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‘Being Latinx in the U.S. means perseverance’

As National Latinx Heritage Month wraps up, it’s important to recognize the culture Latinx students bring throughout Colorado State University.

Among the many places within the Student Diversity Programs and Services on campus is a center for Latinx students to feel welcomed and appreciated. That place is El Centro.

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Located in the Lory Student Center, El Centro is a place filled with welcoming faces and resources. By providing a sense of community to Latinx students, it is considered by many as a home away from home. 

“El Centro has given me a space to go to; it’s like a little home where I can study and hang out and talk to other students,” said CSU junior Marcos Caballero. “There are days where I do want to study, but I don’t want to be isolated or be by myself, so El Centro just gives that space where I get to socially interact with students while doing homework. It’s a good vibe in here.”

Coming to El Centro gives me that feeling of home.” -CSU junior Marcos Caballero.

Caballero said that having a safe space like El Centro helps him feel included and at home with people from similar backgrounds, which is why he felt drawn in to El Centro.

“I think one of the biggest reasons, you know CSU being a predominantly white institution, (is that) people walk around the campus, and you don’t see many people that look like you,” Caballero said. “It is a little difficult because I did come from the Denver area, where it is very diverse. We have a lot of Latinx people, a lot of different communities there, and I like seeing that, … and in CSU, you don’t really get to see that, so coming to El Centro … gives me that feeling of home.”

an entrance to an office
The El Centro Office in the Lory Student Center on Sept. 16. (Ryan Schmidt | Collegian)

In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, Caballero explained what being from Hispanic heritage means to him.

“Being Latinx in the United States means perseverance,” Caballero said. “We’re still thriving. We’re still here in college. We’re still building careers and moving up in the world.” 

One of the many goals of El Centro, along with SDPS offices as a whole, is to welcome students who are struggling to find a place where they belong with open arms. 

“I think more students should definitely come to El Centro because it’s really a good environment,” Caballero said. “Also, it’s a good place to make new friends, meet new people (and) get involved, and it’s a good place to study and hang out.” 

More information on El Centro, as well as upcoming events, can be found on their website

Having a student diversity space like El Centro is important for many of CSU’s Latinx students. Besides being a place to study, El Centro encourages students to relax, gain some energy before class and be stress-free. Dylan Nanez-Pedroncelli, another proud member of El Centro, said he was looking for a place with inclusivity, which is why he was so drawn to the organization.

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“El Centro has helped with being a place that gives us an opportunity to help each other with homework (and) relax when things are getting stressful,” Nanez-Pedroncelli said. “(We are) able to connect with others and become a family, which has helped a lot.”  

Student and front desk staff for El Centro Brenda Castaneda said people who come in get to meet new people and have a safe spot to study. She said her favorite part of being in El Centro so far has been the fun events, such as the Welcome Back Barbecue.

Castaneda recommends students to come into El Centro with a friend to ease the nervousness of coming into a new space. 

“Bring a friend,” Castaneda said. “I think it’s kind of hard to come in alone. You can open up in your own way here.”  

(We are) able to connect with others and become a family, which has helped a lot.” -Dylan Nanez-Pedroncelli, member of El Centro

Though some may feel more comfortable bringing a familiar face, it doesn’t take long for people to find their niche in El Centro. This is thanks to all the people involved who make it as friendly as possible. 

“Finding your own comfort zone is important: Don’t be afraid to come in here and just find a spot and interact with people,” said Ivette Jimenez, another student at El Centro. “Once you keep coming more and more, you get familiar with faces.”

Cristal Dominguez-Vasquez, a transfer student at CSU, was struggling to find a job and felt she wasn’t supported until she came to El Centro and found a community within. 

“They were able to not only support me by giving me a job here, but (they) also provided me with different resources that have contributed to my academic success,” Dominguez-Vasquez said. “I feel extremely fortunate and appreciative for the opportunities I get to do, like one of them being able to study abroad in the winter. I’m so grateful for those opportunities.” 

Dominguez-Vasquez also said the director of El Centro, Guadalupe Salazar, helped her a lot during her early time at CSU. 

“(Salazar) has connected me to different resources,” Dominguez-Vasquez said. “I wouldn’t have these benefits had I not come to El Centro and talk(ed) about things I need help in. If I hadn’t asked for help when I first came here, I wouldn’t be at where I am now. I wouldn’t have received the help, the financial aid, the opportunities, the friendships, if I hadn’t said hello to someone here.” 

We never discriminate against anybody. … Anyone is welcome here.”-Cristal Dominguez-Vasquez, transfer student and employee at El Centro.

Dominguez-Vasquez is now trying to support students as much as she was supported when she needed it. 

“Now I get to pay it forward,” Dominguez-Vasquez said. “I get to mentor a lot of the other students: just people who I can help, I am there. It’s really cool.”

Dominguez-Vasquez mentioned that some students may feel overwhelmed coming to El Centro because of the busy environment. 

“We never discriminate against anybody,” Dominguez-Vasquez said. “Anyone is welcome here, even those who specifically don’t identify as Latinx.” 

While El Centro promotes community all year round, they also host events and celebrations for Latinx Heritage Month, which runs from mid-September to mid-October. This year’s festivities were kicked off with Mariachi on The Plaza, which, according to student Miguel Valles, was a great way to start the celebration of Latinx Heritage Month. 

“For Latinx Heritage Month, I’ve just been here in El Centro surrounded by people within my own culture,” Valles said. 

Emily Pisqui can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or via Twitter @emilypisq15.

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