A ceremony celebrating graduating Latinx students and their families that has become tradition at many universities across the country has reached Utah State.
The Latinx Graduation Ceremony was hosted by USU’s Latinx Cultural Center for the first time on Thursday. The graduates were given a stole, a sash worn over the robe representing a traditional sarape to recognize and celebrate the graduates’ Latinx identity.
“This stole announces to all who see it that you come from and represent the Latinx community,” Latinx Cultural Center Director Christopher Gonzalez said. “Graduates are asked to keep their stoles as a treasured memento that reminds them of how their amazing achievement is forever tethered to their cultural heritage.”
The ceremony was a bilingual event in which the graduates could address their friends and family in English or Spanish, something some students said they were grateful for.
“It is in Spanish and English, so I thought it’d be more intimate,” USU graduate Luna Castillo said. “I am very culturally connected to my Latin roots, so I really, really appreciate this.”
Many of the graduates expressed their gratitude for their families, friends and individuals who believed in, supported and pushed them to graduate from USU.
Some graduates shared the difficulties that they went through and how they overcame those challenges.
According to Gonzalez, many students have said they have felt invisible or “culturally erased” while at USU because they were the only Latinx student in a class or in some cases the only Latinx student in a major.
“When you’re used to hearing the sounds of a Spanish-speaking home, used to smelling the aroma of a home-cooked meal and used to meeting with friends who share the same cultural traditions and idiosyncrasies, you’re devastated when you realize that these things are now absent in your university life,” Gonzalez said. “It exacerbates an already stressful college experience.”
Another difficulty some graduates pointed out was the struggle they faced when trying to embrace their Latinx identity because they don’t have the traditional look or Spanish names.
Since the creation of the center, he said, they have worked to create events and opportunities to make the Latinx community “more visible” not only at USU but in Cache Valley as well.
Latinx Cultural Center Coordinator of Programs Pamela Allcott said the center tries to make Latinx students feel welcomed.
“Here at the Cultural Center, what we have been trying to do is for you to feel that warmth of home and that you can feel at home,” Allcott said.
Nahomi Jimenez, one of the USU graduates, said the love and support of many people gave her and her sisters the determination to attend college and graduate.
“It was here that I learned my virtues as a leader, as an advocate, as a learner, as a mentor or friend,” Jimenez said.
Since the ceremony was the first of its kind at USU, Gonzalez said it was a historic event but a bit regretful the campus waited until 2019.
“While we recognize the weight of history at our event today, we also want to honor history by publicly acknowledging those Latinx graduates that came before and didn’t have the opportunity to be recognized in this way in their own time,” Gonzalez said.