Student organization launched to support Latinas

Lucha Latina President Dinora Orozco is a senior majoring in political science. Photo by: Ashley Williams/University of Miami
By Ashley A. Williams

Lucha Latina President Dinora Orozco is a senior majoring in political science. Photo by: Ashley Williams/University of Miami

Student organization launched to support Latinas

By Ashley A. Williams
Lucha Latina celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month by highlighting Central American culture.

Dinora Orozco has always been proud of her Latin origin. She was born in San Cristóbal Cucho, Guatemala, and came to the U.S. when she was two years old.

Now a senior at the University of Miami, Orozco is on a mission to empower Latinas of Central American descent on campus. When she transferred from Florida International University, she wanted to bring something tangible with her – Lucha Latina, a national non-profit organization that did not yet have a presence at the U.

“I looked for organizations that reflected the values that I hold, and who I am as a person,” said Orozco, who proudly took on the role of founder and president of the Miami chapter. “Although there are other Latino based organizations, there weren’t any organizations that represented students from countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, etc.”

Orozco, a political science major with a minor in business law, said the organization seeks to empower Latina women from all walks of life, regardless of socio-economic background, in order to help them achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals. Lucha Latina is looking to get more Latinas engaged with their college experience through community outreach, mentorship, and leadership.

“I believed it was important that an identity-based group celebrate but also talk about the issues that surround our culture,” Orozco said about creating a space on campus exclusively for Latinas to engage in dialogue that was “quite sensitive” to her community, like immigration. “With Lucha Latina, I have a group of strong and fearless women who surround me and encourage me to aim high.”

Vyanka Sotelo is the vice president of the club and a proud Mexican American who was born in the large border city of Brownsville, Texas. Growing up, Sotelo was raised predominately by women and finds comfort in Lucha Latina at her new home away from home.

“I have three sisters, attended an all-girls school and currently am the chair of the Patricia A. Whitely Women’s Leadership Symposium,” said Sotelo, a junior who works as a resident assistant for Housing and Residential Life.

Once she arrived in Coral Gables, the political science and economics double major said she was “surprised” by the diversity and excited to get involved.  

“Our executive board is so diverse, and we all have very different interests,” said Sotelo, who recently interned on Capitol Hill. “What we are trying to do is incorporate all of our interests and provide opportunities to members of our organization.”

Both Sotelo and Orozco work tirelessly to share internship, conference, career, and scholarship information with their members. 

Members of Lucha Latina pose at their general body meeting.

“I am trying to share the same resources that I have access to with other Latinas,” said Sotelo. “Especially because we are known to be paid disproportionately less than male counterparts, it’s really important to get access to opportunities while we are still in the development stages of our careers.

We have created a space for women to reach back and help others and we hope that this trend will continue.”

A personal goal of Orozco’s is to give back to the community by speaking to high school students not just in the surrounding South Miami area but those in Homestead, Florida, which is where she grew up.

At the undergraduate level, 27 percent of the student population is Hispanic, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Strategic Analytics. UM’s Lucha Latina members, representing the third collegiate Lucha Latina chapter to be established in the U.S., have made a strong effort to make their mark on the campus. 

Halfway through their first semester on campus, Lucha Latina celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month by tabling and collaborating with other organizations including the Alliance of Latin American Students and, are also in the works to host a “Loteria Night” or lottery night, where they will play traditional Mexican bingo.

“We hope to show other students that Miami is a place that carries with it a mix of people,” said Orozco. “I have met many students from Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, and so forth and they feel a sense of happiness to know that there is a community for us here. It is also important to see the differences in culture, to celebrate these differences.”   

UM’s culture of belonging, as outlined in the  Roadmap to Our New Century, aims to provide a diverse and inclusive community for all members of the University community.

“This organization has helped me encourage other young Latinas who don’t realize the amount of potential they have,” said Orozco. “Lucha Latina will remind every young girl out there that there is nothing you can’t do.”