President Ronald Reagan officially authorized Hispanic Heritage Month in 1977, expanding what started as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 to a month-long celebration.
The festivities began Sept. 15, which, according to Melissa Cantor of Hispanic Online, marks the date that Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate Independence Day. Mexico celebrates its independence Sept. 16.
One of the groups involved in the events on campus is Presente, which co-president Martin Olague 04 says not only "builds awareness of Latino culture," but helps Latino students feel more comfortable at St. Olaf. Presente also works to educate students on the state of Latino issues in the United States and in the Americas, said Peter Haugen, Presente firstyear representative.
Although this month is sometimes referred to as Hispanic Heritage Month, Presente feels that Latino Heritage Month is a more accurate title because it includes people who live in Latin America but do not speak Spanish, Haugen said.
Along with the Diversity Celebrations Committee, the Student Activities Committee and Multicultural Affairs and Community Outreach, Presente is sponsoring events throughout September and the beginning of October, such as piñata breaking at the Diversity House on Sept. 30 and a concert by rap artists Los Nativos on Oct. 4. Another highlight occurs Oct. 9, when Afro-Boricua freedom fighter, scholar-activist and journalist Rosa Clemente speaks in the Pause. The festivities culminate Oct. 12 with the Latino Heritage Month Banquet.
Not only are these activities fun, said Olague, but they help to clear up the misconceptions and stereotypes that people may have about Latinos.
Latino Heritage Month is what Spanish professor Juliet Lynd calls "one of a number of important initiatives on campus to promote diversity."