Wolfgang Rubio was visiting Florida in early 2000 when he saw Lambda Theta Phi fraternity brothers at UCF giving toys to children for Three Kings Day.
As a fraternity brother who pledged with the University of Connecticut’s chapter, Rubio didn’t think twice as he got in line and started handing out the toys too.
Rubio said it doesn’t matter which chapter a person pledges with because if he is a Lambda fraternity brother, he is a part of every chapter across the nation.
Rubio, who later moved to Central Florida and became more involved with the fraternity’s Alpha Alpha chapter at UCF, described it as one nation of fraternity brothers.
“We are not a social fraternity. We are not a service fraternity. We’re just a bunch of people who wanna help when we can,” Rubio said.
Lambda Theta Phi is the country’s first Latin fraternity, and its Alpha Alpha chapter at UCF celebrated its 25th anniversary on Nov. 17. While the chapter’s culture is more open-minded and openly caring since Rubio moved to Central Florida, he says that its traditions and foundation remain the same.
Over the years he says he has seen less machismo, especially with instances of immediately accepting LGBTQ+ brothers – something he considers part of the fraternity’s mission to establish a brotherhood and develop respectable characters.
For Luis Pantoja, a UCF computer engineering major, the fraternity has helped him grow professionally with its alumni network but also personally by providing opportunities to serve within the Central Florida community.
He said that the brotherhood has collected toys and clothes for Venezuela, done blood drives, worked with Orlando City Foundation, worked with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and fundraised for relief after Hurricane Irma.
“That’s the one thing that never changed: the desire to find people that you connect with, the desire to make people grow and see the potential in them and then having their backs no matter what,” Pantoja said.
With the fraternity, Pantoja has learned how to stay with people through thick and thin. Being in the fraternity isn’t just for the college years, he assures, the brotherhood lasts a lifetime.
“The brotherhood could be summed [up] in three things. It’s the knowledge of the past, the desire of the future and the strength of the ones who stayed,” Pantoja said.
Lambda Theta Phi’s motto is “chivalry above self,” something fraternity brother and UCF ‘20 alumnus Shaquille Marcano Quiles holds in his heart.
One of Marcano Quiles’ treasures is the Panamanian balboa coin, one of Panama’s official currencies, as a necklace that is only owned by the Alpha Alpha chapter’s brothers. The coin has the conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa on it.
Marcano Quiles said that the coin necklace is not about the person on it; it is about what a conquistador represents.
“[A] conquistador is someone who conquers what is in their path,” Marcano Quiles said. “We conquer anything that is given to us because we have made men better.”
“Now I’ve got [the] support of like 20 guys behind me saying, ‘You got this. We got you.’”
Through the fraternity, Marcano Quiles said brothers become strong, whether it is mentally, physically or emotionally.
For the past three years he’s been part of the fraternity, he said that he no longer feels alone in life as he has a brotherhood to rely on.
“It’s only been me and my mother against the world,” Marcano Quiles said. “All of my family is in Puerto Rico. I have no family here, and to gain a family that understands me for who I am and for what I stand for is ridiculous.”
If a brother has a weakness, the fraternity will challenge him to help improve that weakness, Rubio said. He was able to improve his public speaking skills.
“Before, if I had to do something I was scared to do, I was alone,” Rubio said. “Now I’ve got [the] support of like 20 guys behind me saying, ‘You got this. We got you.’”
The fraternity is not only for Latino brothers. It welcomes members from all over the world including Aruban, Brazilian, Puerto Rican, Colombian, Venezuelan, Haitian, Jamaican and Australian brothers.
“A lot of people think it’s the Latino community,” Rubio said. “It’s the community. We’re just doing it as a Latino voice.”
This story is part of a partnership between the Orlando Sentinel and UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media.