University of Miami: Events promote dialogue, celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month

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More than 50 years ago, Hispanic Heritage Week, now Hispanic Heritage Month, set out to annually honor and commemorate the history and culture of Hispanic Americans. At the University of Miami, the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) along with student-led organizations, are ready to engage in a monthlong celebration.

“I understand the importance of my identity, and a big part of my identity is being Hispanic American,” said Rebecca Menendez, a junior studying biomedical engineering and president of the Alliance of Latin American Students(ALAS). “My values have been shaped by my culture and my family. Reemphasizing and celebrating that as a student here has been a big deal to me. My ultimate goal this month is just to celebrate us and everything that makes us who we are.”

Kicking off the celebration on Thursday, Sept. 15, the Hispanic Heritage Month Opening Ceremony and Culture Pop Up will take place on the Lakeside Patio at 3 p.m. The event will feature food from a number of Latin countries, provided by each of the student organizations that represent students from those countries through the ALAS and Latin Leadership Council (LLC). The afternoon also will include games, giveaways, opportunities to learn more about Hispanic culture, and a salsa workshop by Salsa Craze.

“Having the Latin Leadership Council and having all these organizations come together has been really important to us because it helps us further not only the purpose of our individual organizations, but MSA and the University’s principle of diversity,” said Adriana Ramirez, a junior studying biology and co-chair of the LLC. “We’re able to show the campus that it doesn’t matter where you’re from—we’re celebrating our cultures together.”

The LLC, which was created in 2020, aims to increase collaboration among the diverse student body for Latin and Hispanic-identifying students to voice their opinions about campus programming, effective representation, and advocacy.

Following the opening event, students can attend a screening of “Coco” on Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Bill Cosford Cinema, sponsored in part by the Cinematic Arts Commission. The Disney movie tells the tale of a young musician who goes off on a journey to discover more about his Hispanic roots. Then, on Saturday, Sept. 24, students can join ALAS, LLC, and Category 5 at the Miami Hurricanes football game at Hard Rock Stadium at 3:30 p.m. as the team takes on Middle Tennessee State. Attendees who visit Category 5’s Fan Zone will be treated to a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, complete with food and giveaways.

“My culture has played a huge part in who I am today. I’m so proud of my heritage. I think it’s so important to share cultural values with everyone else because it’s a great way to educate everyone and help us develop a better understanding of one another,” said David Raez, a senior studying history and psychology who co-chairs the LLC alongside Ramirez.

The month continues with another installment of MSA’s Real Talk series, a monthly dialogue that provides an opportunity for students to engage in small group discussion on news, trending topics, and issues that impact students and the multicultural community.

“The topic of this Real Talk is Afro-Latinidad and how this community of Latin people are affected by certain issues such as mental health and immigration,” said Ramirez. The event will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. in the Lakeside Village Study Lounge in collaboration with the Black Student Leadership Caucus.

And on Saturday, Oct. 1, students are encouraged to gather and give back to the community through the Butler Center for Service and Leadership’s Gandhi Day of Service. Participants will spend the afternoon packaging food to donate to Camillus House.

The celebrations conclude on Monday, Oct. 10, with a closing ceremony at 7 p.m. on the Lakeside Patio.

“Seeing the Latin Leadership Council come to life and bring all the Hispanic and Latin student organizations together for Hispanic Heritage Month has been very empowering,” said Stephanie Nuñez, assistant director of MSA, who is advising the students coordinating the events. “By engaging students, faculty, and staff this year, the students really did adequate outreach and put in the work to give our community an opportunity to experience and learn about Hispanic culture.”

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