Americans celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) every year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate Americans who have ancestry traced to Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Hispanic Heritage Week was first celebrated in 1968 under Lyndon Johnson. In 1988, the observation was expanded by Ronald Reagan to an entire month. Sept. 15 is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
“Many people celebrate their heritage by preparing traditional dishes, playing music and hosting dances, and most importantly, spending time together,” said Alejandro Salais, graduate assistant in Alma College’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (DI Office).
To celebrate on campus, the DI Office is holding many events for “all students, faculty and staff in the Alma Community,” said Salais.
Central to these events is the Hispanic Hall of Fame, viewable between Sept. 19 and Oct. 15 in the Rotunda of Tyler Van Dusen. This self-guided tour introduces you to Hispanic American historical figures and their contributions to American society.
“My personal hero [is] Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor,” said Stephany Slaughter, professor of Spanish and women’s and gender studies. Sonia Sotomayor, a Puerto Rican woman born in the Bronx, became the first Hispanic person and the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court in 2009.
“Someone in the Latino community that I look up to is Roberto Clemente—the first Latino inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Salais. “[His] dedication to community service and giving back to others is what has always made him a role model for me.”
“It is no [surprise] that Benito Antonia Martinez Ocasio, also known as Bad Bunny, is one of my idols,” said Krystal Urena (’23), president of the Alma College Hispanic Coalition. “He is true to what he believes in [and] has broken so many stereotypes of machismo.”
Bad Bunny, who is Puerto Rican, has won two Grammy Awards, four Latin Grammy Awards and eight Billboard Music awards amongst other achievements in music and television.
Puerto Ricans are contributing to American society in major ways, but their situation is unique. Puerto Ricans are U.S. Citizens, and have been since 1917, but are disenfranchised.
“Puerto Rico deserves particular attention, not only because of the continued colonial relationship between the island and the continental US… but because of the current situation [in which they are] recovering from Hurricane Fiona,” said Slaughter.
One of the ways the community celebrated HHM is by inviting Puerto Rican artist, Omar Cruz, to the DI Office’s HHM Painting with a Twist event. This event took place on Sept. 29. According to his website, Omar Cruz is “one of the most sought-after portrait photographers among celebrities.”
On another note, there are many ways to get in on HHM celebrations on Alma College’s campus.
“On campus, the [DI Office] has an event planned [on Oct. 7] that will include Ballet folclórico and food for our campus community,” said Slaughter. “I’m excited to participate!”
This event will take place in the chapel, featuring the Ballet Folclórico del Luz, Central Michigan University’s award-winning folclórico group.
On Oct. 13, there will be a showing and dialogue around the East LA Walkouts. This event will be cohosted by the DI Office and History Club in the chapel basement.
“The purpose of [the showing and dialogue] is to shine some light on the history of [the American] education system,” said Urena.
On Oct. 18, the Hispanic Coalition and iGem are cohosting an event on Latinx Voices in STEM in SAC 113.
“As a Latino graduate student and young professional, it means so much to me to be surrounded by a community here at Alma College that cares so much about learning about different cultures and social identities,” said Salais.