ALAS Brings Latin Culture to Life at GSU
After a successful National Latinx Heritage Month at Governors State University (GSU), filled with events highlighting the various cultures of Latin America, another celebration came to campus— Día de Muertos (The Day of the Dead) with festivities that included the creation of an ofrenda, an altar to honor and celebrate the lives of people who have passed.
Campus celebrations ended just as others are kicking off to honor the popular Mexican holiday from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. GSU Association of Latin American Students (ALAS) board member Omar Martinez said the Día de Los Muertos is important in his culture as a way to remember loved ones.
"It connects us to the dead. On this day, the border between the dead and living does not exist and we choose to honor those we have lost. The dead continue to be a part of our lives,” he said.
In an effort to connect with other Latin students and increase their cultural imprint on the university for future generations—outside the confines of a single month or holiday––ALAS is a collective of GSU students. They are dedicated to enhancing the academic and social climate of the school’s Latin American community. With this mission in mind, the organization hopes their actions will lead to an increase of enrollment and retention among Latin American students.
At a recent ALAS meeting, several ideas were exchanged between members to establish and preserve GSU’s Latin American identity—such as reaching out to prospective students of Latin American descent in nearby communities. “If we can extend our knowledge and guidance to potential Latin American students, we can help them realize that there is a future for them at GSU,” says student Daisy Gutierrez.
In addition to their plans for improving the academic opportunities for future Latin American GSU students, the meeting also covered beneficial information for current Latin American GSU students —like Martinez’s announcement of potential networking events ran by the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI). “It is important that everyone here knows that these types of resources are available for Latin American students,” explains Martinez. “Sometimes, these opportunities go unnoticed by students, so that’s why we are trying to inform our fellow students that these events exist and can help them achieve their goals.”
Traditionally, the Center for Student Engagement and Intercultural Programs (CSEIP) has planned Latin American-based events on campus; however, starting this year, that will change. “We are excited that our club’s students will be able to organize these events going forward,” says ALAS co-advisor Ivan Soto.
He’s already working on events to celebrate Día de Reyes (Three Kings’ Day) on Jan. 6.