Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at Tech

Students dance at a weekly Tech Salsa practice. // Photo by Ethan Vitak, Student Publications

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for celebration and reflection, as it highlights the culture, history and fight for equity among Hispanic and Latin Americans.

From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 there are events and opportunities across the country to learn about and showcase different aspects of Latin American culture. Tech has its own community working to do the same.

The Latin American Student Organization (LASO) was founded at the beginning of the pandemic with a lot of hope that the organization would grow and serve as a way to connect Latinx students on campus.

Sarah Rincon, fourth-year EE, Camila Rubiano, fourth-year BA, and Kimberly Molina, fourth-year HTS, serve as founders of LASO. Rincon is of Mexican-American descent and the current president. Rubiano is of Colombian descent and is the public relations officer of the organization.

With about a 6% Hispanic and Latinx population at Tech, it can be difficult for students of this background to find a community and relate to others culturally, which is why a cultural organization like LASO was needed.

“I think the experience that I’ve heard from a lot of students and my own experience is that you get to campus, and it can be an isolating experience,” Rincon said. “You think you’re the only Hispanic person at the school.”

Now, two years since its establishment, LASO has over 150 members and has transitioned from virtual to in-person events as students have returned to campus.

For Hispanic Heritage Month, the organization is hosting a variety of events like volunteering for voter registration and introducing a ​​Hispanic Heritage Month Ball, with music and live performances.

The purpose of LASO is to unite the Hispanic and Latinx community on campus and help share the cultures with other people outside of the community. This mission also coincides perfectly with what Hispanic Heritage Month is meant to accomplish, except LASO continues this work beyond the month.

Rincon says that she tries to embrace her heritage daily on campus, and she has been able to do this by being a part of LASO.

“I have been able to find people that I can surround myself with that relate to my culture and my heritage,” Rubino said. “I think I’ve been able to embrace it as part of my daily life.”

Some of the events that LASO is having for the month include a voter registration event with the organization Galileo, as advocacy and activism is an important aspect of Hispanic Heritage Month. The organization is also going off-campus to the Atlanta United game that is celebrating Hispanic Heritage night.

As for upcoming events, on Oct. 4 LASO will be collaborating with Pride Alliance for a trivia night themed around queer Latinx history.

The closing and major event will be the first Hispanic Heritage Month Ball on Oct. 15.

The night will include a DJ, games, food, dancing and performances from Tech’s very own Salsa Club and Aatma Dance Studio.

These events foster awareness that there is a community and that it is open and welcoming of whomever, for people of all backgrounds.

LASO is a place for anyone, including students who are Latinx and want to find a place with people with similar backgrounds and to learn more about other cultures.

LASO is also open for anyone who is not Latinx or Hispanic and just wants to learn more about the culture, practice Spanish, meet new people and so on.

“As long as you are open to us, we are open to you,” Rincon said. “We like to have a good time, we like to have fun events and hang out, play soccer together, have picnics. And I think if that’s what you’re looking for, that’s what you’re missing in your life, then that’s what we’re here for.”

A very important aspect of Hispanic and Latin American culture is music and dance.

Nicole Diaz, third-year BME, and Dilauri Hernandez, third-year BA, are on the executive board of the GT Salsa Club.

Salsa and bachata are dances rooted in Latin and Hispanic culture, and Tech Salsa has built a community for students of all backgrounds to learn and develop their skills while having fun and making friends in the process.

The Salsa club was founded in 2006 and has been going strong ever since. Diaz, who is of Colombian-Venezuelan descent, currently serves as president. She says that the club has become a big outlet for her.

“I hadn’t tapped into that side of my culture as much as I had wanted to, and I had always grown up dancing with family members,” Diaz said.

“Stepping into the social dancing scene was a completely different aspect because then you had different people of different backgrounds dancing.”

Hernandez, who is of Dominican descent, serves as the club’s logistics chair. She says that Tech Salsa has been a way for her to share her culture and experience it with others.

The classes themselves are beginner-friendly, currently focusing on Bachata I and II and Salsa I.

Once a member pays their dues, which is $60 a semester, they have access to all the classes and socials.

“The price of membership is great, “ Hernandez said. “$60 will probably get you barely a month at a regular dance studio, versus we give you a whole semester of classes along with the sides we offer.”

Diaz emphasized the classes are open to all skill levels.

“We are really accommodating to all different levels, like if you haven’t danced at all, haven’t even tried, or you’ve been kind of dancing here and there, or you just want something different or you want to … level up your skills,” Diaz said.

The classes are taught by instructors or very experienced dancers, who teach students starting from the basics and gradually moving into more advanced partner work.

Tech Salsa Club also does socials, which are both on and off-campus.

The socials generally start with a short class and then transition into a more club-like atmosphere with a DJ, lights and dancing.

The music includes both classics in the salsa and bachata scene but also remixes with popular artists like Billie Eilish.

For Hispanic Heritage Month, Tech Salsa Club will be performing at Birney Elementary School as a part of their celebration for the month. They will also be performing at the Hispanic Heritage Ball, hosted by LASO.

Anyone can join Tech Salsa Club and be a part of a welcoming community that is a part of an even larger Latin dance scene in Atlanta.

To learn more about LASO and Tech Salsa, follow @gt_laso and @gatechsalsa on Instagram.