Latinx Students organizations reflect on campus representation
Hispanics are the highest population on campus, yet feel they aren’t represented enough
February 15, 2023
There are 281 organizations listed on SF State’s GatorXperience website, and only 16 of them are Latin-based.
According to CollegeFactual, 35% of SF State’s population is Hispanic, making them the majority ethnicity on campus while still feeling like a minority.
“This semester in particular, we are tabling and reaching out and I haven’t seen too many Latinos,” said Diego Ramirez, president of Nu Alpha Kappa Fraternity. “I like to observe a lot, especially on the people who walk around because we want to find prospective members. It’s hard I’m not going to lie, it’s really hard to find a Latino. It’s crazy when you do find them because they stand out a lot.”
Nu Alpha Kappa currently has five active members, including Ramirez.
“Even though we don’t have the numbers we do have the quality,” Ramirez said, “some organizations may have 20 or 30 people active, but we are more than capable of doing the work that those people do.”
Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity has also struggled to recruit members. The fraternity currently stands with one member, Jesse Avendano, since most members graduated during COVID.
“Here, on-campus representation is deteriorating ever since COVID hit,” Avendano said. “A student looking to find generalization and Latino council backgrounds is a little difficult at times, but it’s definitely there.”
Nu Alpha Kappa went from 19 members to only one. Jesse Avendano expresses how joining the fraternity helped him feel more at home, creating a support system for him.
“I’m still out here even though it’s only me,” Avendano said. “I hope that I can keep this support system going even though I’m going to be graduating and have more brothers here to provide support to others.”
With the fall out of members and struggling to gain more, organizations have been inactive, like La Raza, leaving less places for Latin students to join.
“I do feel unrepresented, but I guess it also depends on what classes you’re taking,” said Ana Paula Medellin Guerrero, Alpha Pi Sigma Sorority’s sergeant-at-arms. “In my chemistry class there are maybe five Latin students out of 100. So that’s why I am doing it –– so they can see themselves represented in those fields.”
Not seeing others who are part of the Latin community led her to join her sorority.
“I had to build my own community. There have been times where I need to express myself in my own language and I can’t,” Guerrero said. “When we come together for our meetings, I don’t have to try to find the words in English to try to have someone understand what I’m feeling or going through. Without this org I would have felt really lost, I’m really grateful.”
Amaryrani Villegas-Parra had the same feeling of isolation when transferring, until she started Latinas in STEM.
“When I first proposed this organization, I had hesitations. They told me we already had the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics/and Native Americans in Science or women in science and engineering,” Villegas-Parra said. “I’m not going to lie, I got discouraged, but my mindset was more like there isn’t a word Latinas in STEM. There’s women in STEM, but not Latinas. Just being able to see that you feel represented.”
The Latin fraternities and sororities on campus noticed the disconnect between Latin-based organizations and decided to change things.
“We are currently trying to plan an event in the next upcoming month where we are going to reach out to the Latino organizations that are out here to try to promote them to people just because they are hidden,” said Yamile Palomares-Villalobos, president of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority. “We are not just trying to promote Greek life but other organizations.”
Hermanas Unidas, an organization that seeks to empower Latinx higher education, says they are aware that not many people know of their existence.
“Not a lot of people know about us and we are trying to establish ourselves again,” said Lizeth Martinez Pedroza, co-chair of Hermanas Unidas. “We try to make a lot of events where people can see themselves represented, like today we are selling conchas.”
Bringing traditional sweets and meals is a tactic that Sigma Omega Nu Latina International Sorority uses to represent Latinos on campus.
“We have done an event called Pass the plate, where we make dishes from our cultures,” said Jahnet Ontiveros, president of Sigma Omega Nu Latina Interest Sorority. “I’m Puerto Rican, so I make a meal and introduce it to them and share how I’ve been taught how to make the dish by my grandma. We have always had it every year and it helps us stand tall as Latins.”
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán recently changed their name to Movimiento Estudiantil para Liberación de las Américas last semester to represent a larger group of Latins.
“We decided to change it to MELA to be more inclusive because our body isn’t strictly Chicanx and we work with a lot of Central American people,” said Dulce Ramos Gomez, vice president of MELA. “I found my one space and know where to take up space. I want the same for every other Latin, take up space, it’s there.”
Latin-based organizations have taken it upon themselves to support and bring acknowledgment to the resources that SF State has to bring due to the low exposure they have.
“We try our best to bring awareness to any issues or resources related to the Latinx community and try to give a voice to the Latinx/Hispanic community,” said Melissa Acevedo, president of Alpha Pi Sigma Sorority.
“Being a first generation Latinx woman on campus, I felt alone and not many people would understand where I could be coming from or how I was trying to navigate through everything. Students should not feel that way, and it just feels as if these college institutions are not meant for our Latinx/Hispanic communities and others as well.”
None of the Latin-based organizations are exclusive, but open to all ethnicities and backgrounds. For instance, Destino Movement welcomes everyone, whether they are religious or not.
“The goal is to be in a community together as we navigate college,” said Gabrielle Trejo, president of Destine Movement. “It was not until coming across the term liminality in one of my communication classes that describes the ‘in between, betwixt state of being in two or more cultures’ that captures the feeling of being ‘ni de aqui ni de alla’ relating to my cultural identity being Latin American. Though sometimes I may not find a place I belong, I continue to learn to take courage and make a space for myself and others.”
The Latino/a/x Film Club brings the Latin culture to SF State by creating events where Latins could feel more at home.
“Dia de los Muertos and Banda Nite are events we have done to bring the culture to campus. We are trying to expand on more,” said Alan Gomez, president of the Latino/a/x Film Club. “The representation is really poor. A lot of people come in and ask us where the cultural events are at because they are trying to find their identity. Now that we have the Latinx Student Center, I think it’s helping a little bit but before that I was really lost. When the club started, I thought it was a good way to find my own identity.”
The Latino/a/x Film Club is now currently working on a new event, Noches Tropicales collaborating with the Afro-Latiné Club.
“It’s going to be reaching out more to the Central American, South American and Afro-Latinés,” Gomez said. “I’m trying to get more representation on campus and create a big impact along with leaving my stamp like that on the school.”
The Afro-Latiné Club’s goal is to spread awareness on how multiculturally diverse the Latinx culture is and the impact the African diaspora had on Latin culture.
“There have been a lot of changes within the Latin community that have opened a lot more doors for action and progress,” said Estrella Allen, co-founder and president of Afro-Latiné Club.
With all of these organizations pushing events, it’s a struggle to bring people together due to the fact that SF State is a commuter school.
“Sometimes it’s hard for people to do and meet together so it’s hard to get people involved, which is a struggle that I’ve seen since I’ve joined,” said Gabriella Gomez, president of Lambda Theta Nu Sorority and Latino Greek Council. “Others have had that struggle with people not knowing how to get involved again since COVID.”
Even though Latin students aren’t part of Latin-based organizations, they are still open to help and be a resource to them, as they all have the same goal.
“There is something about each organization that uplifts Latinos and was created because we felt like we don’t have a place on campus to prioritize the things that we need, along with uplifting each other,” Gomez said.