This month Hope College is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans with ancestors from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. It began as a week-long celebration in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson but expanded in 1988 to a month. The Hispanic population is the largest ethnic minority in the United States, making up approximately 17% of the population. Currently, Hispanic Heritage Month provides an outlet to celebrate the successes of LatinX Americans. For example, there are approximately 1.1 million veterans of the United States armed forces who are LatinX, and there are plenty of famous and influential people in the US who are Hispanic or LatinX, such as: Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Sandra Cisneros, and Alex Rodriguez.
Why September 15th?
September 15 was chosen as the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month because it is the anniversary of independence for several Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Other Latin American countries also celebrate their independence soon after this day.
Who celebrates this event at Hope?
Hope’s Latino Student Organization (LSO) celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month. The LSO “promotes an understanding of the Latino culture in the Hope and Holland communities by introducing others to the richness of various LatinX cultures through activities and programs,” according to Hope’s website. Unlike other student groups, the LSO is very intent on connecting with community groups outside of Hope and keeps their events open to all members of the community. Additionally, they work hard to connect with other minority student groups and to keep their events accessible to students in every community.
Rodrigo Zavala-Cintora, the president of the LSO, speaks to the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. “Hope’s acknowledgement of Hispanic Heritage Month makes me feel recognized. It doesn’t impact how at home I feel, because there’s a difference between Hope recognizing it and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion recognizing it.” Alondra Villanueva, vice-president of the LSO, emphasizes the diversity of Hispanic Heritage Month. “LSO educates people that Hispanic culture isn’t just about Mexico. A majority of our members are Mexican but there are people from Chile, Venezuela, El Salvador and other countries.”
The LSO helps host events related to Hispanic Heritage Month. They held an event, “Share Your Story,” on September 30, where juniors and seniors at Hope got to talk about their experiences as Latino members of the Hope community. Villanueva invites everyone to come to these LSO events, whether or not they are LatinX themselves, “This year a lot of people have come who haven’t previously. There’s a lot of freshman involvement. We love seeing freshman at our events.” “Even though we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month, I personally do not feel at home because the celebration is just one month.
What about the other months here at Hope?
Hope is not as diverse as they say it is, which makes many people of color not feel included or at home in Hope College. No negativity towards Hope, but that is something they have been struggling with for many years,” said Steve Rios, a member of the Latino Student Organization. Despite the recognition that Hope has of Hispanic Heritage Month, it is still a work in progress for students who want to gain more visibility and recognition on campus.
How can I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?
The LSO is partnering with The Big Read to host a lecture on Hispanic Heritage Month. On October 9th at 5:00 p.m. in the BSC, Dr. Médar Serrata, an Associate Professor of Spanish at Grand Valley State University, shared his thoughts and perspective on Julia Alvarez’s “In the Time of the Butterflies.” His poetic abilities and his research about Latin America make him uniquely qualified to discuss the topics of this year’s Big Read book. Additionally, the LSO hosted an event to mark the end of Hispanic Heritage Month. It was held on October 14 in room 004 in the Bultman Student Center from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Students shared food, fellowshipped and played games together to mark the end of this month’s celebration.
The Families Together Fest is happening Sunday, October 20 from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the Civic Center. This event is taking place in support of all of the families that have been separated due to immigration issues. There will be music, food trucks, activities, dances, and a raffle. All of the proceeds from the event will be put towards reuniting families who have suffered and been separated due to the immigration ICE crackdown during the last year.
Written by: Adrianna Barker and Kaite DeReus