Institute for Latino Studies celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
Thomas Murphy | Friday, September 14, 2018
The Institute for Latino Studies plans to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with seven events highlighting the cultural richness and diversity of countries with Hispanic origin in the Americas.
Hispanic Heritage Month, which was established by law in 1988 under President Reagan, lasts from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Several countries with Hispanic origin celebrate their independence days during this timespan.
Director of the Institute for Latino Studies and professor Luis Ricardo Fraga said the month is a way of celebrating the shared Hispanic history of American nations.
“The idea behind it — I think — is basically the idea that given the long history of the presence of peoples from Spain, and later from other countries in Latin America, in the United States, it was appropriate that the United States … celebrate both the heritage of our Latin American countries that we might see as brothers and sisters of the western hemisphere … and at the same time celebrate the presence of people from a number of different countries in Latin America in the United States,” Fraga said.
Fraga said Hispanic Heritage Month is a demonstration of the way America can recognize and celebrate diversity.
“The whole purpose of Hispanic Heritage Month is to celebrate the way in which America at its best has the capacity, through its institutions, and at its best through some of its political leaders, to see and celebrate difference and know that it doesn’t in any way threaten our common destiny and our linked fate with one another,” he said.
This year’s festivities include a viewing of the film “Selena” on Sept. 16 at DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, as well as a discussion by Luis Alberto Urrea, an award winning Mexican-American poet on Oct. 2 at McKenna Hall Auditorium.
“[The activities planned] are a demonstration of the varieties and richness that the presence of Hispanics here at Notre Dame bring to the university — intellectual richness, cultural richness, linguistic richness,” Fraga said.
While all the events are scheduled to take place on the Notre Dame campus, Fraga said the Institute hopes to attract people from the surrounding areas as well.
“We strongly encourage, of course, all the members of the Notre Dame community to come, but we also make a concerted effort to bring people in from South Bend, from St. Mary’s, from Holy Cross, from IUSB,” Fraga said. “We’re fortunate in having resources and we want to make sure we share them with the broader community. We have found that at most of our events, all sorts of people come, it’s not just Latino folks who come, and that’s our purpose. Our purpose is to share, to celebrate and to learn from each other.”
Senior Jinelfry Rodriguez, president of the Latino Students Alliance (LSA), said Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate Hispanic heritage, regardless of ethnicity.
“It’s nice to have a time when we are acknowledged by the community and to have a time and space where we’re able to come together and also … share our culture and the aspects of ourselves and our history with people who may not be aware or just aren’t Latino themselves,” Rodriguez said.
LSA secretary and junior Julianna Ortiz said Hispanic Heritage Month allows members of LSA to reach out and share the joy they find in their culture.
“We definitely all love as a community to get together and be able to hang out and be with something familiar to us, but also to share with people who don’t really know our culture as well,” Ortiz said. “To be able to share with people our culture and show how great it can be … I think that’s important.”
Fraga said Hispanic Heritage Month should have particular importance at Notre Dame because of its shared Catholic roots with countries of Hispanic origin and the rising numbers of Catholic Hispanics and Latinos in America today.
“Hispanics represent both the future of the Catholic Church and the past of the Catholic Church at the same time. We have endorsed Hispanic heritage month as a major opportunity to celebrate the presence of Latinos in the United States,” he said. “The increase in the capacity of our institutions to grow even more richly if they embrace the diversity of our growing community gives Notre Dame an opportunity to be at the forefront of the best thinking, the best research, the best teaching, the best students who are interested in understanding the future and committing to it.”
Junior Hibram Sanchez, LSA’s diversity council representative, said Hispanic Heritage Month allows communities to escape the negativity in politics and focus on the beauty of a diverse American society.
“[Hispanic Heritage Month] is important right now especially with this negativity that’s going around,” Sanchez said. “You just see the negative aspects regardless of what your position is … Showing that there’s also these subsets of the American population that contribute to the fabric of the country … it’s important to show what we believe is beautiful in our cultures but at the same time acknowledge that we’re a part of the American experience.”
A full listing of Hispanic Heritage Month events can be found on the Institute for Latino Studies’ website.