Hispanic culture interwoven into the fabric of Murray State

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Story by Lindsey Coleman, Assistant News Editor

From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, America celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month. In the middle of national immigration conversation, three Hispanic individuals on campus situate themselves in a narrative of hope, family and rich culture.

Leon: Balancing both worlds

Izel Leon, senior from Murray, is a second generation Mexican-American. She grew up with what she said was the best of both worlds: living in America and visiting family in Mexico every summer.

“I love sharing my culture with people and bringing those roots back,” Leon said. “It just enriches you as a person, regardless of the culture you’re exposed to.”

For Leon, experiencing both worlds hasn’t always been easy, but she said she’s met other students with similar backgrounds who have shown her that she’s not alone.

“It’s been a journey trying to tie those two things together, because I’m sometimes too American for my Mexican friends, and I’m too Mexican for my American friends,” Leon said. “I think finding, especially in college, finding second generation Hispanics has been just incredible.”

She said she grows in deeper appreciation and love for America by still maintaining her original heritage.

“I think sometimes people get kind of scared when we hold onto our original identities because they think that makes us less American, but in my experience, it has made me love this country so much more,” Leon said.

Through the Office of the Multicultural Affairs, Leon, along with other students, launched Sueño Latino three years ago. Each semester, the group holds events such as Sabor Latino, which is a celebration of Latino culture.

“I have never encountered racial hate,” Leon said. “MSU is very conducive for a racially inclusive environment.”

Orozco: Shedding prejudice

Angela Orozco, freshman from Glasgow, Kentucky, was born in America after her parents immigrated when they were 18 years old.

“Whenever I decided to go to college, it was hard because I knew everyone was expecting me not to,” Orozco said. “If I did go, they probably expected me to drop out.”

But at the same time, Orozco said it was a very proud moment for her, as she shed the prejudices people believed about Hispanic culture.

“I hope I can help other Hispanics get into college and pursue a career,” Orozco said. “I’m an elementary education major, and I want to help families know you cannot give up.”

Orozco is the first of her six siblings to go to college, which she said makes her family very proud. She said Murray State celebrates diversity well, especially through the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

“They have so many cultures,” Orozco said. “It’s not just African-American. They are really diverse, and I like that.”

Lopez: Encouraging students

As a telecommunications systems management professor from Belize, Carlos Lopez has the opportunity to relate to international students at Murray State.

“Coming from a different country to here helps me understand what a student coming from a different location faces,” Lopez said. “I can relate to that because I went through it.”

Lopez was the only one in his family to pursue higher education. He came to Murray State for his undergraduate degree in 1996 and his masters in 2005. Then he taught in Belize for several years.

“Looking back on when I was [an undergraduate student], I met a lot of friends from different countries,” Lopez said. “They felt comfortable here, like they had a place and like they were acknowledged.”

For the past four years, he has been teaching at the university. He travels back to Belize during breaks to spend time with his wife and teenage son and daughter. He said he loves Murray, which feels like a home away from home for him.