K-State students celebrate a month of Hispanic and Latino history, culture and influence

Alyssa Jimenez (left) and Veronica Martinez (right) said National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for them to celebrate their culture. The Hispanic American Leadership Organization and Latinas Unidads Poderosas y Educadas hold events throughout the month. (Kelsey Chellberg | Collegian Media Group)

Every year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month, and Elizabeth Guevara said she uses the time to honor Hispanic and Latin American influence in the United States. 

“Hispanic Heritage month celebrates history and culture … a value people should take away from Hispanic Heritage Month is appreciation for a culture,” Guevara, senior in Spanish, said. 

According to Data USA, the smallest ethnic group in Manhattan is the Hispanic and Latino demographic at 4.54% of residents.

Veronica Martinez, senior in life science, said she struggled upon moving to Manhattan because of the large Hispanic and Latino population in her hometown.

“I became very homesick and I remember at one point feeling embarrassed to speak Spanish in public,” Martinez said. “I felt like people would look at me weirdly and silently judge me for not speaking English.”

Alyssa Jimenez, junior in civil engineering, said she lost aspects of her culture when she moved to Manhattan.

“I wouldn’t speak Spanish a lot of the time,” Jimenez said. “I had to basically reteach myself to speak Spanish, so it was really hard reconnecting to my culture.”

Guevara said Hispanic and Latino organizations helped her get accustomed to life at Kansas State. 

“Clubs like the Hispanic American Leadership Organization and Latinas Unidas Poderosas y Educadas have significantly helped me during my time at K-State with providing me with resources and a community,” Guevara said. 

At K-State, HALO and LUPE prepare to host various events to continue to celebrate Hispanic and Latino culture around campus. Those events include HALO’s annual Encuentro event designed to help the transition of incoming K-State students, HALO’s participation in Cambio para Cambio — a community-led campaign designed to help raise scholarship money for Hispanic and Latino students, and LUPE’s fundraiser where they sell strawberries with cream, and all the funds will go back into LUPE meetings and T-shirts. 

For many Hispanic and Latino students, Hispanic Heritage Month serves as a reminder to honor those who gave them everything they could. To that, Martinez said her parents motivated her to stay and find success at K-State.

“One of my main motivators to this day is remembering that my parents gave up their beloved home country to give me the opportunities they never had,” Martinez said. 

As Hispanic and Latino students begin to celebrate their culture and heritage, Martinez said the reaction from the public has been positive. 

“Those who didn’t look like me wanted to know more about my culture,” Martinez said. “That only made me love my identity even more.”

Jimenez said the Hispanic and Latino community deserve this month to continue to acknowledge the history, culture, and influence their communities have. 

“Hispanic Heritage Month has just shown me how important it is and how we should be celebrated,” Jimenez said.