When I was applying for college, one of the most important factors for me was diversity. I was looking for a school where I would feel comfortable and safe as a Latina international student. Temple prides itself on its diversity and had nearly 3,000 Latine students at the time I applied, so I was confident I’d find a welcoming community to help me keep in touch with my heritage.
It’s now been a year since I left Medellin, Colombia, to attend Temple and I have met many wonderful people and created some great memories. However, there are days I feel alone because I miss aspects of my culture I can’t find in the United States. I crave our traditional dishes, like arepas and frijoles, and wish I could listen to Latin music with people who enjoy it as much as I do.
Last year, Temple hosted its largest Hispanic Heritage Month celebration to date in recognition of welcoming its most diverse class. The College of Liberal Arts organized more than 20 events and conferences with Hispanic guest speakers from Sept. 15 to Oct. 14, 2022.
I was looking forward to Hispanic Heritage Month this year because I thought engaging with the traditions I’ve been missing would allow me to reconnect with my culture and feel closer to home.
However, Hispanic Heritage Month is almost over, and I’m surprised and disappointed by the lack of university-hosted events and celebrations taking place around campus even though Temple is welcoming its most diverse class for the fourth year straight.
Temple should actively celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by reaching out to the Hispanic student community and organizing events that reflect their needs.
“Generally speaking, Hispanic Heritage Month doesn’t get the full recognition that it deserves,” said Timothy Welbeck, director of the Center for Anti-Racism in the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership. “We as a university should be doing more to recognize this month.”
At the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, IDEAL posted on Instagram it would be hosting a discussion about Afro Latine identity and colorism and to stay tuned for further Hispanic Heritage Month events, which were never announced. The university also shared the link to an updated list of courses and organizations that might be of interest to Hispanic students in its weekly newsletter.
One event, unfulfilled promises of future events and some resources are not enough to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
Last year, Hiram Aldarondo, the senior associate dean for academic affairs at the College of Liberal Arts, took it upon himself to plan all Hispanic heritage events that took place.
“What happened last year was different because in my role I decided to start planning ahead before Sept. 15 to have a series of events,” Aldarondo said. “So I had several committees with different schools and colleges.”
Due to budget cuts and some staff issues this year, CLA, as a college, wasn’t able to host the same events again, although the Department of Spanish and Portuguese is organizing some events, Aldarondo said.
Despite these challenges, there should be no excuse for the university to not host more celebrations of Hispanic culture. The responsibility of planning celebrations for Hispanic Heritage Month shouldn’t be up to only CLA and IDEAL, and the Office of International Student and Scholar Services should have stepped up.
Schools and colleges at Temple celebrate other heritage months, like Black History Month and Women’s History Month, with various events, and other cultures deserve the same effort and recognition.
Instead, student clubs, like Asociación de Estudiantes Latinos and Student Activist Against Sexual Assault, have picked up some of the slack and held their own Hispanic Heritage Month events. While this is an important effort, the university should have taken the initiative rather than leave it to students.
Jackelyn Chonta, a junior international business major and president of AdEL, a student organization for Latine students, believes the university should connect Hispanic students amid Hispanic Heritage Month activities.
“When certain months come around, Temple should recognize people’s culture and heritage,” Chonta said. “Temple could maybe provide a meeting for all the Latin organizations because then it would be easier for us to find each other.”
Temple leaders, especially those who are a part of IDEAL and ISSS, should engage with and listen to input from Latine students and organizations, like Asociación de Estudiantes Latinos, to organize events for them according to their needs.
“I honestly would start with engaging with the various affinity groups on campus that are most impacted by Hispanic Heritage Month and looking for what they would assess their needs and wants to be,” Welbeck said. “Maybe we can offer more support and visibility and visibility around those issues and well to make sure that they’re getting the support they need.”
Temple’s Hispanic community deserves to be celebrated, and the university could start by offering a space for Hispanic organizations to meet and hosting more community events, like diversity dialogues or panels with Hispanic leaders.
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month should go beyond an Instagram post acknowledging Hispanic culture. This is a time for us to recognize the struggles of our community, commemorate Hispanic traditions and celebrate our accomplishments. It’s not a time to voice empty support; we deserve full recognition.
If Temple took the time to honor Hispanic heritage, it would make me feel connected to my home and more accepted here.