The University of Central Florida’s Hispanic American Student Association is commemorating its 25th anniversary as students honor their customs and traditions during a “celebración” of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Events showcasing Hispanic culture across UCF’s campus and beyond will include a CalleOcho Block Party, which is a nod to the iconic Miami festival that celebrates Hispanic diversity, and a “So You Think You Can Rumba?” Latin dance contest.

A celebration of the Mexican holiday “Día de los Muertos,” or “Day of the Dead,” will conclude the series of heritage events on Oct. 27.

“We want people to know that our culture is alive on campus,” said Oris Rodriguez, HASA’s president and a Cuban-Dominican junior. “We’re here, stronger and more united than ever.”

When HASA was formed in 1985, it was one of only two minority organizations on campus and the only one available for Latino students. HASA gave students a chance to become involved in the Hispanic-Latino communities at UCF and throughout Orlando.

Twenty-five years later, HASA has grown to become the most active Hispanic group on campus. Members regularly participate in cultural, social and volunteer activities aimed at uniting them and honoring their heritages.

Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés, an associate professor of English and HASA’s faculty adviser, said the Hispanic Heritage Month “fiesta,” which will include movie nights, guest speakers and traditional Latin parties, is a fitting celebration of Hispanic roots.

“Hispanic culture is multifaceted and complex, but it tends to be warm, festive and joyous,” she said. “It’s important to honor that because the Hispanic culture has become part of the American culture, especially at UCF, where nearly 15 percent of our students are Latino or Latina.”

HASA brings together students from a variety of backgrounds, including Cuban, Dominican, Colombian and Mexican. Many students who are not Latino also participate.

“For Latinos, family is very important, and it’s easy to get homesick while at college,” said Cuban-American junior Lili Milanés, HASA’s special events coordinator and Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés’ daughter. “HASA gives us a home away from home and a support network to fall back on.”

Hispanic Heritage Month Activities

All Hispanic Heritage Month activities are free and open to the public. For a full list of events, visit https://hispanicheritagemonth.gov/about/. Here are some additional highlights:

–An open forum titled “Latina Body Images” will be held from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, in the Cape Florida Ballroom (316CD) of the Student Union. The forum will include a screening of the documentary film “Perfect,” which is about Venezuelan attitudes toward plastic surgery.

–The UCF Office of Global Perspectives is sponsoring a presentation titled “The Devil’s Highway: A True Story of Illegal Immigration, Desperation and Greed” by award-winning novelist and Mexican immigrant Luis Alberto Urrea. The presentation will begin at 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23, in the Pegasus Ballroom of the Student Union.

–The diversity-rich atmosphere of Miami will be brought to Orlando for a CalleOcho Block Party at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30, at the Recreation and Wellness Center’s Leisure Pool.

–Hispanics’ contributions to U.S. culture, art and education are being celebrated during the sixth-annual UCF Latin American Cultural Festival of Orlando. The festival is sponsoring an upcoming performance by the Wind Ensemble and UCF Symphony Orchestra. The free performance will begin at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3, at University High School.

–HASA and the Latin fraternity Lambda Theta Phi will host a domino tournament at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 5, at UCF’s Barbara Ying Center. Guests are invited to enjoy the competitive Cuban pastime and classic Cuban cuisine.

–Latin dancers are invited to compete in “So You Think You Can Rumba?” at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, in the Pegasus Ballroom of the Student Union.

–The public is invited to volunteer at and celebrate National Latino AIDS Awareness Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, at the Dover Shores Community Center, 1400 Gaston Foster Road, Orlando. There will be entertainment, music and free HIV testing. Contact [email protected] to volunteer.

–A celebration of “Día de los Muertos,” or “Day of the Dead,” will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27, in the Barbara Ying Center. Guests are invited to pray for and remember those they’ve lost by contributing mementos honoring family, friends and other loved ones.