The meaning of family for Sac State Latino fraternity, Alpha Psi Lambda

“In family it doesn’t have to be united by blood”

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Erick Salgado

Miembros de Alpha Psi Lambda (izquierda a derecha) tesorera y Vice Presidenta External Julianna Murrieta, Miembro Asociada de Educación Savannah Gonzalez, Presidente Luis Sanchez y Vice Presidenta Internal Martha Chavez se reúnen para su junta de la fraternidad el Lunes en la noche. La junta se reúne semanalmente para hablar y planear metas y eventos para miembros de la fraternidad y otros estudiantes de Sac State.

Erick Salgado

This article is also available in Spanish here.

 

Accounting major Raul Bárcenas’ freshman year at Sacramento State abruptly came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he moved back home to San Pablo from the residence halls sooner than he expected.  

Fortunately, he said he found Sac State to be very welcoming, which led to him joining the fraternity Alpha Psi Lambda online.

Alpha Psi Lambda is Sac State’s only co-ed Latino fraternity and currently has approximately 60 members according to Luis Sanchez, president of Alpha Psi Lambda. There are 40 alumni, 15 inactive members and five active members currently within the fraternity. 

Inactive members are still members, except they choose not to be a part of planning with the board that consists of the active members, according to Sanchez. Being inactive does not mean students cannot participate in events, it just means they would not be actively creating ideas for the fraternity or part of meetings.

“We have a lot of people  from either Hispanic or non-Hispanic backgrounds, but because we’re a Latino organization one of the biggest cultural factors of Latino or Hispanic tradition is family,” Sanchez said. “In family it doesn’t have to be united by blood, but more united by relationships and united by bonds. That’s kind of something we try and focus on with our organization, and that’s where we bring in the Latino factor.”

Sanchez explained that the fraternity is more than what they just consider as friends. Every member’s backgrounds and culture all contribute to what they call their “familia.”  

Alpha Psi Lambda Secretary Raul Bárcenas attending weekly fraternity board meeting over zoom. Raul joined the fraternity during his freshman year online during the spring 2020 semester. (Erick Salgado)

Bárcenas said the Latino factor and the emphasis of family would end up being a major aspect on why he decided to join the fraternity.

“For us [family], it means the next level beyond being just a friend,” Bárcenas said. “It’s being there for someone, even if they’re active or inactive. It seemed like when I joined, it was like I knew these people for the longest time even though I had just met them. It was hard to describe.”

Bárcenas added that he believes that allowing the fraternity to be co-ed lets new members view the chapter as more approachable and friendly for those who are interested in joining. 

“Once you join you kind of become a member of a family that always communicates with each other,” he said. “They always check in, they always want to make sure you’re doing your best and hold you accountable.”

The fraternity’s family is not limited to holding each member accountable or for check-ins, according to Bárcenas. In the case of the fraternity’s Treasurer and External Vice President Julianna Murrieta, it also means becoming more educated on their own Latin culture. 

“I’m Mexican, but I grew up with parents who mostly spoke English to me, so I don’t really know that much Spanish,” Murietta said. “A lot of my friends know Spanish really well, even though they don’t make me feel bad about it, they make me feel included. Our members try to educate us, and so I definitely feel way more confident in certain aspects of my culture.” 

Despite being labeled as a Latino fraternity, Murrieta emphasized that the fraternity is not solely meant for Latino or Hispanic students. 

Everyone’s trying to learn and understand other people’s traditions.”

— Luis Sanchez, president of Alpha Psi Lambda

“Even though a huge connotation to our fraternity is we’re Latino-based, we try not to make it too Latino-based because we want people to feel open and welcome to joining no matter [their] background,” Murrieta said. 

Murrieta added that while someone does not have to be Latino to join the fraternity, they should  have an interest in learning about Latino culture. 

Sanchez added that the chapter’s next event is to celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). 

“We want to host an event that connects everyone to the music, to the dance, to the culture, so that everyone here on campus feels welcome to join of any kind of background,” Sanchez said.  “Everyone’s trying to learn and understand other people’s traditions.”

Sanchez spoke on what Latino culture means to him, especially having grown up in a predominantly white environment. 

“It’s hard to feel included or feel motivated because all I saw was people who were of the white community,” Sanchez said. “When I saw this organization [with] people of my own race and people of my own background, it makes people feel more included or welcomed.” 

Despite being the only co-ed, Latino fraternity on campus, Sanchez and Murrieta said that they have fortunately met nothing but praise, assistance and respect from other Greek  organizations. 

“The other day I stopped and saw someone from Kappa Delta Chi, and she was asking us about how we’re doing with our recruitment, and she was just like ‘you guys keep it up, you guys are doing great,’” Murrieta said. If anything, we kind of ask each other for tips.” 

Sanchez said that he has also had positive interactions along with other Greek organizations on campus. 

Alpha Psi Lambda members (left to right) Luis Sanchez, David Ramirez, Martha Chavez and Julianna Murrieta show their fraternity letters during first week on-campus. Photo provided by Luis Sanchez.

 

“I feel like Sac State in general offers a very good, homey, welcoming feel, especially with other organizations,” Sanchez said. “When I see someone else with different letters, or if they see me with my letters it’s always like, ‘Oh, I like your letters,’ or vice versa. ”I haven’t really seen or experienced any kind of judgment or any feeling of needing to be better.”

As Murrieta previously mentioned, one of the biggest connotations to the fraternity is the fact that they are labeled as a Latino-based fraternity. Sanchez said, unfortunately,  incorporating the Latin aspect of the fraternity was found to be difficult due to COVID-19 sending the fraternity backwards in some of the goals that they set. 

One of the biggest challenges Alpha Psi Lambda has faced due to the pandemic is recruiting more members to the fraternity. Sanchez said the pandemic affected the organization to the point that they could not even recruit new members this fall semester. 

“We had a little bit of a rough start because the transition was difficult for everybody, with schedules and meeting times it’s a little hard,” Sanchez said. “We decided to not recruit this semester so we could rebuild and restructure our board and our chapter here on campus.” 

The fraternity created a substitute for recruiting new members by posting a Linktree link on their Instagram page. Sanchez said those who are interested in joining the fraternity can fill out the form provided to be contacted and invited to events this semester.

“We will keep repeating this all the time, but familia, familia, familia:  letting people know that we will be there for them, even if they’re not members, letting them know that if they’re new on campus, there’s always going to be a group that they can always rely on,” Bárcenas said. 

Sanchez said the Day of the Dead event will be on Nov. 2 and anyone is always more than welcome to ask them any questions through Instagram or email as, “they’re here for you as students and as brothers and sisters from Alpha Psi Lambda.”