UNC Charlotte has had a lot of statistics to boast regarding the Latinx Student Body. As the No. 1 institution in North Carolina in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Latinx students, according to a recent analysis by Excelencia in Education, UNC Charlotte has become a place where the Latinx community presence is heard. Each year, UNC Charlotte’s Latinx population grows and the need to offer support and visibility also grows. For this reason, on December 4th, 2021, the first-ever Latinx Student Union Maravillas de Invierno Gala was implemented as a celebration of the Latinx population at UNC Charlotte.
The purpose of LXSU’s Maravillas de Invierno Gala was to address the need for support and celebration of people of Latinx backgrounds, as well as bridge the gap between the Latinx campus community and the larger Latinx Charlotte Community. The Gala increased visibility by highlighting and celebrating the achievements of individuals and providing an event in which students with similar backgrounds could meet one another. The Gala additionally raised funds for nonprofits to create new opportunities for members of the Latinx Student Union to volunteer and make a difference in their community. Each partnership created for the Gala addressed the needs of a nonprofit, targeted the Latinx population in Charlotte, and created a volunteer opportunity for members of the Latinx Student Union to engage in the community.
The Levine’s Scholars Program played a key role in helping make this event happen by sponsoring the event through the civic engagement grant. Together with the help of Levine Scholars (Carlos Chavez Ramirez ‘21, Brenda Morales ‘24, and Bryant De-Luna ‘24) and volunteers from the Latinx Student Union, a planning committee was formed and began planning for the event. Planning for the Gala was very similar to planning for a Quinceanera. From planning the colors of the tables and centerpieces to securing a venue and hiring a DJ to securing catering, all the details for the event were planned out by the planning committee. The event itself was a success with 200 people in attendance, and a celebration like no other. Attendees were able to enjoy a dance floor and music featuring Bachata, Cumbia, Salsa, Banda, and other Latinx and Hispanic Genres. Attendees also enjoyed a dinner featuring Salvadorian and Mexican cuisine. Salvadorian food was provided by Pupusas 503 and included pupusas, Salvadorian rice and beans, and different Salvadorian salsas. The Mexican cuisine was provided by Sergio’s Grill and included Carnitas, fajitas, Mexican Rice and Beans, frijoles charros, and cocktail de fruta. Apart from being a celebration, the Gala stayed true to its roots and recognized the achievements of the Latinx Student Body at UNC Charlotte. It served as a reminder and motivator for students to stay energized, strive for greatness, and “Ponte las Pillas, tu puedes” (Get it together, you can do it).
As it can be seen in the pictures, the event was a huge success and beyond the event will have a much larger impact. Thanks to ticket sales from the Gala, donations, the Levine Scholars Program, and partnerships with nonprofit partners Project Downtown, LAWA, and Comunidad Colectiva, the Latinx Student Union will be able to implement several outreach opportunities and engage with the Latinx Charlotte population. Through the partnership with Project Downtown, the Latinx Student Union will be able to implement a grocery distribution drive in the form of a “Carne Asada” event in a predominantly Latinx neighborhood and assist with the signups of native Spanish speaking volunteers. In the partnership with LAWA, a scholarship workshop will be created to educate high school students on opportunities available to them. Through the partnership with Comunidad Colectiva, an educational event will be created in which volunteers from the Latinx Student Union spread health information of the Covid 19 vaccinations, break down vaccination myths, and distribute information about legal rights, and resources that they can contact in case of an emergency to a largely undocumented population.
Although this was the first Latinx Gala, this will certainly not be the last. This Gala will serve as a precedent of what is to become an annual occurrence of supporting and celebrating Latinx students to further the sense of community within the Latinx Population at UNC Charlotte. This annual Gala will increase the visibility of the Latinx Student Body at UNC Charlotte and allow attendees to meet leaders across the larger Charlotte community. I am grateful to have helped bring the first-ever annual Latinx Student Union Gala to life at UNC Charlotte and I am eager to see what the future holds for the Latinx Population at UNC Charlotte.