COLUMBIA — Nine men dressed uniformly held each other for support as they marched into the Plaza 900 Amphitheater and introduced their brotherhood to the MU community on Saturday.
The nine members performed the first ever MU salute show for their group, Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity Inc., a prospective MU fraternity chapter.
The salute show was the first event done by the individuals as members of the national fraternity on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month. It served as the official introduction of the cultural and social service fraternity to the MU community.
A salute show is a tradition that was created by the members of Lambda Theta Phi. The first chapter was established at Kean College, now Kean University, in New Jersey in 1975, when it became the first nationally recognized Latin fraternity in the country.
Illinois sector vice president for the fraternity, Joe Palencia, said that a salute show is unique from traditional Greek strolling or stepping in that it has strong military influences.
"It’s poetry in motion," Palencia said. "You're expressing your respect and love for the organization and also a specific person, chapter or colony. It’s an intense tradition. You’re doing it as one."
Currently, Lambda Theta Phi holds colony status on MU's campus and is in the process of working this year to obtain chapter status and join one of MU's Greek councils.
Nick Ramos, MU's colony president of Lambda Theta Phi, said that with no current multicultural Greek council on campus, he is contacting the Interfraternity Council about requirements and the possibility of Lambda Theta Phi joining the council.
Ramos said there will be many challenges ahead as they work to recruit new members, gain chapter status and join a council on campus, but he does not feel deterred.
"We’re still going to try to become a chapter," Ramos said. "Just because we don’t have a council yet doesn’t mean we’re not going to do anything. We strive on being chivalrous, giving back to the community and being the best we can. Not having a council is a roadblock, but it’s not going to stop us; it’s just a bump in the road."
Ramos said that the idea of starting an MU Latin Fraternity on campus came about when he and MU colony vice president of Lambda Theta Phi, Juan Boyd, talked to members of the University of Missouri-Kansas City chapter of Lambda Theta Phi.
Soon afterward they became intrigued and passionate about the fraternity’s values, and they formed an interest group organization on campus in November 2011. It became a recognized colony of the fraternity's national organization in April this year.
On Saturday morning, Lambda Theta Phi volunteered at the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri as part of the service aspect of the fraternity. The men helped package 5,000 pounds of hot dogs that will help feed families.
With MU joining the SEC, Palencia said he hopes that the increase in visitors from out of state will help MU expand its diversity recruitment efforts.
“We’re a Latino-based organization but we’re not Latino exclusive," Palencia said. "We’re hoping to really unite and work with other people and have that culture of working together and respecting each other. In unity there is strength."
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.