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Welcome to La Familia: Latine Fest Kicks Off Rutgers—New Brunswick’s Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month 

Colorful mural on the Center for Latino Arts and Culture
The side entrance to the Center for Latino Arts and Culture, which will host Welcome to La Familia: Latine Fest

Friday, September 15 marked the official beginning of National Hispanic/Latine Heritage Month. At Rutgers—New Brunswick, in the Division of Student Affairs, the Center for Latino Arts and Culture (CLAC) and the Latino Student Council (LSC) are partnering to kick off their celebration with an upcoming event, Welcome to La Familia: Latine Fest, which will take place at the CLAC on Friday, September 22 from 1-9 P.M. 

“Welcome to La Familia is an event that we’ve been doing for a number of years,” said Carlos Fernandez, the director of the CLAC. “This event is an opportunity to welcome new and returning students to our campus, to make sure that they know where and who we are, and that we have a thriving Latine community on-campus.”

The CLAC, one of four identity-based culture centers on campus, advises almost forty student organizations and supports over 7300 Latine students on the New Brunswick campus. In that context, one of the most important parts of Welcome to La Familia is that it will introduce students to, in Fernandez’s words, “the CLAC as a hub where they can meet each other and connect with resources on-campus, from CAPS to Career Exploration and Success to much more.”

The Latino Student Council, a representative body of Latine organizations with Rutgers University that engages and advocates for marginalized communities at Rutgers, is co-planning the Welcome to La Familia: Latine Fest event with the CLAC. For the LSC, like the CLAC, the community and advocacy aspect of Welcome to La Familia is crucial.

“The main reason for this event—and our student organization— is that we suffer from disparities in access to resources,” said Crystal Vasquez, a senior majoring in public health and serving as a co-chair of the LSC. “As a marginalized organization, the advocacy we do for our community is necessary because of the societal, economic, and institutional barriers that we face.”

“To that end, we want students to know that we have these resources at Rutgers,” said Crystal Vasquez, a senior majoring in public health and serving as a co-chair of the LSC. “A lot of students don’t know that the CLAC exists, and they don’t know that Latine student organizations exist. We want people to know that we are here for them.”

The event itself will include a resource fair on College Avenue with Latine student organizations, University departments, and community partners. The band La Cumbiamba eNeYé and DJ Bembona will perform. Craft activities will include canvas painting and papel picado, and three food vendors will be on-site with Venezuelan, Mexican, and Dominican food.   

In short, beyond exposing students to the resources available to them at Rutgers, there will be something there for everyone.  

“This idea is for everyone to get a little piece of la cultura,” said Des Walker, a junior studying journalism and media studies and serving with Vasquez as a co-chair of the LSC. “There’s going to be a pińata and dominoes and student performers, not just professional ones, showing their talents across different genres. The point of National Latine Heritage Month is to celebrate and embrace our Latine identities, and we want everyone, from all backgrounds, to come out and share this moment with each other. 

“So many student organizations are working so hard to help out, and I think that this is one of those events where people will be really excited to come out and just be themselves,” Walker continued. “And just be, right?” 

The CLAC will have events in September and October, as will the LSC and other associated Latine student organizations. What they hope, though, is for this event to solidify their presence in the minds of attending students—and for those students to continue attending events, using resources, and creating community. 

“We’re here year-round,” Fernandez said. “We don’t just pop up on Hispanic Heritage month; we do programming throughout the entire year. I encourage students to check out our social media pages, join our listserv, and participate in our activities and events. Our ultimate goal is to help them feel at home, feel connected, and succeed.” 

For their own part, Walker echoed Fernandez. “We not only embrace and support our Latine community, but all marginalized students. Come to the LSC table at ‘Latine Fest’ to learn how to create change, expand access, and spread acceptance with the Council.”

Click here to see the Instagram account for the Center for Latino Arts and Culture. Click here to see the Instagram for the Latino Student Council. Click here to see a full list of Latine student organizations at Rutgers—New Brunswick.

Click here to check out the story from Rutgers Today on the CLAC’s 30th year anniversary last year.