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Hispanic Heritage Month event moves Latinx students to tears



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Trees surround the IU La Casa Latino Cultural Center on Sept. 29 across from Dunn Meadow. Anna Brown Buy Photos

Gathered in a circle and sitting on couches, cushioned chairs and bean bags, IU undergraduate and graduate students alike shared their personal experiences as members of the Latinx community.

This event, Nuestras Raíces, is hosted annually at La Casa Latino Culture Center in partnership with the Latino Graduate Student Association. Nuestras Raíces is held in commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Nuestras Raíces provides a safe space for students to share stories, poems, descriptions of objects and jokes that connect them to their roots. Attendees came from different areas in the Midwest, Texas, New York, California, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and eastern Europe.

LGSA executive board members Anna Acosta Russian and Yael Rosenstock both shared family narratives.

Acosta Russian explained the difficulty of loving a family member deeply while also recognizing the tension that complicates a linear story of familial love. She brought with her a wind-up toy box decorated with images of Winnie the Pooh given to her by her grandpa. Acosta Russian had filled it with artifacts from his work, her childhood and other small things he had given to her years ago.

Rosenstock, a person of Jewish and Puerto Rican descent, also explained her relationship to her large family that spans across Puerto Rico.

“The family is not about blood; the family is about love,” Rosenstock said. “My mother has probably about 80-100 first cousins.”

As the sun set, more stories were told. Each was followed by a request to pass along the tissue box.

Junior Wendy Ruíz was in the middle of explaining the story of how her parents met, but interrupted herself, too emotional to speak.

“This is a happy story,” Ruíz said. “I don’t know why I’m sad.” 

La Casa director Lillian Casillas remembers with admiration the story of her grandmother who lived in Mexico. Her grandmother, a woman of Catholic faith, would regularly bring homeless people to her house for the night.

“She was famous for helping people in her community,” Casillas said. “She brought them into her space and family.”

Casillas also says that this event, along with many others hosted by La Casa, helps to establish traditions among IU students, Latinx or not, that help to strengthen their identity and connection to other individuals on campus.

Freshman Sol Estrada also shared her stories and explained why attending events at La Casa like these are meaningful to her.

“It was exactly what I needed,” Estrada said. “It feels like going to my grandma’s house. It’s a home away from home.”

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