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EventsSeptember 28, 2023

Honoring Heritage: How Jaylin Barroso Explores Her Hispanic Identity

Written By: Ian Silvester

The first time Jaylin Barroso, a junior psychology student at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, experienced Hispanic Heritage Month, she said she had a glimmer in her eyes as she felt accepted and seen by her community.

Since then, Jaylin has found ways to spend the month honoring her family and Hispanic heritage. As she reflected on events she has been part of and planning to participate in, Jaylin said that everything adds up and gives her a chance to “recognize my roots, and not just for me to recognize them, but for other people to see as well.”

At UAFS, Hispanic Heritage Month has been celebrated every year Jaylin has attended. This year is no different.

Starting with a Family Game Night, where Jaylin brought her mom to campus to kickoff the month’s long celebration, to a favorite of Jaylin’s, Salsa at the Belltower, before the month ends with a panel discussion from first-generation Latino professionals, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

“It’s important that we create a bridge between the local community and the campus community,” she said. “A lot of times, people apply stereotypes, but through these events, I feel like they’d be more educated and have more empathy.”

Breaking those stereotypes motivates Jaylin, not only for Hispanic Heritage Month but all year round.

Her family immigrated from Irapuato, a city in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. The move, she said, led to needing help to fit in and have a sense of belonging. However, Jaylin believes that Hispanic Heritage Month allows others to learn more about her story and the stories of others. For Jaylin, the month gives her the freedom to express being a Latina, but she says it goes beyond just Mexico; it represents all of Latin America and Spain.

“It’s something to be very proud of, something to see,” Jaylin explained. “It’s a time to recognize the efforts and struggles these countries have gone through.”

As Hispanic Heritage Month has grown at UAFS, Jaylin talked about seeing organizers embrace teaching about efforts and struggles while using aspects of Hispanic culture to have fun. She shared how she has done the same with friends by teaching them how to make a favorite dish, quesadillas fritas.

“Hispanic Heritage Month at UAFS has helped me explore who I am by offering organizations dedicated to educating people on Hispanic culture, like LSA (Latino Student Association),” she said as she reminisced on her time with the club. “Being part of that has helped me dive in a little bit more and celebrate more. Being part of these organizations and helping with events has helped me become more involved in my culture.”

Hispanic Heritage Month continues at UAFS with Salsa at the Belltower on Sept. 30. Jaylin will be there volunteering with members of Sisterhood Expansion, a student organization she is president of.

Salsa at the Belltower will feature dancing, lessons, music, and food, including a personal touch from Jaylin and Sisterhood Expansion.

“We thought it would be really cool if we had a cultural fashion show, so that will be featured at Salsa at the Belltower,” Jaylin beamed. “You’re going to have girls in their quinceañera dresses showcasing them for us, but there will also be cultural attire from different countries.”

Hispanic Heritage Month concludes on Oct. 15, with the final UAFS event being held on Oct. 12. Visit the UAFS Calendar of Events or click here for a complete list and description of events.

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