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Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Evelyn Arenas

Oct 5, 2021

Music can bring people together. Music can also connect us back to our roots. For Evelyn Arenas, a first-generation college student and a junior at IU South Bend, music brings a sense of familial and cultural pride.

Arenas is currently majoring in Integrated New Media studies with a focus in music. Her ultimate goal is to produce her own music, as she is drawn to the technical side of music and sound engineering.

Her love of music began with her family. Traditional Mexican music, especially by Joan Sebastian, holds a special significance to Arenas.

It’s no surprise that Arenas is drawn to music as all her four siblings and parents are passionate about it too. The family fills their household with karaoke every holiday and even as a pastime.

One of Arenas’ brothers produces his own music, while the youngest in the family’s talent is undeniable the guitar. Arenas’ aunts and uncles even have their own mariachi band in Mexico. This familial pastime of creating music almost seems hereditary given its significance in each relative’s life.

Her family’s love of music runs just as deep as their love of holidays and food. During the holiday season, she has taken over the role as the main chef in her household

Growing up as her mother’s right-hand assistant, Arenas learned the trade working alongside her mother in the kitchen. However, due to familial circumstances, her mother is currently taking care of the family in Mexico, leaving her as the head chef in the family. This role is of the utmost significance during the holidays, as her family depends on her to make traditional staples, such as posole and tamales.

Arenas feels comfortable expressing herself through music which allows her to connect with her mother outside of the kitchen. Music in its own way does help me cope. Even when she’s there (in Mexico), she’s still here with me, Arenas said.

Arenas traveled to Mexico for the first time this past summer to visit her mother.

I enjoyed being immersed in my family’s cultural roots. said Arenas

It was quite notable for Arenas to experience the connection between her parents’ roots and the culture she inherited and shares with them now. While in Mexico, Arenas rekindled her culinary bond with her mother as they explored local shops and gathered materials to bake traditional Hispanic meals.

However, she did struggle for some time with her culture. Due to Arenas’ white passing appearance, she used to have a difficult time viewing herself as a representation of the Hispanic community. A formative experience in high school was when she attended an event for Latino students to promote and encourage culture and presence in higher education, inspiring her to represent her heritage and continue to speak out about it.

Arenas advocates that culture is not always visible externally, yet that does not diminish a culture’s internal presence. Her hope is for people to take the time to explore each other’s background, rather than making an assumption based on one’s appearance.

Her shared advice for Hispanic students on campus: Never hide themselves or hide what they are, never feel embarrassed about a portion of their identity, or something they grew up with. Never feel embarrassed about accents, don’t be afraid to speak regarding what’s on your mind or asking for help.

Arenas feels very supported at IU South Bend, and she felt especially welcomed and encouraged by Cynthia Murphy, Recruitment Retention Counselor in the Titan Success Center, and Staff advisor for IU South Bend’s Latino Student Union.

You could tell she really loves her job and what she’s doing. I feel a lot of gratitude toward her and the impact she’s had on my experience here, Arenas said.

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