Unidos club encourages unity
Sophomore communication disorders major and vice president of the Unidos Club, Elizabeth Martinez. |n celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Biola’s Unidos Club focuses on inclusion. | Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Martinez
For Latino Heritage Month, Biola’s Unidos club seeks to model God’s kingdom by promoting a campus atmosphere where differences are celebrated rather than downplayed. The club kicked off its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month with food, music and speakers in the library courtyard on Sept. 16. The event was not just for club members or students of Hispanic or Latin American descent, but rather the event was open to everyone.
“People were asking, ‘What is this? Is this only for Latinos?’ and we’re like, ‘No, everyone’s welcome,'" said Elizabeth Martinez, sophomore communication disorders major and vice president of the Unidos Club.
The club name, “unidos” is Spanish for “united,” because within the club there is unity among people of different backgrounds. In fact, the Unidos club is referring to the celebration as “Latino Heritage Month” because while “Hispanic” includes all Spanish-speaking people, “Latino” refers to people from Latin American countries who do not necessarily speak Spanish.
UNITING IN LEARNING
The club includes members from a variety of backgrounds, including students who identify as Mexican, Bolivian, Guatemalan, Salvadoran and more. There are also students in the club who do not identify as Latino or Hispanic.
Carla Veliz, senior intercultural studies major and Unidos Club president, has encountered some students who have questioned celebrating diversity in this way.
“Even talking with some students it might be like, ‘why are we celebrating that? This is dividing us. We’re a body of Christ,’” Veliz said.
However, for Veliz, this Latino Heritage Month is about unity.
“When I think about this month, this Latino Heritage Month, I think of it as an opportunity to unite us in learning from one another,” Veliz said.
In fact, Valiz sees celebrating differences as a way to fulfill the two greatest commandments — to love God and to love one another.
“When we do engage one another’s stories, and right now specifically when we engage in learning about Latino culture…we learn more about one another which allows us to learn how to love one another…[and] that ends up allowing us to learn a different aspect, I think, of who God is,” Veliz said.
Veliz said inclusion and diversity is essential, especially at a school like Biola.
“At a Christian college, we should celebrate diversity because there is diversity in the kingdom of God,” said Curiel.
CALLED TO REACH
As part of the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which started Sept. 15 and ends Oct. 15, Martinez was inspired by a USC video to do a photo campaign spotlighting Latin American students and their goals. The students were asked several questions about how their culture influences their career goals and their identity in Christ. The students then created signs and posed with them in pictures for the campaign. Martinez’s sign read, “Jesus made me fearlessly in His image. My dream is to serve others as a speech therapist.”
Nicole De La Riva, senior marketing management major and Unidos club member, hopes the celebration of Latinos and Hispanics will pave the way for the recognition of other minorities. Her sign read, “As a Latina, I can be creative in using business as ministry.”
Another club member, sophomore Christian ministries major Megan Collins’ sign was largely inspired by her involvement with California School Project. It read, “I am called to reach Hispanic students across the world.” Collins hopes the celebration will break down barriers between students and promote more inclusion when celebrating specific cultures.
“When we celebrate cultures, that it should not just be one culture, it’s just like in an art exhibit where you have a picture. Just because one picture is there, [it] does not detract from another picture,” Collins said. “So celebrating Latin American culture doesn’t mean we’re not celebrating African American culture or we’re not celebrating something else, it’s just showing a different perspective for celebrating a certain amount of time.”
Karol Curiel, sophomore psychology and Christian ministries major and Unidos club member, hopes celebrating Latino Heritage Month encouraged other minority groups on campus to celebrate their culture and promote a reciprocity of learning.
”I would want to learn about [students of other minorities] just as I would like them to learn about me as well,” Curiel said.
That is why Veliz and Martinez, as well as the members, welcome people of every ethnicity to the club.
“Sometimes people do feel that these clubs are just for people with an ethnicity,” Collins said. “We welcome any race.”
To wrap up the celebrations, the Unidos Club will be hosting Cocina Latina, a potluck, or "Latin Kitchen," featuring Latin American cuisine, is Spanish for “Latin Kitchen” or “Latin Cooking”. This event will be held Oct. 9 from 2-4 p.m. on Sycamore Lawn, between Talbot Chapel and the main entrance to campus. All are welcome to join.