University of Virginia Senior Creates Database of Latinx Student Groups

A student at the University of Virginia (UVA) is doing her part to preserve and document the history of Hispanic and Latinx student groups at the university. Fourth-year student Natalia Heguaburo launched a historical website to serve as a “living repository” of the histories of those student groups. “It is my hope that this website serves as an ongoing living repository of the histories, successes, and struggles of the many undergraduate Hispanic and Latino organizations at the University of Virginia,” Natalia Heguaburo told The North Star.

Latinx History at UVA has interviews, images, documents, articles, and promotional material aimed to provide visitors “a place into the rich history and value of the Hispanic/Latinx community” at the university.

The archive goes back to 1992, when La Sociedad Hispánica was founded. The organization went through several name changes throughout the years, until finally opting to change its name for a more gender inclusive one in 2017: Latinx Student Alliance. “It is clear that we must write our own histories at this University, and I hope this site will serve as a tool and guide for future initiatives within the community,” Heguaburo said.

Heguaburo first had the idea to create the website when researching her thesis on the impact of “Latinidad on Latinx student matriculation and experience” at UVA. During her research, she discovered just a couple of folders at the university’s Special Collections Library archives about Hispanic and Latinx organizations on campus. “I was disheartened to say the least,” she said. “For a community that has suffered, succeeded, and altered the structure of this university so much so to just have one or two folders documenting the existence of its organizations left me disappointed.”

Heguaburo told the student newspaper The Cavalier Daily that she received help from 2000 graduate Gina Flores. The UVA student said that archiving the histories of minority groups on campuses “serves to support the creation of knowledge and understanding of experience.”

“It is absolutely critical that a representative and accurate archival record survives and is made available to any and all people who wish to explore this history because understanding and recording our histories re-injects our presence into the University’s narrative,” Heguaburo said. In an October 2018 open letter, Latinx students and organizations at UVA called on the university to increase recruitment of Hispanic/Latinx faculty and better inclusion at the institution. More than 70 organizations and over 450 individuals signed the letter. The letter was titled “We are 6%” — a representation of the Hispanic/Latinx population of undergraduate students — and noted the increase in the diversity of the class of 2022. It also acknowledged the struggles Hispanic/Latinx students endure, The Cavalier Daily reported.

“UVA cannot celebrate [diversity] when many minoritized students at the University feel underserved, underrepresented, and isolated,” the letter said, according to the student newspaper. Latinx History at UVA was launched during the institution’s first ever Latinx Alumni Weekend. Heguaburo told The North Star that she “wholeheartedly” believes her project should be replicated at other universities.

“Without truly understanding and keeping an active historical record of racial and ethnic minority impact at any university, we are contributing to a flawed understanding of history,” she said. She continued, “The voices and experiences of marginalized groups matter, and I believe that historical records should reflect that.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.