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Photos courtesy of the Daily Tar Heel

On September 30th, the Carolina Latinx Center hosted one of its most impactful events to date. We were able to proudly come together to host former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro, as our keynote speaker for Latinx Heritage Month.

At 6:30 p.m., everyone gathered in the Student Union’s Great Hall; it felt special to see so many students and community members in one space. Before Castro got on stage, we welcomed State Representative Ricky Hurtado who had the pleasure to introduce Castro. Hurtado spoke about his own career and how Castro made him feel he also had a place in politics which inspired him to continue pursuing his dreams. He spoke about the importance of the Latinx voice in politics and highlighted the need for more representation so that we could see ourselves in spaces that do not always include us.

Castro began his keynote address with a statement emphasizing cultural pride stating, “Today we celebrate the past, the present, the future. Today we celebrate you.” Castro highlighted important topics such as the Latinx communities’ contribution to the COVID-19 crisis, American society, and the economy saying, “the Latinx community has been in the thick of all these issues as essential workers, healthcare workers, teachers, grocery store workers, putting their lives on the line every day for us.” However, Castro did not stop there. His following messages were powerful and relatable, emphasizing how much our rich culture and gifts bring to the table and how we must recognize them. Moreover, how we must not conform to any community or set of ideas that suppresses our Latinx identity but celebrates it saying, “we are most powerful as people when we have the courage to be our true authentic selves.”

Not only did he speak about the present, but he spoke about his past and the many influential people that helped him to where he is today. He spoke about his grandmother, Victoria, and how the sacrifices she made to come to the U.S. are what set the foundation for opportunity and how without her, none of his accomplishments would have been possible. Castro’s words were not just powerful but an embodiment of our Latinx Heritage Month theme of “Heels Pa’lante,” which translates to “Heels moving forward.” His hard work, love, compassion, drive, and vision are all qualities needed to make the phrase “pa’lante” happen.

We again thank everyone, especially our sponsors, who partnered with us to bring such a meaningful figure to our campus and most importantly Castro himself for taking the time to visit.