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Latino students band together — and celebrate — in wake of election

By Zachary Aedo | Feb. 16, 2017

If there’s a time to celebrate traditions, it’s now.

That’s the perspective of students from Utah State University’s Latino Student Union, which is planning its annual Fiesta Americas celebration in the wake of a year in which many of its members felt targeted by hurtful words and hateful attitudes.

Club member Karina Hernandez said it was hard “to witness people being so hateful towards our community" during the election season.

"First it hurt. It did sting," Hernandez said. "But now we're coming together and creating a network of forces to combat that attitude towards us ... it's forcing us to mobilize and to be stronger than we've ever been before. So if anything, it's definitely bringing us together."

For Hernandez, the Fiesta Americas party is a way for the Latino community to come together and keep celebrating its traditions — which can be hard when one lives in "a community that's very much different from you."

Hispanics make up about 11 percent of Cache County’s population and only about 6 percent of Utah State’s undergraduate population.

While Donald Trump failed to win a majority of votes in Utah, he still defeated rivals Hillary Clinton and Evan McMullin by nearly 20 percentage points each, and did so after making statements accusing Mexico of sending to the United States “people that have lots of problems,” like “killers and rapists,” and suggesting that a federal judge presiding over a fraud case couldn’t be fair because of his “Mexican heritage.” Trump’s supporters often chanted “build a wall” during his rallies, and the candidate pledged to do just that.

Now, as Trump works to turn promises into policy, Cirina Gonzalez, the president of the Latino Student Union, said many people at Utah State are coming together to provide a "safe zone" for all students.

"All of us, we're stronger together as one,” Gonzalez said, “not separated as individuals."

Gonzalez said she was inspired by a recent event hosted by Utah State’s Black Student Union, which held its annual Soul Food Dinner event on Feb. 3 featuring the theme "More than just a color." The theme was "powerful" to Gonzalez and made her want to "include everyone from every country" in the upcoming Fiesta Americas.

Gonzalez said Fiesta Americas organizers would try to go throughout the map and "highlight the best parts of each country," giving the audience a taste of the food, dance and music from several Latino countries.

"We just kind of want to incorporate as much as we can," Gonzalez said.

Hernandez said her favorite part about the celebration is seeing everyone come together for the show. 

"It's so fun to see Latinos in the community of Cache Valley coming out to support us,” she said. “But it's also fun to see all of the students that are open-minded enough to come learn about our union and also our heritage."

Although the event is still in the planning stage, Gonzalez confirmed the party would be held on April 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the ballroom of the Taggart Student Center. Tickets will be sold on the third floor of the building in room 315 and will cost between $10 and $13 for students.