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Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations conclude on campus

| Friday, October 15, 2021

Hispanic Heritage Month, an annual national celebration, ran from September 15 to October 15. Celebrations at Notre Dame were organized throughout the month by the Institute for Latino Studies (ILS), including lectures, presentations, movies and cultural events to “demonstrate how the entire Notre Dame community is enriched by the work ethic, aspirations, and commitment of Latino students, faculty, and staff,” according to the ILS website.

Luis Fraga, ILS director and professor of Transformative Latino Leadership, named two purposes for Hispanic Heritage Month: celebrating “past and current cultural, social, economic, and other contributions of our diverse Latinx communities” in the United States and acknowledging continuing challenges that prevent Latino communities from being “fully integrated” and “reaching their full potential.”

Fraga explained that all eight Hispanic Heritage Month events were very successful.

Celebrations kicked off with the SomosND: Hispanic Heritage Month Kick-Off Fiesta on September 15. According to Fraga, the luncheon included catered Puerto Rican food and had 395 attendees.

On September 16, ILS screened the film Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Moreno, a film about the lost story of the first female farmworker in America to be hired as a union organizer. Attendance was high, filling two-thirds of the Browning Cinema in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, Fraga said.

ILS hosted a virtual panel on September 21 in collaboration with the Hispanic Alumni of Notre Dame (HAND) to talk about professional careers and success stories. The event had over 50 attendees, Fraga said.

On September 24, ILS students and faculty, including students majoring or minoring in Latino Studies, toured the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago to see the famous murals.

Poet Leo Boix, born in Argentina but now residing in Britain, was present for a public reading and discussion of British poetry on September 29. Fraga described the event as “a big hit.”

On October 1, the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center hosted Mariachi Herencia de México, a Latin Grammy-nominated group of young musicians who got their start as a student ensemble in the Chicago Public Schools system. The audience “filled Leighton Concert Hall,” Fraga said.

The final event of the month was a Q&A session with Julián Castro, former San Antonio mayor and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, who ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. Castro discussed his presidential run and the future of American politics.

Throughout the month, posters from Puerto Rico’s DIVEDCO series were displayed in the Galería América in Bond Hall. DIVEDCO, formally the Division of Community Education, was a mid-20th century program in which Puerto Rican artists were hired to design eye-catching educational materials about social and economic issues.

Fraga explained that it is good to have Hispanic Heritage Month early in the academic year so that students and faculty can learn that the University ​​is “a place where multiculturalism is embraced as consistent with [its] original mission.” That mission, according to Fraga, was to provide a high-quality education to predominantly Catholic, predominantly working-class students — often immigrants or of immigrant families. Those groups were originally European but today are most likely Latino.

“The group that today looks to Notre Dame as a source of opportunity are Latinx communities,” Fraga said.

As Hispanic Heritage Month concludes, Fraga and other ILS members will continue to push for more opportunities for Latino communities to benefit from a Notre Dame education. Fraga said that the University “has been committed in a special way to Latino communities,” especially since the inception of the ILS in 1999, because of their strong Catholic affiliation and their growing demographic presence in the United States.

A growing Latino population at Notre Dame and events like those hosted during Hispanic Heritage Month, give Notre Dame “the chance to be at the forefront of efforts to study, collaborate with, and empower Latino students and all those interested in Latino studies and, in this way, empower Latino communities all across the country,” Fraga said.

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