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. Currently, Hispanic Heritage Month provides an outlet not only to celebrate the success of those in the LatinX community, but also to support advocacy for those currently in native countries and those struggling due to the immigration crisis under the Trump administration.
Why September 15th?
September 15th 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 College and Holland communities by introducing others to the richness of various LatinX cultures through activities and programs,” according to the Hope College 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 College’s acknowledgement 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 already held an event, “Share Your Story,” on September 30th, 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 that haven’t previously. There’s a lot of freshman involvement. We love seeing freshman at our events.” Hope College has struggled in the past to promote diversity on campus, so freshman participation in minority organizations shows progress in the support for minority students on Hope’s 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 5:00pm in the BSC, Dr. Médar Serrata, an Associate Professor of Spanish at Grand Valley State University, will share 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 will also host an end-of-the-month celebration to mark the end of Hispanic Heritage Month. Holland has struggled to adequately create an environment that supports immigrants of all ethnic backgrounds, so it is encouraging to see other Holland events coming alongside the Hispanic community and acknowledging their place in the community.
The Families Together Fest is happening Sunday, October 20th from 3:00-6:00pm 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 been separated due to the immigration crackdown during the last year.
Written By: Adriana Barker and Katie DeReus