Back in 1994 on a summer afternoon, a group of students, faculty, and staff fought for the representation of the Hispanic and Latinx students at the University of Florida. For a growing campus community, this place had a vision of a home where students could hang out, learn about each other, and have a place where they could feel comfortable with their own roots. By May of this same year, “La Casita,” also known as the Hispanic-Latino Institute, was opened for every student, faculty, and staff that feels affectionate towards this institution.
La Casita is a place that over the years has fought for their beliefs, combating racism after La Casita was defaced in 2003. This Institutions located side by side, 1504 and 1510 W. University Ave., the Hispanic-Latino Cultures, La Casita, and the Institute of Black Culture, known as IBC, continues with its standing history at UF being the first space dedicated to racial identity, by helping students feel connected in a safe space and a place of personal and cultural expression. The last time students were allowed in the buildings was December 2016. In the meantime, students have been using La Salita or the Black Enrichment Center space located on the second floor of the Reitz Union in MCDA (Multicultural and Diversity Affairs).
For the past year, both institutions were demolished for reconstruction, with the idea of building two separated houses, one for the Hispanic/Latin community and one for the Black Culture, students were surprised in June 2017, when they pitched to combine the two cultural spaces into one building. After a movement, “No La IBCita”, led by students advocating for separate buildings was created through an anonymously Facebook page and other social media platforms. On July 2017, the MCDA announced the redesign of two separate building, but the project would setback for nearly a year.
The past October 3rd, there was an event were participants including students and faculty who petitioned and labored to create the new house opening, and the faculty who supported their efforts have become involved once the imitation was up and running. As the University of Florida continues to rebuild La Casita, during the event, members from the community announced that La Casita’s big opening will be during Fall 2019.
The funds for this new house were granted from CITF (Capital Improvement Trust Fund). Although an overwhelming majority of students who favor having two separate buildings, the best option followed by the core committee and MCDA staff will still choose the “U” shaped building.
The committee assured that they will continue to have initiative based events at La Casita as they had in Salita with the hope of improving recruitment and retention, education and community outreach. La Casita holds value to this type of community being a home-away-from-home environment and it continues to grow because of their support and connections students make.