Honoring UAA’s diverse communities kicks off with Latinx Heritage Month

by Catalina Myers  |   

This year's Latinx Heritage Month celebration is a mix of in-person and virtual events. (Graphic by Brett Rewalt / University of Alaska Anchorage)

 With fall semester in full swing, it’s time to start celebrating! From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, UAA is honoring the diverse culture, people and places of Latin America with Latinx Heritage Month. latinxheritagemonthposter21

This year’s event is a mix of in-person and virtual events, kicking off with a takeover of Student Life and Leadership’s Instagram page, followed by educational opportunities and lectures, trivia, a screening and discussion of In the Heights, and of course, food.

The event is being organized by the YouAA Committee, headed by Cuckoo Gupta, student activities civic engagement and diversity coordinator in UAA’s Student Life and Leadership Office.

Fairly new to Alaska and UAA, Gupta said the YouAA Committee is also a relatively new university organization that focuses on the history and heritage months; the university celebrates each year, invites the campus community together to offer unique perspectives on how to honor a group’s heritage and culture during their respective celebration months.

“The idea is that YouAA is a one-stop-shop for our faculty, staff and students to come together and celebrate the you in UAA,” said Gupta. “And to include the unique perspective that our campus community members bring as a part of their identity, cultural heritage and how we can celebrate that uniqueness through our programming.”

In addition to harnessing the power of the community to plan programming for this event and following heritage months this fall and winter, the committee also re-considered last year’s name of Hispanic Heritage Month and opted for the more inclusive Latinx Heritage Month. Gupta said the committee felt Latinx covered the broader Latino identifying community, including LGBTQ2+ and the Indigenous peoples of Latin America.

“We did a lot of research on what other universities in the Lower 48 are doing,” said Gupta of the name change. Additionally, the YouAA Committee also reached out to the Latinx Anchorage community to get their input on the name change. “We also did this last year with Women’s History Month, with the added ‘X’ in women — our goal at the end of the day is to be equitable and inclusive.”

Jennifer Booz, UAA’s chief diversity officer, said this has been an important topic recently. In addition to her participation on the committee, she is creating educational materials to inspire critical discussions on terminology shifts that the Hispanic and Latino communities are currently facing.

“We will be having discussions at some of these dialogue events, what the trend is and why some groups in the community are claiming some terms and others are claiming something different,” said Booz. “There are difficult conversations to have, and we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable sometimes. But it’s a learning process and experience for students and all of us.”

In addition to lectures and critical dialogue discussions, there are also more lighthearted events for students, staff and faculty to enjoy, like a trivia night, an opportunity for students to win a free meal from local restaurant Xalos and an artist lecture and workshop with George Rodriguez. 

Gupta said she is excited about the upcoming event and is looking forward to a mix of both in-person and online events. She said if there are any students, faculty or staff interested in helping to plan subsequent events, that the YouAA Committee is welcoming new members. She said members can be involved with as much or as little planning as they want or only volunteer for a particular month or event.

“Something that I really like about the committee is that it’s intentional,” said Gupta. “We celebrate our community's diversity, heritage and cultural identities, but the YouAA Committee makes it more intentional.”

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