Panelists from La CASA and their Latinx Leadership Roundtable kicked off USC’s Latinx Heritage Month celebrations on Sept. 15 with virtual discussions focused on community, history and intersectionality.

Latinx Heritage month will be celebrated through Oct. 15. The kick-off served as a preview to the rest of the month’s festivities, which include seven other Zoom events ranging from guest speakers to intersectionality networking opportunities.

The kick-off panel explored this year’s theme, “Reclamando Nuestra Historias: Esperanzas y Sueños” — “Reclaiming our Stories: Hopes and Dreams” — by emphasizing the importance of telling Latinx stories in higher education. The Latinx Leadership Roundtable hopes to “provid[e] more insight into [the] community’s complexities and beauty” and discuss social inequalities that Latinx students face during COVID-19.

“As Trojans, we have a platform to not only demonstrate the beautiful fruits of our ancestors' flavor, but also, to show young kids, that even their wildest dreams are attainable, that they more than belong at a place like USC,” said Alanis Gonzalez, a La CASA representative and social work graduate student who spoke at the kickoff.

The panel focused specifically on intersectionality, discussing the lack of representation of Afro-Latinx and Indigenous people in Los Angeles and California’s history.

During the event, President Folt honored the “history, culture and contributions of Americans” whose ancestors came from Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

“We know you’re passionate about learning, and we know that you want to leave things better than you found them,” Folt said, addressing students in attendance. “At USC, you are joining an extraordinary talented group of students, and we want to see you thrive.”

Elizabeth Abreu, a La CASA member and sophomore majoring in international relations, greatly appreciates La CASA’s events. She says that students can benefit from learning about distinct Latinx cultures throughout the month.

“[Latinx Heritage Month] means recognition — even though sometimes I feel like we’re not truly recognized,” Abreu said. “There are a bunch of similarities [between Latinx countries], but at the same time, they all have their own little subsets of culture. We really need to also acknowledge each individual country as their own.”

At the kickoff, USC associate professor La Mikia Castillo said that the goal was to have “beautiful familial conversations” with the Latinx community.

“We’re not about individualism, we’re about community, we’re about family, la familia, la communidad,” said Castillo. “That’s what we want to emulate here despite the fact that we can’t be together in person because of this pandemic.”

Even amidst remote learning, Jasmine Martinez, a sophomore majoring in political science, said La CASA’s Latinx Heritage Month festivities help the vast Latinx community at USC to stay connected to their traditions and each other.

“I think in the U.S., it’s really easy to get drowned out and not have strong connections where I come from,” Martinez said. “So I think Latinx month is a great way for everyone to celebrate my culture and for everyone… to become familiar with my culture.”