UA celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
National Hispanic Heritage Month kicked off on Sept. 15, and people all across the country will spend the next month honoring the history, culture and individual contributions to the community of people who are descendants of, or themselves, from Spanish-speaking countries.
At the UA, the celebration began on Sept. 14 with a fiesta hosted by the UA Health Sciences Hispanic Center of Excellence.
The celebration continues throughout the month with numerous other events including an event at the football game against USC on Oct. 15, outreach programs for students and scholars and presentations and performances by local Hispanic community members.
Anna O’Leary, head of the Department of Mexican American Studies, said this month of celebration gained momentum over the last few years and is especially popular in the Southwest, given the history of the region.
She said she hopes this year’s month of celebrating Hispanic culture will bring awareness.
“I think that as the demographics change, you have a greater awareness of the contributions of Latinos and Mexican-Americans to this country, so it becomes a time for more people to come together,” O’Leary said. “I think ... we’re better using that framework for celebrating something and it contributes to who we are as a nation, as workers, employers, teachers, professors and members of the community.”
O’Leary added that in the current political environment, it’s more important than ever to celebrate diversity and become more tolerant.
The UA’s Adalberto & Ana Guerrero Student Center, a campus Latino culture and resource center, is hosting a number of programs throughout the month that are open and free to any student.
Andra Soria, a UA graduate and now program coordinator at the center, said it’s important for students to recognize the Hispanic culture, especially since it’s the biggest minority on campus.
“I just think a lot of times our culture isn’t the focus or it’s not a priority in a lot of spaces,” Soria said. “It’s important for us to be free and express our culture and to celebrate it, to be proud of it and at the same time raise awareness about what it is and who we are beyond just faces that you see on campus.”
Soria said it’s really important for people to inform others of what they hold near and dear to their hearts.
Hispanic and Latino students can utilize this month of celebration to feel connected to their roots.
Omar Pereyra, who is a senior studying criminal justice and Middle Eastern and North African studies, is involved with the Guerro Student Center and has been a part of Club Latino for three years. Both of these groups are involved in events for National Hispanic Heritage Month.
“It’s a time to reflect on how far we’ve come as a community ... We also get to see the different cultures be[ing] celebrated between different types of Hispanic and Latino traditions,” Pereyra said. “As an immigrant from Mexico that grew up both in a Spanish and American household, I find it [important] that we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month because as a community, we have gone a long way and it’s a time to celebrate and show pride for that.”
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