Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc. member Jonathan Basquez removed his sunglasses as he and his brother Aaron Felix prepared to pay homage to their organization during Discoverfest at Cal State Fullerton on Thursday.
The two Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc. members lined up in military fashion with grimaces on their faces. Basquez called out as boldly as his lungs allowed.
The brothers of Lambda Theta Phi at CSUF have been performing their traditional salute since the chapter was established in 2003. It has been passed down from brother to brother since its original founding in 1975 at Kean College in New Jersey.
The tradition features fraternity members lining up and yelling out phrases one by one, or in unison, and there’s no limit as to how many brothers can participate at once.
Basquez makes sure he puts all his heart and effort into performing the salute and noted that members want to see the same intensity in other brothers.
“Words are just words, but if it actually means something to you, then you could cherish it more,” Basquez said.
During the salute, the bullhorn, or the leader of the line, makes commandments and gets a response from those lined up behind him to represent unity.
The salute ties back to the fraternity’s origins and early beginnings.
“It’s a little bit of a spin of the whole military salute kind of thing because a lot of our original founders, they’re veterans,” Felix, the chapter’s current president, said.
The tradition is hard to miss because members must scream the words, making it difficult to understand at first.
Paul Gomez, CSUF alumnus and a former president of the fraternity, said that many bystanders are often left with questions unanswered.
“The first time someone sees the salute, they’re kind of terrified, like ‘What the hell are these guys doing?’” Gomez said. “It’s information that has been passed down from our founding fathers. Word for word what they used is what we use to this day.”
Beyond the intense facial expressions of those performing the salute, there are five keywords that are incorporated into it, giving people a small glimpse of what the salute means: unity, respect, brotherhood, culture and pride.
Fraternity members like Felix resonate with these words as they’re chanted at the very end of the performance. The values and history of the organization are what influenced him to join.
Felix said the salute is more than being able to memorize each step and every movement.
“It’s about being synchronized with the rest of the brothers as well,” he said.
Felix noted that different brothers will always explain different representations of what the salute is, but he describes it as poetry in motion.
The brothers of Lambda Theta Phi look at the salute as being proud of who they are and where they come from. Felix said that he will never turn down a chance to perform it.
The true meaning of the salute, however, is still a huge question that arises from the outside looking in.
Gomez noted that witnessing the salute multiple times will help clear up some questions that people might have about it. But in the end, it’s something that only the brothers of Lambda Theta Phi can achieve and attain.
“The second or third time you start listening to the words of our chant, our salute, you start to identify and hear those phrases and you’re like ‘Ah, okay, it makes sense.’ But just when you think you got it, you actually don’t,” Gomez said.