Hispanic Heritage Month hits campus

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration is off to a great start — Noche Latina, the kickoff UC Late Night event held Friday, had almost 300 people in attendance.

Sponsored by the Spanish and Latin American Student Association (SALSA) and the Carnegie Mellon Advising Resource Center (CMARC), Noche Latina was the first event of many this coming month. Hispanic Heritage Month includes the last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October.

“[Noche Latina] was a night of celebration of the Hispanic/Latino culture,” said Lynna Martinez, an academic adviser in CMARC. “We featured music [and] Argentinean, Mexican, Spanish, and Peruvian food from around the city of Pittsburgh as well as art and dance.”

There will be various events to follow, both on campus and in the community.

Upcoming festivities include a Mexican Food Festival in Schatz Dining Hall this Thursday, a presentation of Rojo Amanecer (Red Dawn) accompanied by a lecture in Hamburg Hall, and “Speak Your Mind: Machismo and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT)” in the University Center.

Alejandro Fernandez, president of SALSA and a junior computer science major, highly recommends the Speak Your Mind event.

Fernandez is of Cuban descent and lives in Miami, Fla. where he feels Hispanic heritage “is everyday.”

Because he participated as a counselor in ORIGINS, a pre-orientation program for minority students sponsored by CMARC, Fernandez feels that he has been able to reach more first-years. He feels as if he has provided an outlet for them to relate to others of similar cultural backgrounds, especially if they did not know where to start.

Fernandez hopes that people gain a “deeper understanding of what it means to appreciate all cultures and the intricacies between them” from Hispanic Heritage Month.

Professor Felipe Gómez, assistant professor in Hispanic studies, agreed with Fernandez.

Gómez would like to see “engagement with the growing Hispanic population in Pittsburgh and its surroundings.”

Gómez feels that Hispanic Heritage Month is important in its role of educating about a prevalent minority group.

“Hispanics are the largest minority in the U.S., [and] in the Pittsburgh region, [we] are considered to be the only group that has been growing in recent years,” Gómez said. “It is important to give ourselves the chance to be aware of these facts and to increase the opportunities for cross-cultural interaction.”

Fernandez agreed with Gómez and spoke particularly of the Hispanic presence on campus.

“The Hispanic community makes up about 2 or 3 percent of the population on campus, so it’s great to have just a whole month to celebrate [Hispanic culture] together,” Fernandez said.
Gómez hopes that Carnegie Mellon students will come to recognize the many different cultures encompassed under the label “Hispanic.”

Like Fernandez, Gómez agreed that it is important to understand “the diversity of the Hispanic community — Hispanics in the U.S. come from not just Mexico, but also from many different places in Europe and the Americas, and though there are some commonalities [such as language], there are also many differences.”

Gómez mentioned a few things that could improve Hispanic Heritage Month on campus.

“There should be more outreach events targeted toward the Hispanic community to foster interaction among our students and [the community],” Gómez said.

Gómez also brought up the point of better publicity for the month’s events.

“There should be a greater effort to publicize these events to the campus community. The schedule should be online, and on bulletin boards as well,” Gómez said.
While posters are scattered about, news about events on campus always seems to be lacking in general, Goméz said.

Fernandez noted that the celebration should not be limited to a month.

In Pittsburgh, especially on Carnegie Mellon’s campus, Fernandez hopes SALSA can make an even bigger impact throughout the year.

After the month is over, SALSA plans to host a film series, provide cooking lessons once a month, and continue the weekly salsa dance lessons held in Morewood Gardens. The lessons are held Thursdays at 6 p.m. and are taught by Fernandez.

To learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month and the activities and events being sponsored, see the bulletin board by CMARC in Cyert Hall A64 or inquire at the UC Information Desk.