PUBLISHED:October 13, 2023

LALSA students celebrate Latine Heritage Month


LALSA members reflected on how their shared heritage informs their legal aspirations.

At Duke Law, Latine Heritage Month is an opportunity for the Latin American Law Students Association, known as ‘LALSA,’ to celebrate their shared heritage, lived experiences, and goals. From September 15 to October 15, LALSA members held social events inviting fellow students to enjoy and learn about many of their rich cultures.

LALSA also participated in a series of weekly member spotlights on Duke Law’s social media channels that delved into member’s thoughts on what Latine Heritage Month means to them, how they first met LALSA, what it’s like to be a Latine student and aspiring lawyer, and more.

Below are highlights featuring Saúl Aguirre-Villarreal ’24, a San Antonio, Texas, native with interests in Corporate Law and Technology Transactions; Ines Cordovez LLM ’24, who calls Panama City, Panama, home and is interested in Business and Fintech Law; Amber Holder ’25, who hails from Panama City, Panama, and is interested in White Collar and Investigations; and, Nicholas Ramirez ’26, of Miami, Florida, who is interested in pursuing a career in commercial litigation.

Saúl Aguirre-Villarreal ’24

Saúl Aguirre-Villarreal ’24What does this month mean to you?

“I view this month as an exercise in gratitude and a celebration of the diversity and intersectionality of Latine culture. My late grandfather grew up on the streets of Monterrey, Mexico, with no formal education and, like many immigrants, came to this country with hopes of creating a better life. The opportunities I have today would not be possible without my family’s sacrifices.”

How did you find LALSA at Duke Law?

“A personal invitation from a now Duke Law LALSA alumnus was the primary reason I joined LALSA. As a second-generation Mexican-American, I struggled with a sense of in betweenness and never felt fully accepted by the Hispanic community in South Texas. LALSA at Duke Law is one of the first places in my life I have felt that sense of cultural and community belonging.”

Is there a Latine lawyer that inspires you?

“My stepfather, Paul Garcia, is who immediately comes to mind. He is a Mexican-American attorney in San Antonio, Texas, that entered the legal profession at a time when it was nearly unheard of for our people. If it weren’t for him, I never would have thought a career in law was an attainable outcome for me.”

After graduation you'll be entering one of the least diverse professions in the U.S. How do you think your Latinx identity will influence your perspective in these spaces?

“Being given a seat at the table as a Latino is a meaningful opportunity to break down the barriers to what Latine should look like, sound like, or think like. Additionally, because of my unique set of lived experiences, including a pivotal encounter with the criminal justice system at 18, I will respond with empathy in a profession where empathy is lacking.”

Ines Cordovez LLM ’24Ines Cordovez LLM ’24

What does this month mean to you?

“I view this month as an opportunity to celebrate all Latinx cultures. It’s a great time to promote inclusivity by highlighting the importance of understanding and respecting different cultures. Additionally, it’s also about raising awareness about the challenges that the Latinx communities face like social inequalities, immigration, and discrimination.”

How did you find LALSA at Duke Law?

“So far, I’ve really enjoyed all the events that they have hosted, LALSA has helped me meet new people with similar backgrounds and create new friendships from the Latinx community.”

What does it mean to be part of LALSA?

“For me, being part of LALSA means having a safe space and community where I can connect with people that share my similar traditions. LALSA embraces the 'familia' bond which brings us together and encourages us to always be there for our fellow LALSA members, even if we have a close friendship or not.”

Amber Holder ’25

How did you find LALSA at Duke Law?

"The folks in LALSA were the first people I met - I was actually here on the day of elections for the 2022-2023 LALSA Executive Board. It was an awesome introduction! I got to see everyone in action, hear them be thoughtful and supportive of each other, and see how much they cared about one another."

Amber holder 350 wideWhat does it mean to be part of LALSA?

"Being a part of LALSA means unconditional support and belonging. It genuinely feels like we all have a place we can fully be ourselves. As one of very few Black Latine students last year, I am so excited that there are more Black Latine students in the 1L class and that LALSA continues to be a home for all Latine students."

After graduation you'll be entering one of the least diverse professions in the U.S. How do you think your Latine identity will influence your perspective in these spaces?

"I think my perspective will be influenced not only by my Latine identity, but by the intersectionality of my identities as a Black woman and an immigrant. I hope to be the voice in the room saying what would otherwise not be said, or even thought of. I count myself incredibly lucky to get to be a voice and representation that would otherwise be absent."

What are three words that describe your Latine heritage? And, why?

"Memory, resilience, and JOY.

"Memory, because in tracing back my lineage, my family has always been immigrants and dealt with the joys and struggles of that identity. That struggle continues in me today, and it’s important for me to remember that I’m not the first and I won’t be the last.

"Resilience. As a Black Latine family, we have dealt with difficulties because of our Blackness, our immigrant identities, our accents, our features, our perspectives. But by supporting each other we have endured through it all. There’s no better way to describe it than generational resilience. I am so grateful to those who came before me, and I hope they would look proudly on my life.

"JOY. My Blackness is indivisible from my Latinidad, and to be Black is to be Joyful. It is an act of resistance for us to wake up each day and choose to be as effortlessly and effervescently joyful as we are. I am proud of that everyday, and I always will be."

Nicholas Ramirez ’26

What does this month mean to you?

“It’s a conscious recognition of where I’ve come from and where I hope to go. My family fled a repressive regime where their opportunities were limited, and their rights stripped from them. I hope to make the most of the sacrifice they made.”

Nicholas Ramirez ’26After graduation you'll be entering one of the least diverse professions in the U.S. How do you think your Latine identity will influence your perspective in these spaces?

“The way I see it, being a Latino creates an important intersection of our cultural past and our current lived experience. That perspective, in relation to the legal profession, could bring some warmth and community building to an inherently adversarial system that’s experiencing an increasing amount of tension carried out over email and Zoom.”

How does LALSA support your law school experience?

“I’d say they’ve been supportive since day 1, but they reached out even before that! It’s been such an outpouring of support from each and every member, helping to ease the 1L woes and offering tips, tricks, and overall advice about how to navigate the trickiness that is law school.”

What are three words that describe your Latine heritage? And, why?

“Lillian Guerra, director of the Cuba program at UF, uses “Revolution, Redemption, and Resistance.” The last century of Cuban history is filled with the three, and I like to believe that revolution, redemption, and resistance have worked together to create a unique fighting spirit amongst Cubans 🇨🇺 and Cuban-Americans.”