Una Familia De Fuerte: Unidos En Poder Club Celebrates Their Culture

Tomas Francisco-Pascual, Staff Reporter

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  • This year for Día de Los Muertos, the Unidos en Poder Club put up an altar at the front of the school.

  • This year for Día de Los Muertos, the Unidos en Poder Club put up an altar at the front of the school.

  • This year for Día de Los Muertos, the Unidos en Poder Club put up an altar at the front of the school.

  • This year for Día de Los Muertos, the Unidos en Poder Club put up an altar at the front of the school.

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Four years ago, the Unidos en Poder Club at La Salle was brought to life by former students Emily Harding and Tino Bojorquez-Quintero. Today, the club continues to provide a sense of community to those who are Latinx, embracing their culture through various celebrations of events like Hispanic Heritage Month, Día de Los Muertos, and others. 

For senior Abigail Ramirez, this community was found after transferring from Milwaukie High School her sophomore year. She had found it hard at La Salle to relate to those who weren’t of Latinx descent, and being in the club provided comfort through the members and a connection to her culture.

“I think it’s important to have at least some way to connect back to your culture,” she said. “I feel like that’s a lot of what Unidos is, at least for me. It’s a place that I can feel more comfortable in because I know the people there, and I know that they share some type of story along with mine.”

Even though they can’t be together on campus this year, Junior President of the club Natalie Calvillo-Ruelas continues to think of the club members not only as peers, but as relatives.

“It’s just like we’re cousins hanging out at a family party,” she said.

Calvillo-Ruelas first joined the club as a shy freshman, but slowly became more comfortable around the members due to their friendly and welcoming nature. 

“I was very quiet and very timid,” she said. “I think that the Unidos Club was just so welcoming because there’s not that very many Hispanic people and Latin people at La Salle.”

However, the club isn’t exclusive only to people of Hispanic and Latinx descent, it’s open to everyone in the La Salle community.

“Everybody is welcome in the club,” counselor and staff moderator of the club Ms. Maritza Mendez said. “So whether you are of Latinx heritage, or whether you are wanting to learn more about Latinx heritage, everyone’s welcome.”

One way the Unidos en Poder Club celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month this year was by having the Latinx Heritage Virtual Panel, organized by the Director of Service, Ms. Sarah Maher. This non-profit panel had a focus on migrant workers, and took place on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Speakers from the panel included Kat Kelly, Yadira Baltier-Moreno, Manjeet Kaur, Student Council, members from the Unidos Club, and Brother Nick Gonzalez, FSC.

“I think that the contributions of the Latinx community in this country are really great,” Ms. Mendez said. “And I think that the more we learn about that, the more appreciative we can be.”

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated on Sept. 15 and ends on Oct. 15. It was signed into office in 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The celebration used to last only two days, but was then expanded to 31 days by President Ronald Regan in 1988.

The month commemorates the culture and contributions of the Latinx and Hispanic community. 

“Any way that we can celebrate, any way that we can honor beyond just thinking one way [is important,]” Spanish I and II teacher Ms. Karen Kessler said.

In her years of teaching at La Salle, Ms. Kessler’s experience with students has highlighted the importance of learning about other cultures. “I was so appreciative of their openness to teach me,” she said. “Because I think that the worst thing to oppress people is ‘la ignorancia.’”

The club also celebrates a Posada held in December, which is open to everyone. In the past years, during the Posada, the group walks from classroom to classroom while singing in harmony, reenacting the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.

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  • “[The posada] last year was super pretty,” Abigail Ramirez said.

    Photo courtesy of Gili Dejesus

  • “[The posada] last year was super pretty,” Abigail Ramirez said.

    Photo courtesy of Gili Dejesus

  • “[The posada] last year was super pretty,” Abigail Ramirez said.

    Photo courtesy of Gili Dejesus

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However, due to the rise in cases of COVID-19 in Oregon, the club won’t be able to celebrate the Posada this year, but instead is looking at alternatives to keep the tradition alive, such as a potential fundraiser. 

While the club won’t be able to hold their usual Posada celebrations, they were able to celebrate Día de Los Muertos, a day to honor the dead. This year, they put up an altar at the front of the school, unlike last year, where it was located in the main hallway.

“We set up an altar at the front of the school,” Ramirez said. “Really to be able to share that altar with everybody because usually, it’s kind of, I mean not really hidden, but people don’t really look at it too much, so we really wanted to make sure it was seen.”

Prior to the pandemic, the club planned on having a “Latino Night.” 

“We were planning before the pandemic, we were planning Latino night,” said junior Victoria Roman. “Basically inviting other schools, and just a bunch of Latino[s], but we didn’t get the chance because of COVID-19.”

Amid the ongoing pandemic, the club is still coming up with ideas to encourage the celebration of their culture within the La Salle community.

“Although everything is online, we’re doing a lot more this year and we’re planning it much better,” Roman said.