Students, community reflect on Hispanic Heritage Month
Programs at AU and around DC brought community together
What is Hispanic Heritage Month?
National Hispanic Heritage Month is a 30-day period starting on Sept. 15 and ending Oct. 15 that celebrates the contributions, histories and cultures of the American Latino community. The month originated as Hispanic Heritage Week by former President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 and was expanded to a full month under Ronald Reagan in 1988.
Sept. 15 marks the anniversary of the Cry of Dolores, a call to arms in 1810 that triggered the Mexican War of Independence which liberated Mexico and several Central American nations from Spain. Since it was established, people have celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with festivals, community gatherings, conferences and other activities that recognize Latino diversity in the United States.
University programs provide a space to learn about Hispanic heritage
Numerous programs are offered through American University, with opportunities for students and professors to explore, celebrate and learn about their Hispanic heritage.
The Center for Latin American & Latino Studies and the Latina/o/x Studies Program are two programs offered through AU for students, particularly Latino students, to better understand the issues and vast histories in Latin countries and cultures.
Abril Fonseca, a senior in the School of International Service, said the Latina/o/x Studies Program helped her find a sense of community at AU. Although Fonseca said the program was criticized for not including the voices of Black and Indigenous members in the Latino community, she thought it was a step in the right direction. For Fonseca, Hispanic Heritage Month “means celebrating the voices and traditions and cultures” of Latino people.
David Vazquez, associate professor of literature and Critical Race, Gender and Culture Studies, program director of Latinx studies and program director of the Latina/o/x Studies Program in the College of Arts and Sciences, thinks that acknowledging the contributions of Hispanic communities is an important aspect of the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
“It's always a good thing when society takes the time to recognize the people on whom so much of our wealth and prosperity is, is sort of built right,” he said.
Vazquez created Latina/o/x Studies Program his third year at American University. He said the program allowed students to study different aspects of race as they relate to Latino people.
Fonseca also said her peers and professors at the AU made her feel unintelligent. “... It was like little microaggressions, or little comments that just really stood out to me, and I began to internalize a lot, despite me always feeling like, ‘Oh, I'm good at this, like, I'm fine.’”
Fonseca said the Latina/o/x Studies Program helped Fonseca grow and made her feel confident enough to share her ideas and experiences.
On Sept. 30, 2022, the Latina/o/x Studies Program hosted an event with the Department of Critical Race, Gender & Culture Studies (CRGC) called “The Future of Latinx Studies Roundtable.”
Clubs and organizations bring students together
Clubs and student organizations on campus have also hosted events for the Hispanic and Latino communities on campus.
On Oct. 6, AU Latinos En Acción (AU LEA) hosted a number of events to bring the Latino community on campus together during Hispanic Heritage Month.
“Our goal is to bring together the community here on campus, but also our club is an advocacy group,” Jocelyn Lopez-Arias, the co-president at AU LEA, said, “so we will be doing a lot of campaigns and stuff revolving Latino issues.”
The organization hosted an event in coordination with the American University League of United Latin American Citizens (AU LULAC) and the Kennedy Political Union featuring Maria Canals-Barrera with “Navigating Hollywood & Stage with Maria Canals-Barrera.” Canals-Barrera talked with the AU students about the issues in the film industry as a Latina actress.
AU LEA also hosted “Noche de Bachata” on Oct. 8, which provided a space for AU students to learn to dance and enjoy Bachata. The event allowed students to get a glimpse into the communal relationship available to them through AU LEA.
Campus cafes have also joined in for Hispanic Heritage Month with special drinks from The Davenport Coffee Lounge and The Bridge.
The Dav worked in partnership with AU LULAC to offer the Cinnamon Hazelnut Latte until Oct. 15 for Hispanic Heritage Month.
The Bridge worked in partnership with the Center for Student Involvement to host ¡Para la Cultura! on Oct. 7, offering warm drinks, music and free food in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Around the D.C. area, La Clinica Del Pueblo’s programs strive to help the Latino community
Outside of AU, in the D.C. area, La Clinica Del Pueblo has been ready to help the community for Hispanic Heritage Month. La Clinica Del Pueblo is a community health center serving the Latino community, providing primary medical care for over 35 years.
LCDP has a number of services to assist the Latino community, including the Community and Health Action (CHA), a sexual health and health prevention program.
“it's a really important program in terms of safe spaces and having an open door that individuals, who might feel otherwise fearful and afraid of going in to see a doctor,” Rachel Ugarte, the chief development officer at La Clinica Del Pueblo said about CHA, “It offers a kind of that, that warm community, non-judgmental place that you can access health care.”
La Clinica Del Pueblo will be continuing its work in the D.C. area with a toy drive in late November.
“Our mission and vision to build a healthier community for Latinos, that's culturally competent, and serving those that are most in need.” Ugarte said.