The Latino Studies department welcomed students back to classes Thursday with music, a churro bar and free T-shirts.
The annual celebration, known as ¡Bienvenida!, is meant to help students socialize and become part of an inviting community, said Mallory Laurel, director of communications and outreach for Latino Studies. Students were greeted at the Gordon-White Building by a big, red sign reading “¡Bienvenida!,” colorful streamers and tables with free Mexican food and candy.
“From the traditional music we play to the food and candy we have that feels like home, we want to establish a sense of community,” Laurel said, “This is also intended to be a social where students can be introduced to more Latino Studies events.”
Psychology senior Norma Perez-Duran said she started attending the event as a freshman because she is originally from Mexico and wanted to find herself in UT’s Mexican American community.
“I was looking for something that related to my culture, and I found this event that said ‘Bienvenidos,’ and it really changed my whole time at UT,” Perez-Duran said. “I was lost by the time I got here as a freshman, and I was scared because I couldn’t find my way. I was just trying new things, and everyone here was so welcoming and friendly.”
Physics freshman Ana Villeda said she came to the celebration hoping to learn more about her Hispanic heritage.
“When I lived in Houston, I could not find events like this, but it’s different here,” Villeda said. “My parents are from Mexico, so I just wanted to get closer to their culture. I also plan on attending more of these events throughout the year.”
Laurel said the three units of the Latino Studies department — the Center for Mexican American Studies, the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies and the Latino Research Institute — all come together to provide students with community engagement, scholarships and
“Latino Studies will always have more ways for students to get involved throughout the year,” Laurel said. “We really try to emphasize the point that this can be a second home for many Mexican American students. After this event is over, you’ll see students wearing the free T-shirts we gave away today around campus, and it brings us together in a way. This is a space where you don’t have to question if you belong or not.”