Hispanic Heritage Month: Students comment on importance of culture and legacy

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By Alagra Bass

In the late Eighties, the annual week-long Hispanic Heritage celebration expanded into the National Hispanic Heritage Month, observed Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

Mid-September was chosen because seven different Hispanic countries—Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua—celebrate their independence during the month of September.

The heritage month is geared toward celebrating the contributions, presence, and legacy of Hispanic Americans in the United States. Throughout the month, there are a series of programs,  and events to celebrate.

Hispanic culture has not gone uncelebrated here on campus. This month, ALAS and CELA, along with Hispanic fraternities and sororities, have put on several events to celebrate Hispanic culture.

One of the most recent events, held in Sorum, was a “Latino Guess Who.”  CELA, a group whose goal is to enhance diversity and awareness through accurate portrayals of Latin Americans, held a  Latino trivia.

Students of various backgrounds were able to get to know each other in a fun and competitive setting, and many left enriched with the history of Latin American figureheads. The event epitomizes what Hispanic Heritage Month is all about.

There are several Hispanic American students on campus, some of who immigrated from a Hispanic country or are first- or second-generation Americans. One student, Jennifer Rodriguez ‘12, loves her Hispanic roots. Rodriguez is a second-generation American whose family is originally from Puerto Rico.

“My Hispanic culture is extremely important to me; I love  learning more about it. I ask my mother questions about where my grandparents were raised, the traditions and cultural values that were followed in Puerto Rico, and the tradition and values my grandparents brought with them to America,” Rodriguez said.

She added, “I embrace my culture by eating authentic dishes, listening and dancing to the specific music and dance styles such as salsa, bachata, and merengue, as well as learning how to speak Spanish. Somehow, doing all this makes me feel more connected to the culture.”

Kaity Modesto ‘12, a Dominican student, replied similarly.

“Being Dominican is part of my identity. I almost never identify as an American even though I was born in the United States. I was raised in a predominantly Dominican neighborhood in upper Manhattan and for a long time my world revolved around just Dominicans and our culture. But I went to high school in another part of the city and then to college, and my “world” began to expand.  I have plans to get a professional degree and to help people in my community because no matter where I go, I never forget where I came from.”

The Hispanic students here on campus seem very proud of their culture—they love to learn about it and share it with others.

As Modesto put it, being Dominican and living in the U.S. gives her “the best of both worlds.”

“I get to explore the Caribbean, enjoy my vacation, experience the beaches and the food, and also visit my extended family.”

This mixture leaves Modesto “as privileged as it gets.”

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