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Firmly Rooted in Tradition

Oct 9, 2023

From Hawaii to Georgia to Texas to Washington state, Graciela Lugo DeAlba moved many times during her childhood as her military family endured seven permanent changes of stations. Through it all, she resolved to embrace her current community and the new opportunities each change presented.

Now in her senior year, this marketing major is using her experiences to help others feel at home. Serving as President of the Hispanic/Latinx Student Coalition (HLSC), she enjoys sharing her family's traditions from their Puerto Rican heritage and is "having a blast."

Cultural Connection

Despite a life filled with constant relocation due to her father's military service in the U.S. Army, Graciela's deep-rooted connection to Puerto Rico has remained unwavering. She finds her sense of home and belonging in the vibrant culture of her family's homeland. 

“The common factor wherever I've lived and wherever I've been has been my sense of home and belonging with being from Puerto Rico," she explains. "I've visited my island numerous times, never in a hotel or resort, but in my home. With my grandmothers, my cousins - always to Guayama, always to Pozuelo."

Leading the Way

Graciela's leadership journey at Florida Southern College began when she joined the Multicultural Student Council (MSC) in her first year in 2020. She quickly formed close friendships with its members and contributed to the organization. In the fall of 2021, Graciela became the Director of Social Media and Public Outreach for the Hispanic/Latinx Student Coalition (HLSC). Her dedication and passion for the organization led her to ascend to the position of President in the spring of 2023.

As President, her primary objective is to foster a sense of excitement and belonging within HLSC, mirroring her positive experiences with the MSC. Graciela aims to solidify existing events as staples for the organization while also broadening the scope of its activities to embrace the diverse cultures within the Hispanic/Latinx diaspora.

Cultural Contributions

Graciela's passion for her Puerto Rican heritage shines through in her contributions to the campus community. One notable tradition she introduced is the celebration of Three Kings' Day on January 6th, a cherished holiday in Puerto Rico.

"Aside from my birthday being the day after," she jests, "it is a holiday especially celebrated in Puerto Rican culture alongside Christmas (Nochebuena and Navidad). It is the 12th day of Christmas, also known as the Epiphany in the Catholic religion."

The event Graciela coordinated not only involved sharing the Puerto Rican tradition and educating attendees about different celebrations across Latin countries, it featured the iconic Rosca de Reyes cake and granting wishes like children traditionally ask of the Three Kings.  

Graciela Lugo DeAlba eating Rosca de Reyes

It is a common tradition among Puerto Rican people to get together with their families on January 6th and eat a special cake called “Rosca de Reyes” (translated as “King's Cake”). Each person cuts a piece, hoping to find a figurine representing the newborn Jesus. Photo credit: HLSC

Graciela's efforts brought the joy and significance of this cultural celebration to the campus community.

“[The event] was an absolute blast,” remembers Graciela. "It is one of the events I'll remember for a long time."

Advice for New Mocs

As a campus leader and a student deeply connected to her heritage, Graciela offers valuable advice to incoming students seeking their own sense of belonging and connection within the community. She emphasizes the importance of exploration and experimentation during your college journey. Graciela encourages newcomers to be bold, step out of their comfort zones, try new things, and engage in different activities. 

"Don't be afraid to try new and different things," she says. "You never know when something might catch your eye or be something you have a knack for."

She believes that discovering one's passion and interests can take time, and it's "perfectly fine" to do so gradually.

As the nation comes together to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15th to October 15th, Graciela Lugo DeAlba is a shining example of the vibrant contributions of our campus's Hispanic and Latinx community. This month-long celebration provides a special opportunity to honor the diverse traditions, histories, and achievements of Hispanic and Latinx individuals who profoundly impact our campus and society as a whole.