My name is Francesca Bagala and I am a fourth year Political Science and International Studies major with an Italian Studies minor here at the University of Florida. I also serve as the president of the Hispanic Student Culture Organization and the Executive Director for Hispanic Heritage Month 2020.

Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual month-long celebration that occurs from September 15 - October 15 and showcases Latinx culture and traditions. Due to COVID-19, our celebration this year had to be moved to an online platform. We value the safety of all of our members and wanted to be as inclusive as possible without sacrificing the joyous tradition that HHM brings every year to campus. Thankfully, with the support and creativity of our director and assistant director team, we were able to continue to move forward with our planning, and make HHM2020 memorable and dynamic.

The theme for our celebration this year was “Iluminar: Make Your Colors Shine Bright.” Coming to a new environment where we may find a reason to dim our personalities and camouflage ourselves in the crowd, HHM is a time when we are reminded that our colors and “Latinidad” can shine. College is a transformative time that challenges us to find the pieces of ourselves we didn’t have before, I encourage anyone reading this to find and embrace your colors as bright and vivid as they may be and not stray away from showing who you really are.

With our goal and motivation in mind, the Hispanic Heritage Month team was able to accomplish so much this fall! We had the opportunity to ship several merchandise items to over 150 Gators across the country. In addition, we’ve had amazing guest speakers and shout outs from UF faculty including our very own President Fuchs, as well as well-known Latinx figures like Gloria Estefan and Jenny Lorenzo. In our efforts to help undocumented students at the University of Florida, our Philanthropy team has been able to raise over $500. We also currently have an association with the Latinx-owned store Alobebi where people can shop for clothing items, mugs, stickers, etc. with Latinx-based designs. Fifty percent of the proceeds are going to Chispas, a student organization dedicated to aiding undocumented students at the University of Florida. To add to the excitement, HHM partnered with ACCENT Speakers Bureau, Student Government Productions, and the Hispanic Student Association to have a virtual call with lead Hispanic star Prince Royce!

I am incredibly proud of my director and assistant director team. From the beginning, their creativity and persistence to making Hispanic Heritage Month 2020 memorable has always shown, allowing us to share the following events with UF’s student body: Opening Ceremony, Talent and Pageant, 5K/Field Day, Fiesta, Art Fest, Service Day, Closing Ceremony, Philanthropy’s: Noche de Loteria, and our External Programming events: our Race and Latinx event with the Office of Political Affairs and SG agency, Students Take Action Against Racism, and our cooking event with the Association of Hispanic Alumni.

Thank you to everyone who helped make HHM possible. Espero que gocen y disfruten de todas las actividades que tenemos preparadas para ustedes (I hope you all enjoy the upcoming activities we have planned for you all). Stay tuned with us on our social media for all our upcoming events. Enjoy the rest of your semester and don’t forget to “illuminar” your colors wherever you go.