Campus incorporates Hispanic culture to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

By Roxana Madani, Contributing writer


Nearly five decades ago, Hispanic Heritage Month was created to break down barriers of cultural unfamiliarity and celebrate diversity in the United States.

Celebrations began on Sept. 15 and will continue through to this Sunday. This annual event celebrates and encourages the awareness of diverse Hispanic and Latino cultures.

This month is due to a law, signed by former President Lyndon B. Johnson, which incorporated Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, commemorating the independence of five Latin American countries. President Ronald Reagan expanded the celebration to last an entire month, 20 years later.

The University celebrates this event to help the community give a better understanding and appreciation for the contributions that Hispanic and Latin Americans have made in society.

University Housing provides resources for residents to promote cultural awareness through an initiative to put up posters in the halls, created by the RAs and MAs, to educate people about cultural opportunities on campus.

La Casa Cultural celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month by opening up different types of social events for the public to enjoy, such as the Latin American Film Festival, La Casa Cultural Table Showcase and Latino Education in the U.S: Examining the Educational Experiences of Latinos in the U.S.

“Through my experiences as a student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for the past year and a half, I am astonished to see how many different resources and coordinating events are made available for everyone on campus,” said Megan Schmeider, sophomore in LAS.

Schmeider, a half-Hispanic student, said she believes the different Hispanic resources and organizations help create a more open-minded and diverse campus.

She said it makes it easier for her to connect campus back to her Hispanic heritage.

“I feel like there’s a community behind me even though I am so far from home,” Schmeider said.

Having a wide variety of informational, but festive, cultural events helps Champaign-Urbana become more acquainted toward embracing our cultural roots, Schmeider said.

Fortunately, there are other ways for the community to become more acquainted with the culture while continuing their everyday lives.

University Dining is also offering an assembly toward embracing culture by incorporating Latin American and Caribbean meals at the dining halls around campus.

Illinois Street Dining Hall hosted the traditional meals during lunch on Oct. 2; Pennsylvania Avenue, Lincoln Avenue and Ikenberry Commons Dining halls hosted dinner on Oct. 3, while Busey-Evans and Florida Avenue dining halls hosted dinner on Oct. 4.

The dining hall meals included items such as horchata, torta ahogada and Table guac alongside other meals for the students to try.

Ikenberry Commons also had live music with information from La Casa Cultural Latina and its affiliated RSO’s on Latin culture, art and history.

“I really like how dining halls, such as LAR, have these different unique meals and also try to bring to attention the different cultures,” Schmeider said. “Having the decorations around the dining hall and small descriptions of the different foods from different areas was really interesting.”

This arrangement of unique traditional meals in the dining hall helps students immerse themselves in campus living, find connections and experience tastes of different cultures without having to go far from their dining halls.

Margarita Castrejon, sophomore in LAS, said having events where Hispanic Heritage is celebrated, such as incorporating traditional Latin foods into dining halls, is a good effort to bring out the diverse cultures that may not be as prevalent in everyone’s typical lifestyles.

Minority cultures all over the world have continuously been neglected, not receiving the appreciation they deserve despite the amount of contribution they have made in shaping American culture itself.

Having different small celebrations help communities become more aware and help them unite in embracing cultural and ethnic roots.

“There’s always discussions on campus about the Latino culture and community, but the bad thing about that is when those are held, the majority are Latinos that attend,” Castrejon said.

As a community, it’s favorable to embrace and endorse the acknowledgement of these events, even if students may not personally identify with them.

Whether or not students or members of the community have personal experiences or connections to these events, participating in any event during Hispanic Heritage Month offers an opportunity to expand outside of the campus bubble.

“I think it is important for non-Latinos to at least try and understand more about the culture in order to get rid of the ignorance that lies around,” Castrejon said. “And by ignorance, I am referring to people not knowing why the culture is the way it is.”

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