The Organization of Latinx Awareness (OLA) invited students to play lotería, on Sept. 15. The event brought students together to enjoy a common game among the Latinx community. (Photo courtesy of Jose Garza).
National Hispanic Heritage Month begins annually on Sept. 15 and ends on Oct. 15. This time is marked to celebrate and recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latinx people to the country. Recognizing the student-led organization on campus that recognizes and celebrates Latinx culture, the Organization of Latinx Awareness (OLA), is a key factor in honoring the month.
OLA prides itself on providing students with an understanding of Latinx communities. The group offers meetings and events structured around the idea of giving students the opportunity to experience and learn about different Latinx cultures, as well as giving students the chance to feel at home.
Since Albion is predominantly white, with about 58 percent of students identifying as white, non-Hispanic according to Albion College’s Common Data Set, students of Latinx descent may struggle to fit in. OLA, however, is a safe space that invites all, even those who are not of Latinx descent.
“Being a member of OLA, you become a member of a community. It’s not only about Mexico. It’s about all of the Hispanic countries,” said OLA President Jose Garza, a sophomore from Monterrey, Mexico.
According to OLA Vice President Lea Vega, a senior from Dallas, Texas, the majority of current members are freshmen. As a result, OLA serves as a mediator between these members and Albion, offering them connections not only within the organization but around campus.
“One of the things we aim to do right now is, [although] we do want to have fun and have light-hearted conversations and get to know other cultures within Latin America, we also want to include Black and indigenous people,” said Vega. “They exist, and it’s something that a lot of people or a lot of the norm of Latin America is trying to hide.”
OLA believes in having relevant conversations that affect Latinx communities, even if they may come across as difficult. In one of their recent meetings, members had a conversation about femicidios, a prevalent issue in Latin America.
“Right before COVID, [femicidios] was something that was really talked about,” said Vega. “We also want to talk about anti-Blackness within our communities and mental health.”
Although the pandemic has affected the way events and meetings are held, OLA is working with its assigned faculty to plan safe, socially distanced events.
“Since Latinx Heritage Month falls at the beginning of the semester, it’s kind of hard to be able to plan,” said Vega.
Despite the challenges, OLA plans to give students its annual Salsa Night and hopes to be able to have other smaller events, like movie nights and guest speakers, throughout the semester.
“It is a very important moment of the year, especially for Hispanics,” said Garza. “Our focus right now is to create as many events as possible so people can celebrate with us, not just Hispanics.”