Latines Unides hosts events to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month


Photo courtesy of Anthony Hamer ('21)

Students participate in zumba class in Marty's

Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct.16) is a month to remember, recognize, and celebrate the contributions of Latinx and Hispanic peoples to the U.S.

The student organization Latines Unides hosted events to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, including  Fernando Herrera-Calderóns lecture titled “Barrio Power: Working-class Youth and Class Struggle in 1970’s Mexico,”  and a zumba dance class. The month commemorates all Latinex and Hispanic countries, and recognizes the impact the Latinx and Hispanic community has on American society, economy, and culture.

“I think it is really important to folks that identify as Latino or Latinx,” Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and History Kelly Sharp said. “It is important for us because it’s an intentional time to slow down and claim our history as part of the American story. I think it is also important for nonhispanic people to take time to learn a culture and history that they don’t identify with, but certainly experience and engage with on a daily basis.”

The observation of Hispanic Heritage Month started in 1968, when it was known as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon B. Johnson. President Ronald Reagan expanded it to a full month in 1988. It was officially recognized Aug. 17, 1988. 

The month begins on Sept. 15, because  it is the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico gained its sovereignty on Sept. 16, followed by Chile on Sept. 18. This 30-day period is used to celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens who came from Spain and Latin America.

“To be honest, I had never heard about it until I came to the U.S.,” Latines Unides member Salomé Valdivieso (‘23) said. “I’m from Ecuador, and I have never been so aware of my latineda until I came here to the U.S. However, I think it is a really empowering time to be proud of who we are and where we come from because in a country that is close in borders to people who are different, it is important to remain resilient to who we are.”

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in various ways. At Luther, many of the months’ activities are sponsered by Latines Unides. 

Latines Unides is a club that serves as a cultural experience, a social resource, and a support center for students of Hispanic or Latinx descent, as well as their allies. The organization plans to promote more Latinx inspired events in the coming months. 

“I see it as another class,” Lorelayn Coto (‘21) said. “Because I want to incorporate all the knowing of what’s going on in the world, knowing what’s going on in my country. The culture of the U.S., it limits my time to focus on my people. So this Heritage Month is like I can see everything that’s going on in the world, but I also want it to be more than a month, I want it to be all year round.”

Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off Latines Unides’ celebrations throughout the year. Their Day of the Dead celebration will take place on Oct. 31 in Regents Center from 6-9pm. This gathering won Best Student Led Organization Event last year. 

“The Latines Unides group works really hard at coordinating events, and especially the Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, which happens traditionally on Nov. 1 in many Latin American countries,” Sharp said. “They put a lot of time and effort into planning that event, and I would love to see more engagement by major programs and faculty, and also coordinating events or speakers on campus to kind of celebrate and pair the intellectual with the cultural appreciation.” 

For some students, the ideas behind Hispanic Heritage Month continue past the end of the month.

“I think I celebrated it just being who I am and staying true to my values,” Valdivieso said. “I think language is a big part of my identity, so is being proud of my accent, being proud of the language that I speak, being proud of the music that I listen to, to the clothes that I use, my skin color, my beauty as a Latina. I think that’s how I celebrate it, not only this month, but throughout the year and always.”

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