UW Latine Student Commission Fosters Community Through Unity Day Celebration

Lluvia Chavez

The annual Unity Day celebration took place on the Husky Union Building (HUB) Lawn at the University of Washington on May 24, 2024. It brought the Latino community together to celebrate their culture through food and lively performances.

Along the perimeter of the HUB lawn, student organizations, and local businesses sold Mexican candies, homemade tres leches cakes, aguas frescas, and Mexican artisanal jewelry. Crowds of students gathered to watch the memorable performances from Group Folklorico Nuestras Raices, Indigenous Dances from Tlalokan, and the UW Salsa Club

This year ASUW Queer Student Commission collaborated with Unity Day to invite Drag Queens Moscato Sky and Queen Andrew Scott. Their performances were a highlight of the evening. Moscato Sky and Queen Andrew Scott shared that they felt honored to represent the Queer Latine community and expressed the importance of supporting queer artists from marginalized communities. All performances took place on the stage outside of the HUB, and the event lasted from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m 

 Lucha Libre Volcánica’s hosts a table outside of the Husky Union Building (HUB) on Unity Day. A variety of lucha libre masks and Lucha Libre Volcánica merchandise was available for purchase. (Photo by Lluvia Chavez) 

In addition, Lucha Libre Volcánica put on a show for spectators for the second time at Unity Day. José Luis Gómez, the head lucha libre professor at Lucha Libre Volcánica, shared how he felt to share his craft in a predominantly white institution. “To me, it represents tremendous pride to bring a piece of our Mexican culture to show all students,” Gómez said 

Originally from Mexico City, Gómez has 45 years of experience as a luchador but started Lucha Libre Volcánica 16 years ago and began teaching in Renton. Undoubtedly, his organization has played an important role in building a presence of Mexican culture in the area. 

SUGGESTION: Lucha Libre Volcanica brings Mexican wrestling to the PNW
Lucha Libre Volcanica students practice stunts during their class at a small gym in Tacoma on Sunday, May 5.
Rosemary Montalvo rmontalvo@thenewstribune.com

Briana Castro, the Latine Student Commission director, was the lead organizer of Unity Day. She said the planning process taught her to be open to different outcomes, allowing her to reimagine the event. Ultimately, the most important part to Castro was that the community who attended felt connected. 

Castro said the main purpose of Unity Day is to increase the visibility of Latine identities and diverse cultures at UW. “I really do feel like community means having people there to support you and being uplifted, being empowered, and being inspired,” Castro said.

Each year, Unity Day is a celebration that Latine students look forward to as all community members gather in one place before the school year finishes. José Adán Acuña Ávila, the upcoming co-president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) at UW, said he rushes to Unity Day after his classes are over.

“Unity Day is a way for us to show everybody else that we’re here and have a voice,” Acuña Ávila said. SHPE has fostered a space for Latine student engineers to feel a sense of belonging and to connect with other Latine students in the same field. 

The UW Chicano/Latines in Community Medicine (CCM) organization sold chicharrones at the event. CCM is dedicated to increasing the presence of underrepresented students in STEM and healthcare careers. CCM aims to enhance marginalized groups’ access to healthcare by focusing on education and advocacy, and connecting students to Latine healthcare professionals. 

Yair Gonzalez, the CCM secretary, said CCM and events such as Unity Day have provided him with a space to be his authentic self without fear of judgment. “I feel no anxiety and I just feel like I’m welcomed and appreciated.” 

Food, which honors culture and tradition, is always an important part of Unity Day. Leslie Diaz de Leon sold baked goods with her mother, promoting her home bakery in Burien. “I just like sharing my culture.I know a lot of people learn culture through food, and I love baking. It’s nice to be able to come to an event like this with other Latinos, with other people like me,” Diaz de Leon said.

Cover Photo: Chicano/Latines in Community Medicine’s (CCM) Co-Chair Wendy Sanchez and CCM members sell chicharrones to customers. CCM prides itself on community outreach and teamwork. (Photo by Lluvia Chavez)

Publisher’s Notes: Washington Latino News and a class in the Journalism and Public Interest Communication program at the University of Washington are partners in best serving the Hispanic and Latino communities.