USC kicks off Latinx/e Heritage Month with ‘Unidad, ProSperidad, Y Cultura’ event

The celebration was held at Tommy’s Place, and marks the first of 12 planned USC events for Latinx/e month.

A photo of the La Casa student union suite with flags of Spanish-speaking countries and a sign that says "You Belong at USC."

The USC community shared cultural cuisine and Latinx/e student stories on Friday afternoon during USC’s “Unidad, ProSperidad, y Cultura” Latinx/e Heritage Month Kickoff event.

More than 175 people came together at Tommy’s Place to enjoy Mexican and Salvadoran food and spirited speeches given by students, faculty, staff and alumni.

The 2023 celebration is the first of its kind to go by the title “Latinx/e” as opposed to “Latinx” or “Latino.” The change follows USC’s Latine Student Assembly’s decision to stop using Latinx to bring more inclusion for native Spanish speakers.

Alina Mercado, a volunteer at the kickoff event and member of the Latine Student Assembly, praised the change.

“Even within communities, typically you don’t feel comfortable saying Latinx. They’re all moves towards greater inclusivity for all speakers,” said Mercado, a senior studying health promotion and disease prevention.

Many departments and organizations united to celebrate the kickoff event, including the sponsor of the event USC Bovard College, the Latino Alumni Association, the Student Equity and Inclusion Program and La CASA, a resource center that encourages cultural awareness, leadership development and student wellbeing of the Latinx/e community on campus.

“Events like this help people who are Latinx/e really know that they can be themselves culturally and they’ll be welcome here. And that will allow them to have the most success possible in their academic ventures,” said Christopher Manning, VP and chief inclusion and diversity officer of  USC’s Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion department.

“It’s really important to be able to have pride in who you are,” he said. “It allows you to walk into a room and be yourself and not have to look at others and sort of question yourself.”

Senior Karla Padilla Leon expressed her appreciation for events that celebrate the Latinx/e community.

“Because of my background I feel very connected to my culture and I love to see celebrations like these that honor our beautiful heritage,” said Leon, who is studying health promotion and disease prevention.

As a part of Latinx/e Heritage Month, a series of at least 12 events has been planned on campus. These will include lectures, meet and greets and a celebration of the anniversary of hip hop. All events center around the month’s theme of “Unidad, ProSperidad, y Cultura,” which translates to unity, prosperity and culture.

Mercy Willard, executive director of the Latino Alumni Association, said she appreciates the festivities, but that Latinx/e individuals shouldn’t be limited to a month to celebrate their heritage.

“I like this month because it’s an opportunity to highlight the legacy of Latinos and our culture. I think it’s also an opportunity for us to bring awareness that it should be year round,” she said.  “Not just this month but to come together, to be together, celebrate the richness and diversity and talk about all the things that make us Latino.”

The celebratory month will be capped off on Oct. 11 with a closing celebration. All events can be found on the USC event calendar.