traditional Mexican styles. 

Elon University community watches local dancers perform at the Hispanic Heritage Month kick-off event Sept. 15 at Medallion Plaza.

Senior Jose Torres saw the event as an opportunity to share his Hispanic culture. Torres said the event was a time for every Elon student to see an example of Hispanic culture to spark curiosity in El Centro. 

“This is an educational and immersive celebration. It is a time for the community to get together, have some food and enjoy some music,” Torres said.

Maria Jose Larrazabal is the assistant director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education. Larrazabal was the head coordinator for the event and said she was proud of her student organizers for organizing the music, food and vendors. 

“I even saw a bunch of students who weren't Latinx dancing when the music was playing,” Larrazabal said. “That's what I want, a space where everyone is smiling, laughing and just kind of forgetting everything.”

Larrazabal said she wanted the event to be a place where other Latinx and Hispanic students would feel welcomed, have a safe space, and celebrate where they come from.

Mariel Colon is part of the parents club for Huepa, she said that Huepa was like a second family. 

“A lot of us come from cultures or backgrounds and we don’t have family here. So those around us become our family,” Colon said.

Torres, who also helped organize the event, said the kick-off was about celebrating hispanic culture as a whole for everyone to see.

“Now that we are out here in the sun for everyone to see, we can show everybody what we are about and see now we can touch and inspire some new people to visit,” Torres said.