A Student Perspective on Hispanic Heritage Month; Zairi Mercader
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.: Zairi Mercader is an undergraduate student at Penn State, double majoring in Marketing and Spanish with a minor in Information Systems Management. She is the President of the Puerto Rican Student Association (PRSA), VP of University Relations for the Penn State Latino Caucus, and the University Relations chair for WIB [Women in Business].
For more information about Penn State’s events and initiatives for Hispanic Heritage Month, stay tuned for the end of the article.
First, tell a little about what you do with the Puerto Rican Student Association and Latino Caucus.
I grew up with two deaf parents in Puerto Rico, so I knew what it was like to be different. This drove me to find my community and take up space as a Latinx Student at a PWI [Predominantly White Institution]. It pushed me to shape myself into a leader and take on leadership roles like being President of PRSA and VP of University Relations for the Latino Caucus. It even pushed me to participate in the Annual Noche Latina Pageant, where I was crowned 2022 Latinx Royalty for showcasing my love and appreciation for my Puerto Rican Culture.
When I found the PRSA, I knew I had found my home and community at such a big campus. Just like the PRSA gave me my familia, as President, I strive to create that space for people interested in joining my organization. Not only does the PRSA strive to create a sense of familia, but we also want to enrich our member’s college experience. We do this by providing professional development opportunities, community service, education, and THON (we were the first Latinx organization at THON and have inspired others to join). As for Latino Caucus, I am the VP of University Relations. My goal in this organization is to bring the Latinx community together and strengthen our bond. In my position, I have created a Latino Caucus delegate calendar for all delegates to input their events, so we can see what events each is holding and increase membership at each event. I have also developed the first-ever Alumni Relations project for LC, where I will be gathering 200+ contacts of Latinx alums at Penn State to keep the alums and undergrad relationships stronger than ever. I also increase the awareness of the caucus at a university level and coordinate homecoming festivities!
Personally, one thing about me is I love lifting and cooking. I have my own Puerto Rican food business at Penn State– Zee’s Kitchen. I have made a couple of food sales, including one on Friday, October 7th, where I sold traditional, authentic Puerto Rican empanadas. Professionally, I don’t want my love for fighting for my community to end at Penn State. I want to be in a role where I can work with the Latinx Community while also using my degree. My dream career would be a Latin American Marketing Researcher.
What does Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) mean to you?
As a community, we live and breathe our culture. My community has extremely passionate and proud individuals. HHM means being seen and appreciated by the nation. Individuals can celebrate and show their passion for being Latinx and/or Hispanic by hosting several celebrations. One of my favorites is all the events the HHM committee, PRSA, and Latino Caucus put on throughout the month.
If you could share one thing about your heritage, background, and experiences, what would it be?
I would share how proud I am to be a Puerto Rican woman. I was born on the island and later moved to the United States. I have learned to showcase my culture loud and proud everywhere I go. To me, that looks like taking on leadership roles in high school and college to represent Puerto Rico and the Latinx community. It also means educating individuals and taking up space in spaces where my community is underrepresented. On the island, all the way to Penn State, I always represent la hermosa Isla de Puerto Rico.
How do we ensure to keep culture alive in the future?
In short, education and awareness of all the different cultures around us. Having an appreciation for other cultures is how we keep them alive. If you go to Penn State, check out the Latino/a/x studies department that offers a wide variety of classes to learn more about Latinx cultures.
To learn more about the Puerto Rican Student Association and Latino Caucus, check out their website: https://latinocaucus.psu.edu/delegate-organizations/cultural/prsa/.
Penn State Events during Hispanic Heritage Month are posted here: https://sites.psu.edu/hispanicheritagemonth/2022-calendar/.
Additionally, check out the website’s community page to learn more about Latinx community organizations and programs across the university and students: https://sites.psu.edu/hispanicheritagemonth/hispanics-at-penn-state/.
If you are a student, research the Hispanic Scholarship Fund at Penn State: https://urfm.psu.edu/fellowship/hispanic-scholarship-fund for information about how to apply.
Other university resources and organizations:
- Penn State Chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers: https://www.psu-shpe.org/
- Latinx Agricultural Network: https://agsci.psu.edu/diversity/latinx-agricultural-network
- Latinx Leadership Institute: http://equity.psu.edu/mrc/lli
- Paul Robeson Cultural Center: https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/cultural