"We want to bring awareness to the community, allowing people to learn and break the stereotypes students may have of Latinos," Alicia Tidball 07, vice president of Presente, said.
One point of confusion centers on terminology, namely differentiation between the terms Latino and Hispanic. "Hispanic really refers to the people of Spain who came over here to the new world, while Latino and Latina encompass all the peoples of Latin America and those of Latin American heritage living here in the United States," Tidball said, explaining why Presente prefers using the word Latino.
One highlighted issue of this month is the displacement of thousands of undocumented workers by Hurricane Katrina; people who, because of their citizenship status, are not receiving federal aid.
Displays concerning this situation as well as other issues affecting the Latino community, such as minutemen incidents in Arizona and paramilitary activity in Colombia, will be featured in the library hallway and around campus during the coming month.
Latino Heritage Month opened with a salsa dance featuring Salsa Havana on Sept. 16, an event that over 400 students attended.
It was a great opening, said Bill Green, assistant dean for Community Life and Diversity and director of MACO. One of our goals was to involve more students in ethnic celebrations.
The first week of Latino Heritage Month, Sept. 18-24, was called "Looking Through the Eyes of a Latino." Members of Presente hosted a Latino Issues Discussion on Wednesday night.
Next week is dedicated to Latinas in our community, like the Latina owner of Las Delicias in Northfield.
Presente is also sponsoring a discussion led by Teresa Ortiz, who is part of the Centro de Derechos Laborales in Minneapolis. Ortiz will speak about her work with indigenous women in rural Mexico and the plights of undocumented workers in the Twin Cities.
Another activity open to all St. Olaf students is "Dia que No Hablo Ingles" (Speak no English Day), designed to encourage students to spend a day speaking only the foreign language of their choice. Through this experience, students will have the opportunity to recognize the difficulty felt by many Latinos who struggle through each day speaking their non-native language.
Many cultural events are also being planned here on campus. During Latino History Week, the Diversity House will be sponsoring a Reggaeton Party, with Latino music, food and dancing. The month will close with a Latino bazaar, in Buntrock Commons Crossroads, with music, dancing and piña coladas.
Latino Heritage Month has received an overwhelming response from students at St. Olaf, Basil Vernon 07 said. They have been impacted in a big way.