Tara Lopez

WSU Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies

“Although celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is essential in highlighting the visibility of our communities, I believe that celebrating my heritage is a daily practice and involves many elements.

First and foremost, a key way to celebrate my Chicana heritage is to learn, research, and share the histories, knowledge, and customs from our broader Chicanx/Latinx communities with others.

For me in particular, teaching, doing research and writing, and working with students to shed light on the deep history and accomplishments our communities have made is a very important way to celebrate my heritage.

Keeping a connection with my family and our language is also essential. My parents and other family members were discouraged from or punished for speaking Spanish, so my use of Spanish with them and others is a great way to pull away that veil of shame and assert not only the values of Spanish language, but also the many languages of Chicanx/Latinx communities.

Being a Hispanic faculty member on campus, I have so far had a good experience with interaction between fellow faculty and students being positive. Most fulfilling, though, has been meeting students of color on campus through the KEAP Center. The students there teach me so much!

Another fulfilling part has been in teaching Ethnic Studies courses. Not only does it allow me to authentically share my heritage on campus, but also teaching has allowed me to share how Chicanx communities have collaborated with others to promote social change.

Lastly, I share my heritage on campus through my laugh, energy, and gregarious nature. It’s deeply connected to my family in New Mexico and it’s how I bring my heritage to this beautiful WSU campus.”

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the following narratives are from WSU faculty and students who voluntarily responded to outreach in asking for their stories. Participants shared how they celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month; what their experience of being a Hispanic student, faculty and staff, or alumni on WSU’s campus has been like; and how they authentically share their heritage with our community.

Jasmine Juarez-Flores ’23

Psychology Major

“I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a lot of music and dancing!

Music is the biggest thing that helps me stay in touch with my heritage.

As the club president of the Student Organization of Latino/a/x (SOL), I try to include music in every meeting—especially this month!

My first years at Winona State were quite difficult, as I didn’t make many connections with other Hispanic students.

It’s very important to have different people you can relate to on different levels.

This semester has been the most positive for me. My experience has definitely improved thanks to SOL. I have also been noticing a lot more diversity this year, which makes me feel safer and happier.

Something that’s very important to me is emphasizing the impact that culture and background has on mental health. As a Psychology major and the club president of SOL, I feel it is my duty that everyone feels safe to use their voice.

I have been able to authentically share my heritage through the SOL club. A few week ago, I actually gave a presentation on the differences between Hispanic and Latino as well as the differences between Cinco de Mayo and Mexico’s independence. As someone who is Mexican, I felt very proud of having the opportunity to share parts of my culture.

My biggest aspiration is to be the resource I needed when I was a freshman. I want people of all different cultures to be able to come to me for anything.”

Nayeli Cubias ’23

Public Relations & Spanish Double Major, Ethnic Studies Minor

“As a person of color on this campus, I’ve had my fair share of not feeling comfortable when it comes to certain situations, but I’ve also never had a completely terrible experience either.

I’ve learned to differentiate peoples’ intentions and figure out when someone is being racist versus ignorant because those are two very different things.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to have found spaces and people on campus who are genuinely interested in learning about my culture and experiences.

The KEAP Center and my Rugby team are the two places where I feel most welcome.

The KEAP Center is a safe space that grew out of student activism located in the lower level of Kryzsko Commons. I’ve been going to the KEAP Center since I was a HOPE Academy high school student in 2018 until now in my fourth year at WSU. I still love it.

Through the KEAP Center, I’ve made friends and had nights of cooking meals from our countries for each other and of sharing our cultures.

I’ve worked in the KEAP Center since my first year at WSU, and I have been able to share my culture and experiences with new people, giving them a new perspective.

I joined the Rugby team my first year at WSU and took it day by day. We ended up winning nationals that year and have never looked back. Each year the team is different, but the energy between the team is always the same. We all support each other on and off the field, whether personally or academically. We’re constantly there for each other.

I’ve had the team come stay at my home for a game, meet my family, try food, listen to music, and dance. I’ve even had 3 teammates visit me in El Salvador over this past summer.

I’d say my main message to whoever I meet is to let them know I’m Salvadoran and that every Hispanic country has similarities but also differences. And that it’s okay to ask if they have any questions!”