“We’re Just Trying to Show We’re Here”: Members of the Unidos Club Reflect on Hispanic Heritage Month


Lukas Werner

Seniors Natalie Caldillo-Ruelas, Victoria Roman-Arrieta, and Jaqui Cacho Barrera reflected on what Hispanic Heritage Month meant to them.

Erin Moran, Staff Reporter

The 60.6 million Latinos in the United States make up the nation’s largest racial or ethnic group. 

To recognize this group, Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated nationally from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 in connection to the Independence Day celebrations of multiple Latin American nations. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan extended the celebration from one day to a full month.

The purpose of this month is to recognize the contribution of Hispanics in the United States and raise awareness of multicultural communities.

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Unidos Club at La Salle offered prayers in Spanish along with cultural insights to start the school day. 

As the year progresses, there will continue to be more events celebrating Hispanic Heritage planned by the members of the Unidos Club.

Latinos are people of diverse nationalities who over the past decade have played a major role in the U.S. population growth and account for 51% of the increase, according to the Pew Research Center.

The three Unidos Club leaders are seniors Natalie Caldillo-Ruelas, Victoria Roman-Arrieta, and Jaqui Cacho Barrera, who have all been members of the club since their freshman year. 

For Caldillo-Ruelas, this month is not only for Latinos, but it is for all of the La Salle community to learn. She also thinks Hispanic Heritage Month should not be limited to its official dates, but that we should celebrate and recognize everyone all year.

Currently at La Salle, there are not a lot of celebrations or events during Hispanic Heritage Month because, given that the month starts just a few weeks into the school year, the club has not had a lot of time to meet to plan activities and celebrations, Roman-Arrieta said. But as the year progresses, the club has plans to hold celebrations of Día de Los Muertos, Posada, and a Noche Latina. 

The first event planned to honor Hispanic heritage is on Oct. 27 in celebration of Día de Los Muertos. In the Innovation and Design Center, the Unidos Club will decorate sugar skulls while watching a movie and planning the community altar for display. “Anyone is welcome to put a family [member’s] picture that has passed” on the altar, said Cacho Barrera.

The Unidos Club will be decorating sugar skulls in celebration of Día de Los Muertos. (Lukas Werner)

In continuation of the celebration of Hispanic heritage all year, the club has begun plans for the Posada. The Posada has been a tradition at La Salle for a while now, and even occurred last year during the pandemic, in the form of a drive-through event. The leaders all hope the tradition will continue this year, in-person at La Salle. The Posada celebration takes about two to three months to prepare for, since club members make ornaments and other items to sell during the event to fund the purchase of the sashes they wear at graduation in honor of their participation. 

One of the Unidos Club’s biggest goals for the year is “to do a Noche Latina where it involves not just us” but other high schools in the area like Central Catholic, Rex Putnam, and Milwaukie, because there is such a big Hispanic community outside of La Salle as well, Caldillo-Ruelas said.

The Unidos Club had a surge of new members thanks to the club fair. Before this event “I think [students] just thought it was Latinos,” but anyone can sign up, Roman-Arrieta said. 

“It feels nice, you know, there’s people that want to join,” said Cacho Barrera.

The three senior leaders of Unidos want the La Salle community to know that Hispanic Heritage Month and all of the other celebrations the club will be hosting this year are for everyone.

Ms. Adriana Noesi, the new Director of Community at La Salle, is one of only three women on La Salle’s staff that is Latina. “I love to help out in the Unidos Club where I can,” said Ms. Noesi. 

“I’m really excited that we were able to integrate prayer this last 3 weeks to sort of acknowledge that Hispanic Heritage Month was happening,” said Ms. Noesi. She also “[loved] that we were able to pray in Spanish, over the speaker. I thought that was a really sweet touch,” she said.

In order to plan and celebrate events during Hispanic Heritage Month, Ms. Noesi hopes that next year, the club will be able to begin planning events before the end of the school year, so that “we have an idea of what we are going to do to celebrate, because Sept. 15 rolls around really quickly,” she said.

In addition to the inclusion of all-school prayer in Spanish, students may have noticed that Hispanic Heritage and Latiné Month has been referenced in announcements on Schoology and at La Salle. 

In the posts on Schoology, Ms. Noesi noted an important change in the way the announcements refer to people of Latin American Culture. The word “Latiné,” used in the announcements, serves as a gender-neutral option for individuals who don’t identify with “Latino” or “Latina.” 

“Latiné has a letter that can be pronounced. We need to [have] vowels in Spanish, and so that’s why we changed it, and it’s still gender neutral, and it’s still respectful,” said Ms. Noesi.

As a new faculty member, “to come into a world like La Salle where our representation hasn’t been as loud in the past… it’s just really exciting to bring that energy here,” she said. 

“I love Latin Heritage Month because I’m kind of unapologetically Latina,” said Ms. Noesi.

Before joining the Unidos Club, Roman-Arrieta did not know about Hispanic Heritage Month because “it’s not talked about that much,” she said. However, since learning more about the month, Roman Arrieta said, “Hispanic Heritage Month honestly means a lot, because I get to celebrate my roots like I didn’t before.”

Cacho Barrera participates in cultural activities like Hispanic Heritage Month with her family. “I like how I get to experience it outside of school and then also inside of school,” she said. 

It is “nice that we get to show other people about our culture and how things work,” Cacho Barrera said.

Unfortunately, some people “will look at someone who is brown and think, ‘Mexican,’ but we’re more than just what’s across the border, we’re like an entire continent. We have so much more than just, you know, sombreros and tacos,” Caldillo-Ruelas said. 

Caldillo-Ruelas has “always had a lot of trouble connecting with [her] culture,” but through “being in the Unidos Club and actually paying attention to Hispanic Heritage Month” it has become a kind of comfort, she said.

Reflecting on Hispanic Heritage Month, “I think we’re just trying to show we’re here,” Caldillo-Ruelas said.