You won’t find the sweet smell of homemade arepas or abuelita’s arroz con frijoles in Gainesville as often as you would in your typical Hispanic household. For many new Latino Gators, finding your home away from home is even more difficult when you don’t have the proper guide on how to navigate a predominantly white institution in northern Florida.
El Caimán has you covered on how to maneuver your way towards finding your familia on and off campus.
Life is bland without a little sazón para tu corazón. Although local grocery chains like Publix offer an abundance of Hispanic supplies to recreate your family’s homemade recipes, you probably need something more authentic to get some extra spice — La Aurora, La Pasadita and La Tienda are close Hispanic owned stores that can satisfy your needs.
Several local restaurants near UF like El Indio, Tinker and Mi Apa are easily accessible by bus or walking for a quick bite. If you’re willing to venture a little farther from campus, you’ll find hidden gems in the form of Cilantro Tacos, Latin Food Blessing and La Cocina de Abuela to bring you back to your roots.
Your time at UF boils down to what you make of it, and your involvement plus friend groups heavily influence that. That’s why La Casita’s presence, advocated for by generations of former UF students, serves as a home for Latinos looking for their home away from home.
Located alongside the Institute of Black Culture, La Casita is a safe space for any Gator looking for scholarship opportunities, private study spaces and the sweet smell of roasted Cuban coffee in and out of hallways. The colorful walls present an even more colorful history of activism, inclusivity and representation for our growing Hispanic community that you can learn about just by stepping foot at 1504 W University Avenue.
If you’re looking to get involved but aren’t sure where to start, the Institute of Hispanic Latino Affairs, the Hispanic Student Association and First Generation Leadership Program are just a few of dozens of Spanish-oriented organizations made to help you transition into UF.
Beyond professional organizations are a multitude of welcoming groups that will make you feel more at home or put you in touch with however you culturally identify — from free Gator Salsa classes to hone in your Spanish spice, to the Multicultural Greek Council that offers 14 culturally-based fraternities and sororities, finding where you belong in UF’s Hispanic community is not as unattainable as you may think it is.
It may seem daunting entering Gainesville as a Hispanic student, but generations of former Hispanic Gators paved the way to make UF a welcoming environment for future generations.
They say home is not a place but rather a feeling. It is just a matter of feeling like you’ve found your forever familia in the home you make for yourself at UF.
El Caimán hopes you can find your forever home as you start your journey as a Florida Gator.
Contact Isabella Barnet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Isabella Barnet is a fourth-year telecommunication student at the University of Florida. She is a proud Miami native and Cuban-Peruvian working as the editor of El Caimán. You can find her working on personal film projects, practicing Hispanic dishes, and catching sunsets at Paynes Prairie.