The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus


The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus


The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus


Celebrating Heritage and Identity during AAPI Month


Mariah Iosua’s completed tribal tattoo. (Photo courtesy of Mariah Iosua)

The days are growing longer, the air is getting warmer and flowers continue to bloom, as May represents the prime of Spring. However, May holds a deeper significance as we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. 

This celebration invites us to appreciate not only the flourishing environment around us but also the rich cultures, traditions and histories that AAPI communities contribute to our society.

Mariah Iosua (senior, Communications) offers her heartfelt reflection of her culture and the significance it brings to her life. She was born in Hawaii but is Samoan, and she represents her culture with pride through her words, actions, and the tribal tattoo on her arm. 

Iosua’s tattoo, or “tatau” in Samoan, is highly symbolic in her culture. They are rich in motifs that symbolize heritage, family, and social status. 

The traditional female tattoo, the malu, is more delicate and typically covers the thighs. The male tattoo is the pe’a, which covers the body from the waist to the knees. It symbolizes rite of passage marking a man’s transition to adulthood and his readiness to take on responsibilities within the family and community. 

The process is painful and performed using traditional tools, highlighting the wearer’s endurance and commitment. 

“My tattoo took 12 hours, but I absolutely love how it came out,” she says. 

Iosua also put strong emphasis on the importance of family. She expressed that “the Samoan society is traditionally based on a communal way of living, with strong emphasis on family and respect for elders.”

There are important customs like traditional dances (siva) and the ‘ava ceremony (a formal ritual involving the ceremonial drink kava), that are done at family events.

Kryslin James (sophomore, Psychology) has had the pleasure of witnessing the strong bond of her teammates’ family members, as a few members of the volleyball team are Asian American or Pacific Islanders. 

“I love the family dynamic. Some people on my team are a part of AAPI, and their families always come out and support us. Being surrounded by these different cultures allows me to expand my knowledge and understand their different traditions and beliefs,” James says.

One of her teammates, Makenna Carrillo (junior, Communications), lives the best of both worlds as she is Hawaiian and Korean. 

“I am proud to be Hawaiian because the culture is so unique between the traditions and family connectedness,” she says, “Also being Korean, I am appreciative to be a part of the Asian community and what they have to offer. Overall, I am grateful I get to represent my cultures and spread love through them.”

Iosua and Carrillo both believe that there’s a growing recognition that AAPI communities deserve more awareness and representation. This includes understanding the unique cultural identities, challenges, and contributions of these communities. Increased awareness helps combat stereotypes, promotes diversity, and fosters greater inclusion and equity in society. 

“I guess it depends on who is willing to take the time to educate themselves on our culture,” Iosua says.

As the month of May continues to recognize AAPI Heritage Month, we are reminded of the rich tapestry of cultures, traditions, and histories that enrich the community.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Signal Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Celebrating Heritage and Identity during AAPI Month