La Casa Cultural Latina to celebrate 35th anniversary

Since 1974, La Casa Cultural Latina, 1203 W. Nevada St., has been a haven for Latino students to come together to celebrate and educate others about their culture. Now, members of the campus Latino community are looking to celebrate the past 35 years, as well as start planning for the years to come.

“We don’t want the whole 35th anniversary to be looking back,” said Adele Lozano, assistant dean and director of La Casa. “We really want it to be also looking to the future.”

While La Casa will be hosting anniversary events throughout the 2009-2010 school year, the week of Sept. 21 will mark the celebration’s kickoff. The week’s events will include a Latino Registered Student Organization showcase, an alumni reunion and networking opportunity, and a re-dedication ceremony. A full list of events can be found on La Casa’s Web site.

“We want this to be an opportunity for Latino RSOs to show what their influence has been on this campus,” Lozano said. “If it weren’t for students, it would have been very difficult, especially in the early years to keep La Casa going. Students are the ones who really make this place thrive.”

Lozano added that the Latino student population has grown considerably throughout La Casa’s time on campus, although it is still a small part of the University community at 6 percent.

Judith Martinez, assistant director of the Career Center and former director of La Casa from 1986 to 1991, said the increase in Latino student population over the past 35 years has brought not only awareness to the non-Latino population, but also a greater awareness among the Latino population about different subcultures.

“The number of students from different Latin American countries has increased and that really has given a different flavor to the campus as well as to the Latino community,” Martinez said. “I have seen that growth, and I feel good that I’m part of that.”

The increase in Latino students at the University, and the diversity of Latino countries represented is something that Alicia Rodriguez, associate director of the Latina/Latino studies program and member of the anniversary planning committee, said she hopes will draw alumni to the celebration.

“I hope the alumni who come back for the celebration will see how the University has grown in regard to Latino students and see how they can be supports in terms of mentoring Latino students in careers,” Rodriguez said.

Alumni visiting for the celebration Sept. 25-27 as part of the Alumni Reunion Weekend will have the opportunity to meet current students and re-commit to the mission of La Casa through a re-dedication ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 26, Lozano said.

Another mission of the anniversary is to raise awareness of La Casa’s community outreach efforts, and events during the kickoff week will inform people how to get involved in these efforts.

“Community outreach is a big part of our mission at La Casa,” Lozano said. “La Casa has to be at the forefront of reaching out to Latino youth to encourage them and work with them in pursuing higher education.”

Although the 35th anniversary festivities will highlight the achievements of La Casa on campus and off, Lozano said the tradition will continue, and she hopes La Casa can gain an even greater presence at the University beyond the celebration. Rodriguez shared in that sentiment.

“For many Latino students, La Casa provides this haven for them in a place that oftentimes they might not feel comfortable in,” Rodriguez said. “It feels like a home, it is a home.”