In the days leading up to Sept. 15, students could feel excitement in the air as the iconic U Statue was dressed from head to toe in vibrant colored banners. This marked the start of a month-long celebration of Hispanic culture — one filled with salsa dancing, delicious food and important conversations.
Every year from Sept.15 to Oct.15, the U.S. recognizes Hispanic Heritage Month. What originally began as a week-long event in 1968 was expanded to a full month in 1988 to celebrate and understand the history of Latin communities.
This year, UM has planned several events to connect students and celebrate Hispanic cultures at the university.
“Hispanic Heritage Month is just to celebrate Hispanic culture and all the contributions that Hispanic-Americans have put into this country,” junior biomedical engineering major Rebecca Menendez said.
Menendez, who is president of the Alliance of Latin American Students (ALAS), has helped organize a series of events on campus throughout the month along with her executive board, the Office of Multicultural Students Affairs (MSA) and the Latin Leadership Council.
“I really think it’s important to establish this Latin community because we live in Miami and we have such a diverse culture that should be celebrated and honored,” Menendez said.
The opening ceremony for Hispanic Heritage Month at UM was originally scheduled for Sept. 15 at the Lakeside Patio, but was moved to the Shalala Student Center ballrooms from 4 to 6 p.m. on Sept. 16 due to inclement weather. Continuing the month’s events, the school will hold a screening of “Coco” on Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. in the Cosford Cinema.
In the coming weeks, various clubs will participate in Hispanic Heritage Month to give away T-shirts at the UM vs. Tennessee football game on Sept. 24, host a Real Talk roundtable discussion on Sept. 27 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the LSV study halls, lead a Ghandi Day of Service on Oct. 1 through the Butler Center and throw a closing ceremony on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Lakeside Patio.
“I feel like [these events are] a great way to educate,” junior biomedical engineering major and student organization liaison for MSA, Juan Flechas said. “The best way is to be interactive. Come out to every single event, it’s gonna be fun.”
Hispanic Heritage looks different for everyone. While Flechas is from Colombia, Menendez’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba in their 20s.
“Every single [Hispanic] country has different backgrounds,” Flechas said. “[Hispanic Heritage Month] is a way for me to make those new connections and talk to people that are kind of related to me.”
Attending the Hispanic Heritage Month events on campus gives students the opportunity to learn about music, dance, food and experiences found in Hispanic culture.
“I think it just starts with an open conversation from someone who is Hispanic-American,” Menendez said. “Seek out those resources, seek out the people in your community that are Hispanic to learn more about how this culture and all this history has defined this nation today.”