Hispanic Heritage Month creates community on campus


Jordan Rusche, Lifestyles Editor (She/her)

Students attending “Noche de Comedia,” a comedy event sponsored by the Latin American Student Association Friday, Sept. 18, were given an energetic introduction to the upcoming events centered around Hispanic Heritage Month.

Ian Lara, an Afro-Latino comedian from New York, used his act to discuss some of his experiences surrounding his background, including growing up with two immigrant parents and not looking like a stereotypical Latino. The event was meant to offer some entertaining options to balance out the more educational workshops.

“Knowing that our students are so focused on their studies, just giving them time to wind down, and what better way to wind down than with some comedy to get you to relax and laugh a little,” Dr. Florencio Aranda III, the multicultural Latino retention advisor and LASA advisor, said.

Along with other entertaining events—like an upcoming LASA canvas painting Oct. 6 and movie night Oct. 1—Hispanic Heritage Month also features a wide variety of presentations meant to teach students about the importance of celebrating different cultures and address some of the current issues in our country.

“All of the topics and events that take place are really from conversations and from topics that are student-focused and student-led,” Aranda said. “With that in mind, our students this year wanted to focus their attention on bringing awareness of the undocumented immigrant-lived experience.”

Events related to this include CommUNITY Tuesday, Sept. 29, a meeting led by Yosimar Reyes, a Latino poet, LGBTQ activist and an undocumented immigrant, to discuss his experiences. UndocuALLY, another event Monday, Sept. 28 with Dr. Germán Cadenas, discusses how be an ally toward people who are undocumented.

Miguel Mena, treasurer for LASA, explained he is most excited about these events taking place during that week of Sept. 28- Oct. 2.

“Many have negative opinions of these individuals, and I hope this week can change the attitude of some of these individuals,” Mena said.

During the week of Sept. 21-25, the Multicultural Center and American Indian Student Center will team up to provide workshops for marginalized students about professional development, and will help them improve skills like resume building, interviewing and financial skills. There will also be an opportunity fair where students can network and ask questions of a panel composed of professors of color.

The Hispanic Heritage Month program ends with a presentation by Dr. Mayra Olivares-Urueta, an educational administrator, Latina scholar and advocate at Tarrant County College’s Northeast Campus in Texas, Oct. 15, in which she will explain how she balances a professional and personal life.

Aranda believes that hosting multicultural events on campus is important because it allows students to be exposed to backgrounds and cultures different from their own, an experience that can come in handy in the “real” world. He also said it provides a great opportunity for students to learn.

“Being that we’re in the Midwest, we do have, and you do see, the Latino community, but it is not as present because of its limited numbers,” he said. “So by highlighting and showcasing and putting on programs like this,  it exposes everyone to the unique culture, the language and the traditions.”

Mena also supports the celebrations of cultural events like Hispanic History Month at South Dakota State University.

“Being able to spread our culture and educate students is the biggest step towards erasing the division between cultures and easing any feeling of worry or fear for those people who are the minority,” he said.

LASA and the multicultural center are also beginning to think of possible events for next year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, and Mena says he has hopes for expanding the various subcultures they represent.

“I would like LASA to cover topics from countries outside of Mexico,” he said. “With LASA primarily consisting of Mexican-descent students, input from students of other Central or South American countries would improve our outreach.”

Overall, Mena wants students of all cultures to know what these events stand for and what it means to be represented in this way.

“I want non-Hispanic/Latinx students to know that HHM [Hispanic Heritage Month] is about displaying our culture,” he said. “It is not meant to demean or criticize other cultures, but as the USA celebrates its independence with great pride and patriotism, we also celebrate our culture and heritage with great pride and patriotism.”

Aranda also stressed the importance of getting involved and creating relationships with people of other backgrounds.

“I live by a motto that goes, ‘if not me, then who?’” he said. “And I always tell people that if they’re not willing to get out of their comfort zone and learn about different cultures, then who’s gonna do it?”