In 2009, there was no formal space for Latinx/e students to meet and connect with one another. In the Spring of 2009, the first official constitution was created for the Latin American Student Union (LASU), and the first General Body meeting has held that Fall. During this meeting, the former President, Jessica Chilin, B.A. '12, made Pupusas for new members!
After a few years, the organization went dormant but in the Summer of 2016, LASU was re-established by Jacqueline Amaya Mendez, B.A. '17, and six other Latinx/e students. Largely, in response to the Presidential Election of 2016, and the announcement of the Republican candidate, the founding group recognized the necessity and importance of a safe space for Latinx/e students. In this environment, students could comfortably discuss their emotions and the administration’s impact on the community at large. Latinx/e students could vent and help reconcile what happened and what this meant for them.
Given the political climate of 2016, coining LASU as a safe space meant being politically active, and the organization was viewed in this light for many years; however, the Latinx/e social identity seeped its way into the landscape of LASU at William and Mary. Over the years, generations of leaders have struggled to reconcile the different faces of Latinidad, including social, political, and diasporic identity. Throughout different seasons, though, LASU remained a social organization that fosters a sense of community while stimulating political awareness concerning the Latin American community by embracing different perspectives.
LASU fostered a home away from home. A space where Latinx/e identity could be unapologetically celebrated in all its commonality and nuances. By creating roots for the Latinx/e community to flourish at William & Mary, there was an increase in Latinx/e student enrollment; people could be their whole selves on campus and be taken into account by stakeholders at the university. As of 2022, there are 126 active, dues-paying members. This is a testament to the hard work of the founding members and the Latinx/e leaders who came before and after them. LASU stands today as a space to celebrate our existence as Latinx/e people at a predominantly white institution.