By Christopher Hernandez
Palm Beach Atlantic University’s Spanish and Latin Student Association, or S.A.L.S.A., is starting the year off strong with Hispanic Heritage Month.
S.A.L.S.A. was founded seven years ago and has seen its share of ups and downs, said sophomore Jenny Bacallao, former vice president of the organization.
“When I was a senior in high school, the club was involved with the community and was so strong,” Bacallao said. “Last year, the club consisted of only three solid members, which included its officers.”
One of those officers — the president to be exact — transferred this year, leaving the future of the club up in the air.
Bacallao feels there is a lack of outlets for Hispanic students to feel at home with their culture.
Junior Brittany Henson, student assistant of international and multicultural programs, cites S.A.L.S.A. as a source for international students to get connected on campus.
Henson was given the task of rebuilding the organization while S.A.L.S.A. searched for a new president. With the addition of sophomore Tamara Artigas as the club’s leader, S.A.L.S.A. hopes to get its goals back on track.
According to the Department of International and Multicultural Affairs, there are 92 new daytime students of Hispanic descent at PBA.
R. Olga Rybalkina, director of International and Multicultural Affairs, hopes that students get a sense that they are in an atmosphere where their culture is embraced during this month’s activities.
“It helps the students to reach out to other cultures as well,” Rybalkina said. “Sometimes we postpone our cultural learnings for times we go overseas, like going on missions’ trips. Cultural experiences can happen right here.”
Another mission of Hispanic Heritage Month is connection.
“We want students to connect with each other, connect within their cultures and across cultures, and what I would like most for students, to get involved with student life,” Rybalkina said. “Get involved in student activities.”
S.A.L.S.A. Fest, the group’s main event during Hispanic Heritage Month, is another outlet for the group to gain recognition.
This year’s event featured salsa dancers and a buffet on the Rinker Green on Sept. 23.
Henson hopes that the month’s festivities create awareness of Hispanic culture and bridge the gap between international students and the United States.
Hispanic Heritage Month ends with a special week of Chapel led by Campus Pastor Bernie Cueto, a Cuban. To Rybalkina, the worship service is symbolic of the uniqueness of our cultures and the similarities of our images to God.
“It’s a time to take our eyes off our culture and leave them up to God,” Rybalkina said.