LASA wraps up Hispanic Heritage Month with Latina speaker


Lesly Abarca, Reporter (She/her)

To celebrate the last day of  Hispanic Heritage Month, Oct. 15, South Dakota State University hosted Mayra Olivares-Urueta, a Latina scholar and activist, who shared her experiences with students.

Students and staff gathered via Zoom and in-person at Jack’s Place in the University Student Union. The event proceeded with an introduction from the Multicultural Latino Retention Advisor, Florencio Aranda.

Olivares-Urueta is the co-founder of “Mamis on the Move,” a group that seeks to empower women pursuing higher education, and vice president of Student Development Services at Tarrant County College.

She was born in Eagle Pass, Texas, a town on the United States and Mexican border. She then lived in Monterey, Mexico, until she was 10 years old.

“Being a border child, growing up visiting the border, having been born on the border, has impacted how I see myself and the work that I do,” Olivares-Urueta said.

Attending school in Texas was not easy for her. After getting over a language barrier, she found out in high school that her mother could not afford to send her to college.

“So, now that I’m grown up, knowing that she made $35,000 a year for a family of four is pretty crazy, because we have a family of four now, and we would not survive,” Olivares-Urueta said.

She stayed determined and knew that pursuing a higher education was the best decision for her and her family. After being accepted to the University of Oklahoma, Olivares-Urueta had to apply for loans and obtain a job while in college to afford her education.

Eventually, she was able to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy, and now works to help students that come from a lower income family and promote racial equality.

One area of this is helping to promote the success of Latino students through “infusing anti-deficit narratives into higher education about all minoritized students,” according to the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program.

Olivares-Urueta mentioned that many Hispanic and Latino people are raised with humility and taught to be small. So, at first when she was asked to be a speaker, she felt like she was unqualified, but then changed her mind set and realized that her hard work and accomplishments as a Latina scholar are what makes her qualified.

She wanted to let students of Hispanic and Latino descent know that they are capable of success, no matter what their income or first language is. Success comes from determination, positivity and networking. That is why Olivares-Urueta strives to make every student feel welcome and provide them with the resources to reach their success.

Members of the Latin American Student Association like Vanessa Valadez mentioned how they are happy with the fact that SDSU is willing to acknowledge their heritage.

“It’s a great thing that they’re doing this, because it brings more awareness to us, and not a lot of us know that there are more Latinos and Latinas here,” Valadez said. “With these types of events it does bring people out.”