WKU students talk about what Hispanic heritage means to them

Published: Sep. 20, 2020 at 11:20 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Hispanic Heritage Month began September 15th and continues until October 15th. Western Kentucky University Students and Faculty, who identify as Hispanic, have reasons why this month is so special to them.

“There’s beauty in learning from other cultures and there’s beauty in coming together in celebration," says Julia Rivas, a recruitment coordinator at WKU and Zumba instructor who uses her time to uplift the Hispanic culture. “It is important to know the reasons why we immigrate and why we take the risk that we take to come to another country.”

Julia and her husband dance for a Zumba night.
Julia and her husband dance for a Zumba night.(None)

Coming to a new country is no easy feat, as WKU student David Trejo-Mendoza knows. He moved to the United States from Mexico City and had to adjust to a new life at a young age.

“I remember my mom telling me I would cry and run towards her because I couldn’t understand any of the other kids, but after a few months, I picked up English pretty fast and all my teachers were actually grateful because I would translate for other kids that didn’t know English well enough," David recalls.

There are many WKU students with similar stories to David’s.

According to WKU’s 2019 factbook, there were 729 Hispanic identifying students, totaling 4.1% of undergrad and 3.1% of graduate students. In all, Hispanics are the third largest ethnic population on campus.

“You come from a place where brown skin is such a natural thing and speaking Spanish—it’s like you’re living in Little Mexico. So when you come from a place to where it’s such a small population of your ethnicity, it’s just kind of hard," explains Ariana Martinez, a transfer student who moved from California to Kentucky.

Now that she is in an area with a far smaller Hispanic population, Hispanic heritage month means that much more to her.

“Being surrounded by Hispanics will never be boring. No one’s ever going to judge you in a Hispanic household. We’re going to embrace you with love. We’ll embrace anyone," she says.

Ariana has become involved with Hispanic-oriented events and groups, such as HOLAS (Hilltopper Organization for Latin American Students).

For more on Hispanic Heritage events at WKU, you can visit the university’s International Student Engagement Center website.

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