Latina Sororities

In the most recent episode of the ABC Family show Greek, Casey Cartwright, the stunningly blonde and beautiful Zeta Beta Zeta (a made up sorority) sister, planned a “Dry, alcohol-free, Weekend” for her sisters and the whole Greek system.

The popular teen show tunes viewers into the ups and downs of mainstream college sororities and fraternities, including hazing, partying and competing houses. But, this show is missing a big population of “Greek-life:” Latinas!

The show plays on old stereotypes of sororities, from the ditzy blondes to the wild parties, leaving out a big part of what sororities were founded on such as community service, academic excellence and networking.

“In high school you hear stories about [Greeks] getting drunk all the time, the hazing, you hear about the bad stuff first,” Rechelle Lo, vice president of the Sigma Iota Alpha at Florida State University and Cuban-Chinese American said. “We do have fun, but in a discreet manner and we definitely have respect for our [Greek] letters.”
Lo said that sisters in her sorority have to be able to represent their name with manners and don’t go too crazy. She said they have fun and do party, but they work hard as well.

When I wear my [Greek] letters, I’m judged, because they associate me with the partying aspect,” Sanaa Hasaan, Vice-President of the Sigma Lambda Gamma Chapter at the University of Texas at Austin said. She said that she “didn’t do it to be a socialite,” but “joined for community service and principles.”

Latina Sororities 101
The first Latina sorority established in America was Lambda Theta Alpha, an academic sorority that was founded in 1975. Since then, 16 Latina sororities, under NALFO (National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations) have been established across the nation, with thousands of members, each sharing a general emphasis on academic, service and sisterhood. Community service is a large part of Latina sorority life, bringing awareness to Latino communities.

What many senior Latinas in high school don’t know, is that the majority of sororities are focused on philanthropy, picking an important cause such as beating hunger or domestic violence that the sisters support, bring awareness and help fundraise for within their community.

For example, Sigma Lambda Gamma’s philanthropy is the Susan G. Komen Races for the Cure, Sigma Iota Alpha’s chose the March of Dimes, and Kappa Delta Chi’s is the American Cancer Society. Sororities might pick a local cause, too.

Aside from these philanthropies, sisters in Latina sororities still perform different kinds of community service. The sisters of the Kappa Delta Chi University of Texas at Austin chapter, a service sorority, do a total of 600 hours of community service per semester. Vice- President of the UT Austin chapter, Daniela Esparza, said one of their projects was helping pull weeds, paint houses and make dirt beds for seeds to make the community cleaner and green.

The sisters of Sigma Lambda Gamma at UT Austin go to the East side of the city, which is a predominantly Latino community, and hold an annual Christmas drive and provide dinner and give gifts to underprivileged families.

Latina and multicultural sororities across the nation require a certain grade point average to be a sister. Members must maintain a 2.5 g.p.a. and above. They are encouraged to keep academics a priority. In Kappa Delta Chi, it is typical for members to file their “study hours” every week and to have a “study buddy” that keeps each sister motivated to do their school work.

Esparza said the academic chair in her chapter keeps a copy of tests on file after they take it, in order to keep track of their grades and they also gather every sister’s course schedule and make it into a list to see who is in each other’s class.

The alumni of sisters in Latina sororities, like mainstream sororities, is vast. Alumni sisters are there for active sisters and newly graduated sisters to help in a job search or for guidance. And each sorority has a list of alumni that sisters can contact.

“I have sisters who have gotten jobs in D.C. with the national [alumni] list serves,” Hasaan said.

Usually, sororities have newsletters and hold events for alumni, such as lunches or alumni weekends, so the sisters can get to talk to the alumni one-on-one.

“Having [alumni] around the world and country is a good thing,” Rechelle Lo, the vice president of the Sigma Iota Alpha chapter at Florida State University.

Latina sorority alumni span all across the globe and include famous sisters, such as Dolores Huerta (activist and co-founder of United Farmers of America), who’s a sister of Kappa Delta Chi and Gloria Garayua (actress, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Fun with Dick and Jane”), who’s a sister of Sigma Iota Alpha.

The [Maybe] Bad
Each sorority, including Latina sororities, has their own pledging process. Some chapters may be more selective than others, or some chapters may have more requirements such as a higher grade point average, service hours, and even attendance to a mixer. A mixer is a gathering, a party or even a BBQ, where members can get to know each other.

With all of that in consideration, the Latina sorority sisters I talked to all said that pledging and being an active in the sorority is time consuming.

“It’s a huge time commitment, because you’re essentially running a business,” Hasaan said. “But in the end it’s worth it because it helps prepare for the real world and helps you manage time.”

Another assumption about sororities is that they’re incredibly expensive. For Latina sororities, the dues are lower, but it depends on if the chapter has a sorority house or not.

“Our dues (per semester) is the size of a really, really, really small Coach purse,” Esparza said, who was not allowed to reveal dues costs.

Generally, the dues go towards the community service events, t-shirts and mixers that they have with different organizations. Hasaan also said that dues are very low and are $180 a semester.

“If [a girl with interest] doesn’t have enough funds, we’re going to work with her,” Lo said. “It’s about sisterhood and not the money.”

Parent’s Reaction
The Latinas who are first generation college students have to explain to their parents what a sorority is.

“There’s no word for ‘sorority’ in Spanish,” Esparza said.
Esparza parents came from Mexico and didn’t really know about college or sorority life.

Hasaan also had to show her parents, who associated the sorority with stereotypes, that being active in a sorority was a positive experience for her.

“My mom first saw it as a negative,” Hasaan said. “But then she saw how much community service I did.”

Latina sororities have a diverse sisterhood across the nation and the world, spanning every kind of ethnicity. So you don’t have to be Hispanic to join. Hasaan said she herself was even a mix of Saudi Arabian and Hispanic, as well as Lo, who is a mix of Jamaican, Chinese and Cuban.

With every girl coming from different backgrounds, Esparza said that you have to learn to deal with other people, opinions, and personalities.

“You see new members and relate to them because they went through the same process as you,” Lo also said. “You have a connection with that person around the country and world that [provides] a support system for yourself.”

Lo said that “you come to college to excel, and you have sisters that keep you accountable.”

Sorority sisters can also easily get a hold of each other, even if they are across the nation from each other.

“Sometimes when some of my sisters are in a different state, they’ll call up sisters in that area and have that homeliness,” Hasaan said.

Is A Sorority Right For You?
All of the sorority girls who were interviewed all agreed that any girl who is interested in joining a certain sorority must do their research first.

“I always tell interested [girls] to go check out all of the sororities,” Esparza said. “They might see another organization they like better.”

“It’s a life choice,” Lo said. “You can join a club [in college] and once you graduate you may go back and visit, but being in a sorority, you’re able to have that bond for life.”

By Melanie Gasmen

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