Hispanica Heritage Month Celebrated Nationwide: Connecting students with their culture
By Anonymous Contributing Writer
Friday, October 4, 2002
The Latin rhythm and soul of the Orquestra Sabor Tropical energized a diverse group of students with salsa, merengue and cumbia through its up-beat tempo and sizzling Spanish lyrics on Saturday in the Pause. This fun-filled event was one of many celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month. "People can let loose and not worry about constraints and just have fun," said Anthony Pena '03. "Latin dance is about respect and goodwill - there is no fear. People can just let out their hearts." Hispanic Heritage Month is held from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 because many Latin American countries celebrate their independence at this time. William Green, director of Multicultural Affairs and Community Outreach (MACO) said the purpose of these Latin-inspired events is to educate the general student body about the valuable contributions of Hispanics to the American dream. "Much of what is known about Latino and African contributions is very small in the United States, when, in fact, ethnic contributions in American history are quite deep," Green said. Among the festivities for Hispanic Heritage Month were 50 cent piña colada sales in front of Stav Dining Hall; movies such as "Tortilla Soup" on Oct. 7 and the Guatemalan Benefit Dance at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Oct. 12. Transportation to the event is free and can be arranged through MACO. "It's fun that they're bringing diversity to St. Olaf and teaching the majority about the minority," said Bill Green II '05. William Green described Hispanic Heritage Month as an extension of the educational experience, which is why he is concerned by a lack of involvement by the majority of students. He said that all students are invited to the events and welcomed to learn about these new cultural dimensions. "I think it's important for [Hispanics] to be known on campus by all, not just within multicultural groups," said Presente president Sandra Aldana '05. "Some people think you have to be Hispanic or Spanish-speaking to be in the organization, but I think it's important to have white people in our group to say, 'You don't have to be Hispanic to be a part of it.'" William Green said the Hispanic students on campus come from both small and large communities with diverse backgrounds. Because of Hispanic Heritage Month and involvement in multicultural groups, William Green said many of these students are developing an appreciation and pride in their culture that they have not felt before. "They hadn't realized how many Spanish-speaking contributions have been made," he said. "[This exposure] creates a whole new sense of pride and respect for their culture and even gives them a sense of responsibility." The activities also reconnect some students to their culture back home that they miss. One student from California, Green said, feels stuck in a fishbowl in Northfield because of the lack of Latin culture and the hustle and bustle of life in Los Angeles. "The food, the language, the culture [of Hispanic Heritage Month] brings back home for some of [the students]," William Green said. "And for a temporary moment it takes them to their roots." Marcelino Pena '03, one of many students that enjoyed the Sabor Tropical celebration said that Latin music and dance is important because it is a culture's expression of creativity. "I think that it's great that so many students have taken up dancing," said Pena. "I hope that other people learn about not just this [culture], but other ones in-depth." On-campus festivities for Hispanic Heritage Month will conclude Oct. 13 with a banquet of diverse foods from a local Mexican restaurant, enjoyed by faculty members, their families and students.