Sept. 15 marked the beginning of Latino Heritage Month, and a group of students are making sure the month is celebrated to the fullest.
While the weather cut the Latino Heritage Month opening ceremony short, it seems it takes more than a little rain to extinguish a Latino fire.
Among events like “Meeting the Latino Greeks,” serving the community and enjoying memorable moments, this year’s Latino Heritage Month aims to follow its theme: “Your Community and the Footprints of Our Heritage” (“Tu Comunidad y las Huellas de Nuestra Herencia”).
“In the simplest form, Latino Heritage Month is a celebration of our culture,” said Jeffrey Lebron-Melendez, a first-year adult and organizational development graduate student and chair of the Latino Heritage Month committee.
The planning committee has been preparing for this month’s events since April in order to create experiences that would raise awareness about the Latino culture. Organizations, such as Asociación de Estudiantes Latinos, Esencia Latina and Latino Greek organizations, continuously promote Latino culture throughout the whole school year, providing an opportunity for all students to participate.
“The events for Latino Heritage Month are just a snippet of what Latinos at Temple have to offer,” said Jackie Beramendi, a senior advertising major and chapter president of Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc. “It’s only the beginning.”
For 21 years, Temple has recognized the time between late-September into October as Latino Heritage Month. Nationally, the month is acknowledged as National Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins Sept. 15 and lasts 30 days. What began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 expanded in 1988 to cover the 30-day period.
This annual Main Campus celebration, which may best be remembered by last year’s premiere T-shirts that said “Latino” or “Latina,” written with the Temple “T,” began Sept. 16 this year. The events will continue through Oct. 11, featuring an array of organizations working to commemorate Hispanic culture.
“Working with the student committee was a great opportunity to celebrate this Latino Heritage Month,” Associate Director of Student Activities Christopher Carey said.
Student Activities set up a special “Memorable Moments” trip to a restaurant that serves food typical to Venezuela. Memorable Moments is an event students can participate in once a semester. Featuring a few different cultural restaurants, students can learn about another culture while enjoying a traditional meal.
Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc. and Esencia Latina held one of the first events, Baila Conmigo, in the Student Center for Sept. 25’s Free Food and Fun Fridays. Esencia Latina drew attention to the history of dancing and traditional dances like Argentina Tango and Bachata. Students were also able to learn some moves themselves.
“The Latino Culture is basically known for its dancing,” said Temi Devers, president of Esencia Latina and senior risk management and insurance and human resources major. “Without it, it wouldn’t be Latino culture.”
Among the month’s highlighted events is the Latino Coffee House on Oct. 1 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Johnson & Hardwick Cafeteria.
At this event, students can indulge in Brazilian and Mexican dishes while sitting on couches, sipping on traditional Latino-style coffee and listening to a night full of performances.
Melisa Maria Baez, coordinator of the Latino Coffee House, welcomed singers, poets, musicians and any others looking to express commitment to and pride in their cultures to perform at the dinner.
“We pride ourselves so much in diversity at this school, but we [Latinos] are such a small percentage,” Baez, a senior sports management major, said. “We are a minority, but we are so involved.”
The Hispanic voice on Main Campus makes up 3.7 percent of the undergraduate population, according to the Fall 2008 Student Profile from the Office of the Provost. Compared to the 10 percent Asian/Pacific Islander and 16.8 percent Black Non-Hispanic, Latinos are a minority on campus, next to American Indian/Alaskan Natives and International Students.
One place Latinos are not a minority is the weekly meeting of Asociación de Estudiantes Latinos, also known as AdEL or Association of Latino Students.
“AdEL is the umbrella organization for all the other Latino organizations,” said Randy Naravaez-Ruiz, a junior secondary education major and current president of AdEL.
AdEL hosts four events this month. Next up is ¡TU Cultura!, which is a collaboration with Gamma Phi Sigma Hermanos Unidos Fraternity, Inc. The Oct. 12 event will feature an exposition of different Latino countries. Each country will be presented by a different organization and represented by its unique food and dance.
Another event will be the performance of the popular romantic comedy “Platanos and Collard Greens” on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in Anderson Hall Rm. 17. “Platanos and Collard Greens,” which will be sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition, mixes hip-hop and dance to present the relationship between an African-American man and a Hispanic woman as they battle cultural differences.
Keisha Frazier can be reached at email@example.com.