You will have no trouble finding the room for this club, just follow the loud sounds of Bad Bunny, J. Balvin and more Latin artists. The University Hall room is filled with chatter and laughing from every row. As the e-board waits for more people to file in, they get ready and project their topic for their meeting on the screen, “Identity as Latinx.”
The organization hosting this meeting is the Latin American Student Organization (LASO). The organization’s goal is to spread knowledge about Latin American culture and the experiences that Hispanic students go through.
During this meeting, the topic focused on conversation topics and personal issues specific to the Latinx community. The meeting began with an array of different statements and common problems among the Latinx community. The e-board asked members to raise their hands if they identify with the issue.
This included topics such as, “My family members and/or I have been followed around in a store,” “I’ve been worried about my parents going out because they don’t speak English well,” “I’ve been asked to show my green card/immigration papers” and many more.
These topics sparked conversations among members and many shared their personal experiences. The members feel comfortable and safe in this community opening up about serious issues that affect the Latinx community.
Shortly after, a few breakout groups formed to go through and discuss another series of prompts that share similar things of struggles in the Latinx community. Some of these prompts included topics such as “I have been told I am whitewashed,” “I have felt angry/embarrassed for being Latino and not American enough” and “I have felt like a burden when my parents mention ‘el sacrifcio’ that they make for you.”
While in these groups, members were able to share in-depth personal experiences about their Latinx identity. These stories are relatable to the group and spark more and more conversations.
Matthew Salazar, a senior family sciences and human development major, is the LASO president. He indicated that in their “General Miembro Meetings” they often have roundtable discussions like these as well as interactive games that relate to the Latinx lifestyle and culture that balance education and fun.
Salazar discussed how having a community like this on campus promotes diversity and inclusion.
“For Montclair [State] to acknowledge a facet of our campus exists of students, faculty and staff with Latino American roots or backgrounds, [it] makes it easier for us to feel comfortable and free to express our pride, stories and heritage through involvement with our student organizations and academic cohorts to connections of peers to friends,” Salazar said.
Outside of these meetings, LASO hosts many events such as “Nochebuena,” “Latin Arts Night” and “How to be a Jefe(a).” These events are focused on uplifting the Latinx community at Montclair State. Not only is it meant to be fun and entertaining, but it also is a way to keep traditions and Latinx culture alive.
“Overall, we aim to hold events that offer a culturally enriching experience in true Latino fashion: food, music and connections,” Salazar said.
Salazar regards Montclair State as a welcoming place for the Latinx community and the inclusion has grown. One of LASO’s goals this year includes “bridging connections to Latino faculty university-wide for our members to take part in utilizing Montclair’s academic services and resources,” Salazar said.
They aim to be more involved in the Montclair State community in order to expand their outreach. LASO wants to offer unique opportunities for all students.
For Hispanic Heritage Month, LASO is celebrating by recognizing their cultural heritage and pride to be Latinx. They aim to focus on Latinx businesses, entertainment, food, music, history, and more while emphasizing the importance of celebrating one’s Latinx roots.
“We want to build a newfound presence of our community by exploiting the best and brightest features of being Hispanic/Latino,” Salazar said.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, LASO is hosting events like “Hispanic Heritage Month Block Party,” “LASO’s Nos Vemos en El Barrio” and “Latin Music Jeopardy.”
Hispanic Heritage Month is from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.
“With the title of ‘Hispanic-Serving Institution’, I believe that it is important to embody all dimensions of the term that make the Latinx community inclusive and proud to take part in Montclair’s academic programs/departments, student organizations/clubs, services, and as a member of the student population,” Salazar said.
LASO meets every Wed. from 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. in University Hall room 1030. To learn more about the organization and its events, follow them on Instagram at @laso1970.