By Daniel Colton
The Hispanic population at BYU is growing, and church missionaries may be one of the reasons why.
“During my mission I had a lot of companions who encouraged me to try to get in to BYU,” Hafid Herrera said.
Herrera, 23, a freshman from Guadalajara, Mexico, majoring in civil engineering, served a mission in San Antonio, Texas.
Herrera said not only missionaries talked to him about enrolling at BYU, but also members he came into contact with told him to attend.
“They felt that it would be a great opportunity for me,” Herrera said.
In 1975, there were only 46 Spanish Americans who attended BYU, said Janet Rex, information manager for University Communications. By fall semester of 1996, 843 Hispanics attended BYU out of a total of 30,563 students, Rex said. Those students represented 2.8 percent of the total population of BYU.
In the fall of 2001, the number of Hispanic students had grown to 1,075 out of 32,771 total students, or 3.3 percent of the population, Rex said.
Michelle Palmer, 28, a senior from El Paso, Texas, majoring in marriage family and student development, said missionaries have an influence on Hispanics coming to BYU.
“Missionaries are a link to BYU,” Palmer said. Palmer serves as the president for the salsa club.
Palmer said she moved around growing up and she could always feel the presence of BYU through missionaries who served in areas where she lived.
Palmer said many of the missionaries she came into contact with growing up had gone to BYU and encouraged her to do the same.
Herrera said he thinks most Hispanics feel comfortable at BYU.
“There is a lot of facilities for international students,” Herrera said.
Palmer said one misunderstanding people sometimes have of Hispanic people is that they can all speak Spanish. She said she did not speak Spanish until she came to BYU and took some classes to learn the language.
She said another stereotype Hispanics sometimes receive is that all of them can dance.
Palmer said many Hispanics spend time together at BYU because of the similarities they have each other.
“When they find each other, they really stick together,” said Palmer.