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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Casa Latina Executive Board creates a vibrant keystone for students

Colin Tsuboi
Casa Latina member Elianny In the Casa Latina Suite. Photo by Colin Tsuboi/ Mass Media Staff.

Even though it was 4:30 in the afternoon on a Wednesday and only a few students were in sight, the third floor of the Integrated Science Complex boomed with music. Inside the source of the noise, Room 3300, over 40 students laughed and chatted as they waited for the event to start.

“The music summoned me,” some joked.

It was the first general body meeting for Casa Latina, the cultural center dedicated to honoring Hispanic and Latino heritage.

Community Leader Elianny Lopez stood at the front, alongside the center’s executive board, who have naturally become her friends. During the meeting, they introduced themselves and peeked at the events taking place the following week.

Mi Bandera Week kickstarted last Monday with Café con Ciancia, a conversation with Dr. Samantha Erskine. Dr. Erskine is a professor in the School of Management, who also does research on organizational structures. During the talk she explained how to deal with instances of conflict. She noted the best approach is pointing out the issue as soon as possible and referring to people by their first name. This event was a partnership with the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, of which Lopez is also the leading figure.

On Tuesday, the celebration continued with more collaborations. At 11 a.m. on the Second Floor Terrace of the Campus Center, an art exhibition showcased art made by Latinos like Professor Gonzalo Bacigalupe, from the school of Counseling & School Psychology, and passionate middle school members of the Talented and Gifted Latino Program and Project ALERTA. Later that day, in partnership with the National Autonomous University of Mexico, a workshop on the art of Chaquira, a traditional craft of the Huichol tribe of Mexico, was held.

On Thursday, they sounded off with a karaoke night called “Rep your flag.” Students enjoyed some classic songs and chanted together the familiar lyrics while honoring their countries of origin with flags provided by the center. The week culminated on Friday in a second partnership with UNAM, this time based on food. The event showcased authentic tacos and attendees were enlightened on the history of the food, even getting invited to try lime crickets, known as “chapulines.”

After the busy week of events, Lopez sat down to talk about Casa Latina and her experience so far at the university. She reflected on the demands of the week and the journey that led her to be the Community Leader.

“I see so much potential within Casa that it becomes very easy,” Lopez said. She has been involved with Casa Latina since November of 2021, first as a member and later as the head event planner. During that time, she grew familiar with the members and saw what events resonated with students. When the leadership position opened during the summer, she felt she could take on the responsibility. Her past experiences equipped her with the knowledge and fueled her with the passion to make the center a vibrant keystone on campus.

Casa Latina began the school year in full force, mainly because of Lopez’s clear understanding of the importance and influence of the center.

“We are the Hispanic and Latino Center for all students of UMass Boston. Sometimes students can’t grasp the fact that we are a cultural center, not just a club—not to undermine any other clubs—but just to note the fact that we host a lot more students,” she said.

Casa Latina, first established in 1989, stands in a long history of leaders. Joel Mora is a UMass Boston alum from the class of 2000 and served as Community Leader for Casa Latina from 1997 to 1999. His appointment to the role was critical.

“At the time, Casa Latina was on the verge of being shut down,” Mora said. “After talking with other members, we decided I would assume the Community Leader position and roll out an Advisory Board that helped design the future of [the center]. We were able to save Casa Latina from being shut down and became one of the most active student centers on campus.”

During Mora’s time leading the cultural center, he welcomed the iconic Bachata group, Aventura, to campus. Today, he is still a part of UMass Boston as a member of the faculty, working as the assistant director of the Student Success Scholars Program. It came full circle when he became Lopez’s academic advisor.

“I am very excited for Casa Latina this year and especially for Elianny’s growth as a leader on campus! I’m so proud of her!” he said.

For Lopez, receiving Mora’s guidance was exhilarating. “It started adding a little bit of fuel to that fire, you know?” she noted. Lopez highlights that, like her with Mora, Casa Latina is a place for all members to find the right connections. “I want them to see the center as a resource hub, where [they] can connect with alumni and faculty members that are able to propel them in the right direction.”

In her new role as the leader of Casa Latina, she understands that the best way to make the programs she wants to create is by delegating. In the past, she used to take on a lot of things. Now, she leans on her executive board and they, in turn, ensure they are doing only what pertains to their obligation on time.

Early on, she knew the harbor campus would be her next home. As a child, her brother was part of the TAG | ALERTA summer program. TAG | ALERTA focuses on making “Latino and English Language Learners excel academically, socially and personally,” (1) while taking advantage of the facilities of the UMass Boston campus. The program members were invited to the yearly celebration “Un pueblo Unido” and Lopez came with her brother. “I walked into the Campus Center, and I was like ‘I want to go here.’ Casa Latina was also there; they were a big part of UMass Boston. You would see the unity that they had; the smiles on their faces,” she remembered fondly. Her mission now is creating a similar environment that suits the present moment.

“What I am trying to create with my e-board is that unity and community,” Lopez said. She encourages students, especially those looking for others like them on campus, to come to the suite located in the Student Organization space, Room 3100 in Campus Center. Similarly, attend events and stay up to date by following them on Instagram @casalatinaumb.

“My main goal is engagement; I want students to first know what Casa is and be able to find what Casa means to them. Because I feel once you know what Casa means to you, and what it means to be Latino, then you are able to fully immerse yourself within our center,” Lopez said.

For all students interested in getting involved with Casa Latina visit the suite, especially during Monday and Wednesday mornings where Lopez holds office hours. Similarly, feel free to attend the next general body meeting, Oct. 11 from 4 to 5 p.m.

About the Contributor
Colin Tsuboi, Photographer