LASU brings together Latinx students from diverse backgrounds and experiences

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For 53 years, the Latin American Student Union (LASU) has offered brotherhood and solidarity to the Latin student population at Binghamton University.

Founded in 1969 when 10 college students of Puerto Rican descent initiated a split from the existing organization, Azabache (a word translated as “jet” which describes a hard, black mineral used in jewelry and ornamentation). At the time, Azabache operated as a collaborative business with black students on campus. Desiring their own space where marginalized people of Latino descent could come together, the breakup of Azabache led to the creation of LASU and the Black Student Union.

LASU had militant leanings from the start, drawing inspiration from the Young Lords, a national civil and human rights organization founded in Chicago in 1960.

The Young Lords Organization (or Young Lords Party) began as a neighborhood street team, but reorganized into a grassroots political and social movement that has spread to 30 cities. The group, active in the 1970s and 1980s, advocated for the empowerment of Hispanic and Latino peoples in the United States and for autonomy for Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries.

Tribute to those who came before us

Melanie Ibagon, originally from Brooklyn, NY, joined LASU as a freshman.

“I wanted to be part of a community with other Latinos on campus and connect with people from similar backgrounds and cultures,” Ibagon said. “And I supported the organization’s mission to honor its roots and remain politically active on campus.”

Ibagon, a third-year linguistics and music student, is the organization’s president, one of 13 board members. The group holds weekly general meetings and schedules events throughout the year. It also maintains collaborative alliances with other student organizations including the Black Student Union, Caribbean Student Association, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Asian Student Union, and many others.

  • 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, UU-209
    LASU with the Filipino-American League
    Cultural Painting and Sipping
    Create a meaningful painting while learning about cultural activism in Latin America and the Philippines. Taste traditional Latin and Filipino drinks.
  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 28, 7 p.m., UUW-310
    LASU with Corazoncitos
    Indigenous movements
    Learn about Latin America’s indigenous peoples and grassroots activist movements that are underestimated by mainstream news outlets.
  • 8 p.m. Thursday, September 29, location to be determined
    LASU with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
    night of peril
    Join us for this fun and interactive game featuring Latin American trivia and more.
  • 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 4, UUW-310
    Latin poets and La Rebelión
    Unleash the poet in you! Participants will write a poem around the theme “The Rebellion” and share their work in an open discussion forum.
  • 8 p.m. Thursday, October 6, UUW-310
    LASU with Quimbamba
    Rebelion and Baile
    Learn some dance steps with the Quimbamba Latin dance team. Dances will be performed to songs about self-expression and rebellion against societal norms and expectations.
  • 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 11, UUW-310
    El Pagón: Stop chasing us!
    Join the discussion on gentrification in Puerto Rico and New York. The once-dominant Puerto Rican and Hispanic neighborhoods are seeing an influx of white residents, leading to fewer affordable homes and driving former occupants out of their long-established neighborhoods.
  • 8 p.m. Thursday, October 13, UUW-310
    LASU with the Black Student Union
    Azabache: Black Panthers and the Young Lords
    In collaboration with the Black Student Union, we will examine the historical relationship between the Young Lords and the Black Panthers and how these two groups have been advocating for the rights of blacks and browns across the United States for decades.
  • LASU sponsors several signature events throughout the academic year, beginning in the fall semester with Latin Heritage Month. From September 15 to October 15, Latin Heritage Month was first recognized in 1988 when Hispanic Heritage Week (proclaimed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968) was expanded to a month-long format and enacted by Ronald Reagan. Its launch in mid-September honors the start of the Mexican War of Independence, which liberated Mexico and other Central American countries from Spanish colonial rule.

    Latin Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the breadth of Latin cultures and honor the work of those who have gone before us. This year’s theme for Latin Heritage Month, La Rebelión – honoring Young Lords activism – resonates powerfully with Ibagon and fellow members.

    Gain work experience while giving back to the community

    Ibagon leads LASU with Elissa Morales, a third-year human development major from Westchester, NY. Morales joined the organization in the spring semester of 2021 and currently serves as vice president and oversees most events at the organization. Morales highlights the social and professional experiences that marked his time in the organization.

    “I joined LASU to connect with people who share my cultural background,” Morales said. “But, because Latin America is so vast and diverse, it was also a great opportunity to learn about other Latin cultures. Working with LASU is an opportunity to give back to my community, while serving in a leadership role has helped me expand my knowledge and gain professional skills and experience.

    LASU recruits new members through its presence at campus drop-in events and word-of-mouth referrals. The organization is active on social media and its Instagram account is the primary platform for public outreach efforts. The group also maintains strong internal communications, including virtual group chats and weekly meetings, which keep members informed of current activities, events and issues.

    During the spring semester, LASU fills several internship positions. Interns work with various board members to learn about different roles. The internship program frequently generates leadership and administration nominations for the upcoming academic year.

    Ibagon and Morales see the organization as a continuing evolution while preserving the core mission – to bring to light social and political issues affecting Latinos in the United States and in native countries. They articulate the group’s ongoing mission for political activism at the grassroots level as they aspire to contribute to global dialogue.

    Ibagon emphasizes an open door policy for LASU’s weekly general meetings.

    “We welcome anyone who wants to learn more about the issues affecting the Latin community,” she said. “Members have the opportunity to express their opinions and share their points of view. We want to raise awareness of these issues and foster better understanding with those outside of the Latino community.

    While the Latin Heritage Month lineup is the group’s most comprehensive fall event, each year on the first Saturday in November, LASU hosts a banquet commemorating the founding of the organization, featuring live musical performances, food and rewards. This year marks the 53rd time members have come together to honor LASU’s founders and original mission.

    For Ibagon, LASU not only provided a community of peers, but it also helped her find her voice.

    “My time with LASU will always stay with me,” she said. “It gave me the courage and the passion to not only speak up for myself, but also to speak out against injustice anywhere.”

    Connect with LASU on B-Engaged or find out about upcoming events, meetings and more on Instagram @lasu_1969.


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